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Natural instincts

Subtlety and sustainability see a house settling perfectly into its Oxfordshire meadowland surroundings

A simple form, closely connected to the landscape and highly sustainable. That’s just the freshwater swimming pool – but the house had to match too. That’s what architect Peter Feeny’s Oxfordshire clients wanted.

Set on the edge of a village, the house has now settled into its landscape, its oak cladding silvered down and softened by the green around it. The rectangular form is set into the slope of the site and kept to clean lines with hidden gutters and recessed windows and balconies. 

  • A simple form in the landscape.
    A simple form in the landscape. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • From the natural swimming pool.
    From the natural swimming pool. · Credit: Ondrej Mundl
  • Garage, pergola and screen book end the house.
    Garage, pergola and screen book end the house. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • Behind the field and hedges a hidden world.
    Behind the field and hedges a hidden world. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • Balconies cut into the oak-clad box.
    Balconies cut into the oak-clad box. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • A pergola takes the heat out of the south facing facade.
    A pergola takes the heat out of the south facing facade. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • Angled Cor-Ten fins allow views in to the house and garden at only the right angle.
    Angled Cor-Ten fins allow views in to the house and garden at only the right angle. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • ... but from the house screens cars from view.
    ... but from the house screens cars from view. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • The pergola provides formal outdoor space, directly connected to the house.
    The pergola provides formal outdoor space, directly connected to the house. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • At end the of the house the kitchen takes in views on every side.
    At end the of the house the kitchen takes in views on every side. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu

Things that do grow out beyond the house include the south-facing pergola, with its own blinds to protect the house itself from solar gain. A CorTen screen also maintains the sense of a wilderness, hiding the view of parked cars from the house and creating a short, processional route through wildflower meadows that edge the building. 

  • The main staircase with patinated mild steel handrail.
    The main staircase with patinated mild steel handrail. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • Light from above on the landing.
    Light from above on the landing. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • One of the rooflights slicing into the timber shell.
    One of the rooflights slicing into the timber shell. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • Climbing up to the top floor bedroom.
    Climbing up to the top floor bedroom. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • Music in the sunken garden.
    Music in the sunken garden. · Credit: Rafael Dubreu
  • Ground floor plan.
    Ground floor plan.
  • First floor plan
    First floor plan
  • Second floor plan
    Second floor plan
  • Basement floor plan.
    Basement floor plan.
  • Long section.
    Long section.

As the banks around the house drop away at the front, a lawn leads to the natural swimming pool – hidden from the fields beyond. To the side an orchard and kitchen garden further embed the house into the landscape – and generate energy using photovoltaic panels sited alongside the greenhouse. The garage’s flat roof is also used for solar cells.

Inside timber joinery brings even the smallest staircases to life as the handrails curl around them. But it is outside where the real life of this place asserts itself.