Sable House

Frieth, Buckinghamshire
A sustainable new-build family home in the heart of the Chilterns.

When these clients came to us, they’d been living in the village with their parents for some time and had been trying to find a home for themselves and their growing family. This small bungalow came up for sale, which needed a considerable amount of work doing to it to make it habitable.

After evaluating the site, we decided a remodel or extension just wouldn’t achieve what the clients were looking for, so we agreed to replace the existing building with a new-build home.

By using the local design language and beautiful flint and timber of the Chilterns, reinterpreted with clean lines and industrial steel details, our aim was to create a family home with a crisp, stylish finish.

The house is a simple L shape arranged in two blocks of contrasting wood finishes over two storeys, separated by a circulation route through the building. By laying it out in this way, we created an elegant, flowing design that avoided the effect of too much mass on the site while providing visual interest. 

Inside the property, we installed floor-to-ceiling glazing on the lower floor and large windows on the upper floor to enhance the contemporary open plan design and flood the house with natural light. Pale grey and white walls, floors and kitchen surfaces reflect the light throughout the interior, while white gravel and paving continue the clean, minimalist effect out into the garden. 

We took a sustainable approach to the design, deliberately orientating the house and using principles from passivhaus technology, to make the house as energy-efficient as possible. We were able to make the most of a west-facing outside space for evening sunshine, while fitting in with the established building line. 

Both blocks of the building have single-pitch roofs with the roof of the main house ideally orientated for solar panels, and all the upper bedrooms were designed for stunning views of the surrounding countryside to the south. 

We sourced materials locally whenever possible to minimise the carbon cost of transport, while an air-source heat pump provides underfloor heating and hot water. The property is highly water-efficient throughout: grey water for toilets, laundry and garden irrigation comes from rainwater harvesting and a sedum-planted roof for the car port conserves water while adding to the site’s biodiversity. 

It has low running and maintenance costs, with high levels of insulation, airtight construction, and further potential for solar panels on the south-facing roof. Levels of daylight throughout the house minimise the need for artificial lighting, with LED lighting used where necessary.

As important and as grown-up as our mission to be sustainable was, this project gave us the chance to indulge our playful side too. Alongside the pale wood staircase with its sleek glass balustrade, we added an internal slide – a little design touch to add some extra joy to this family’s daily life and have a bit of fun in the process!

The finished result is a leading example of sustainable architecture that still manages to be a warm and welcoming home for a family enjoying life in a rural setting.

This project was designed in collaboration with Heinz Richardson of Buro Nineteen. It won the Chilterns Building Design Awards 2021 and was included in Grand Designs Magazine.

“We have been very impressed with the service we received from Bronwen. She has been very quick to respond to queries and has had practical and well thought-through solutions to issues as they have arisen. She is easy to approach, grounded, thorough and very professional. We have found her a real pleasure to work with during our project.”

Claire David