Sunday20 August 2017

Sheringham House, Bramhall, by Stephen Taylor Architects

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The architect has added a two-storey extension to a 19th-century family home set within acres of gardens

Architect Stephen Taylor Architects
Location Bramhall, Cheshire
Completed March 2012

Set within an acre of mature gardens in Bramhall, outside Manchester, Sheringham House is a large, 19th-century five-bedroom family home, recognisable in type by the rambling multitude of bay windows and chimneys and the over-ripe hue and decorative flourishes of its red brickwork.

To this, Stephen Taylor Architects has added a two-storey extension that intelligently re-orientates the house towards the south-west, with a new kitchen and breakfast room at ground floor and family room at first floor.

Rather than setting up an easy-to-read counterpoint between house and extension, the architect has engaged with the building’s own late-Victorian architecture, carefully weaving the two together and taking inspiration from the familiarity of its elements in a manner that is simultaneously thoughtful and playful.

The half-hexagon plan form of the new extension relates closely to the bay windows of the old house but, like the new chimney that describes its northern face, presents a deliberately over-scaled and abstracted version.

Similarly, the new brickwork is close in colour to that of the main house but slightly paler and warmer, with decorative bands of brick reminiscent of the Victorian detailing running into the massing of the main house, blurring any sense of a clear line between old and new.

Structural engineer Richard Rhodes & Partners
Main contractor Ladson Construction
Windows and doors supplier Romiley Joinery

Windows within walls

A common theme of both Stephen Taylor’s built work and his teaching has been an idea of the city formed by an architecture of windows set within walls; that the composition and detailing of fenestration defines both the atmospheric qualities of the interiors we inhabit and the character of our urban spaces. This key role in the negotiation between inside and outside has led Taylor to develop elevations often characterised by repetitive ordering, and in parallel, to explore opportunities to particularise the everyday elements of a window’s construction.

At the practice’s Craddock Cottages project in Gomshall, Surrey, this led to the customisation of the lintel and sill construction, with crushed bricks and tiles used within the concrete aggregate to visually align them more closely with the surrounding brick walling — a subtle adjustment that changes one’s reading of otherwise commonplace windows.

At Sheringham House this theme has been developed further still. Most obviously, there is a clear distinction between the treatment of the large doors opening on to the rear terrace and the smaller, more traditionally proportioned windows.

The larger, kinked opening of the doors led to the use of a structural steel that has been screened by an eye-catching band of patterned brickwork that extends beyond the structural opening, binding the extension and main house together.

In contrast, the timber frames and concrete lintels and sills of the smaller windows suggest at first glance very familiar elements, with only a closer reading revealing a gentle step in frame profile and the tailoring of the casting of the concrete sills to comfortably accommodate plant pots.

As with the Craddock Cottages, the discrete adjustment of standard elements has led to a slight change in how one perceives the windows; but this time it goes a step further, engaging constructional necessity with day-to-day use.


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