The secret of making the most of a house with a beautiful setting, by Janine Stone’s Jeremy Spencer

You only need to explore Britain’s historic houses to appreciate the benefits of a beautiful setting. Jeremy Spencer of Janine Stone shares the secret to making the most of an often overlooked asset with Country Life’s Executive Editor, Giles Kime.

Why do you think it’s important to take orientation into consideration when designing a new house?

The position of a newly built house has a transformative impact on both its interior and exterior. Among the most significant factor are the views, including the surrounding landscape, neighbouring houses, roads and, if you are lucky, the sea. The way in which a house is designed, the outlook of the principal rooms, the topography of the site and the position it occupies all need careful and detailed consideration when planning a new home. Privacy is another factor that should be addressed and this can be achieved both by positioning and landscaping.

The garden can be planned to take advantage of sunlight.

How does one address orientation when refurbishing an old house?

Older houses weren’t designed for the way that most people want to live in the 21st-century. At Janine Stone, we have years of experience in transforming existing houses so that they offer the opportunity for a completely different lifestyle. In most instances, we will address the orientation of a house in a way that will maximise the possibilities for light, views, outdoor areas and privacy.

In addition, there is much to be gained by extending a house in a way that complements the interior, as well as adding windows, reconfiguring the existing layout by repurposing space and moving the location of staircases and entrances.

Experienced architects can make the most of a good outlook, but also solve potential issues, such as low or excessive sunlight.

Are there any ideal scenarios when considering orientation?

There are obviously huge benefits to having a garden with a south-facing aspect, as it allows you to enjoy more light for longer periods of time. Nevertheless, an experienced team can respond to different orientations both in the design of the house and in the way that garden is planned, for instance by establishing a terrace in an area that benefits from the evening sun.

Also, remember that too much sunlight can be both a benefit and a disadvantage in a house; although it will bring light and warmth to an interior, it can also make a space uncomfortably hot and damage both textiles and furniture. This can be addressed with UV-protective glass and awnings that reduce the reliance on air conditioning in hot weather.

Privacy is a crucial element to consider when building a new house.

What is the best way to address north-facing rooms when designing or remodelling a house?

The configuration of both new and old houses can address this by devoting northfacing spaces to uses where sunlight is less important, such as utility or media rooms mainly used in the evenings. However, this is another area where an experienced architect can make a significant difference to the outcome. In particular, the use of rooflights, roof lanterns, expanses of glass and glass links will significantly enhance a lightstarved space.

Existing houses can be transformed to suit a modern lifestyle.

The height of the roof is another important factor when designing a north-facing space that will allow opportunities for larger windows and glazed doors. Toplights over French doors will offer another useful light source. Both Sir John Soane’s London home and his country house at Pitzhanger offer plenty of inspiration for how to make the most of natural light.

Janine Stone & Co specialises in building and renovating great houses, incorporating architecture, interior design and construction management, and has been providing Country Life with insights and expertise through this ‘Masterclass’ series. To speak with Janine Stone & Co, please telephone 020– 7349 8888 or visit

Janine Stone’s Jeremy Spencer on getting light right

The interplay of natural light, space and position can have a huge bearing on the success of a house. Jeremy