Modern Detached

Coffey Architects, Harpenden, 2016


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Siberian larch was used for the external timber cladding 

Timothy Soar     Download Original

  • Siberian larch was used for the external timber cladding    
  • The larch was stained with stained with Protek Royal Exterior Black    
  • External brickwork is Anglian Light Grey by WH Collier    
  • Polished concrete internal flooring    
  • The staircase    
  • The composite living, kitchen and dining space flows out to connect with the large rear garden    
  • The living space    
  • The scale of the stair acts as a luminous vertical living room    
  • Light penetrates through a large ocular opening, washing down through the triple-height volume    
  • The bathroom    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • First floor plan    
  • Second floor plan    
  • Section    
  • Facade analysis    
  • Facade analysis symmetry    
  • Beam and gutter detail section    

Modern Detached tactfully reconceptualises the suburban family house.

Coffey’s clients are a couple with two teenage sons who bought a nondescript suburban house with the original aim of modernising it. Alighting on Coffey through a trawl of architects’ websites, they struck up a rapport and opted instead to demolish and rebuild from scratch.

The abstracted Arts and Crafts exterior, with its dominant gables and vertically ribbed façade of mustard-coloured brick and blackened timber acts a bit like a Trojan horse, smuggling a voluminous, contemporary interior past the scrutiny of local planners. The use of light brick and dark timber codes rooms and circulation respectively, clearly articulating the distinction between the house’s served and servant spaces.

Four of the house’s five bedrooms are set on the street side behind the protective brick ribcage; the fifth is secreted in an attic storey accessed by a secondary stair ingeniously compressed into the width of the main stair hall
he composite living, kitchen and dining space flows out to connect with the large rear garden.

A concrete floor extends into an external concrete terrace, while a long, low concrete bench forms a more explicit marker of the boundary between house and garden.

The attention to detail on the feature brick wall elevations asked interesting questions of the load-bearing cavity wall.. How to support the crisp, cantilevering fins at the front and back, the recessed stack-bonded courses on either side or the exposed brick lintels over the windows? And how to do it all without recourse to expensive brickslips or brick specials? 

The design team solved this by employing bed joint reinforcement at regular centres. This ensured a tight bond between recessed or stack-bonded courses, as well as enabling the brickwork to bridge over gaps and windows without the need for traditional lintels. The use of proprietary brickwork hangers and careful construction sequencing allowed the brickwork to be exposed from underneath. 


  • Begun: Nov 2015
  • Completed: Jan 2016
  • Floor area: 350m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Procurement: Intermediate Building Contract with contractor’s design
  • Address: Harpenden, AL5 2LG, United Kingdom

Professional Team