Parti’s latest project transforms a rundown B&B into a sunlit retreat in the English countryside

Parti has transformed a series of Grade II-listed medieval gabled houses in Gloucestershire into ARC Painswick, the latest in the practice’s series of refurbishments of historic properties.

The design strategy was to reorder the building to create large gathering spaces and reinstate two courtyards, allowing at least two frontages of every space to receive sunlight. The house had been a rundown bed-and-breakfast – a rabbit warren of rooms which obscured the historic fabric, with minimal natural light.

With a low-waste mindset, any fabric in good condition, even non-historic, was preserved and integrated into the design. Old was not just exchanged for new, but patch repairs were used throughout.

Wall textures were left bare and varied, and doorcases remain all different and misaligned – as features, not faults.

Wherever possible, existing furniture was refurbished, and other pieces were purchased second-hand and restored. A 6m-long dining tabletop was made from discarded wood planks, and its legs and chairs were designed to match its appearance. This prevented the further release of stored carbon. 

An electric stove has been specified for the kitchen to complete the transition from oil and gas, while an air-source heat pump replaces gas heating for the outdoor swimming pool. Inside the main house, the new heating boiler system is now zoneable, eliminating energy expenditure where it is not needed.

doorcases remain all different and misaligned – as features, not faults.

A new kitchen extension fronts one side of the central courtyard. Its glazed doors frame exposed stone facades that shelter a space for outdoor gatherings. Internally, the extension acts as a missing link that converts a linear enfilade plan to multidirectional circulation. New stone paving, true to the medieval fabric, continues on the ground floor throughout the different buildings.

For privacy, previously sealed stairways have been reopened as private circulation leading to suites above where each bedroom has its own refurbished, or newly apportioned, ensuite or private bathroom. The rooms also feature built-in cabinetry, timber-lined nooks, room-specific sills, and wooden seating.

Everywhere, the irregularities that come with five centuries of use are highlighted, not hidden. They provide a cohesive character for a project that combines old and new. Soft limestone walls and delicate original ceiling beams and rafters are contrasted by simple white plaster.

The roof of the new extension is curved, as if aged and bowing inward, weighing on the profile of the beams. Exterior features are repurposed as interior elements and on one end, a small stone opening provides light for a private stairwell.

New materials and finishes are derived from the historic fabric: a palette of pale oak and speckled limestone has been specified for structural members, fixtures, and furniture. Parti designed bespoke ‘triply’ oak seating, storage, and headboards inspired by the interlocking planed curves of medieval banqueting chairs.

The street-facing bay windows are filled with a changing show of vibrant artwork for everyone to enjoy, curated by a young collective, the Artist Contemporary.

New materials and finishes are derived from the historic fabric: a palette of pale oak and speckled limestone has been specified

ARC was launched in 2021 as a tourism concept, refurbishing historic properties to enable large groups to plan affordable escapes in the UK. The concept reimagines the English country house, designing it to be accessible and focusing on low-carbon holidaymaking. Since its launch during the pandemic, ARC has grown, with Parti leading the refurbishment of an 18th-century manor house in Cornwall (ARC Padstow) and a rural Victorian former mill building in the Peak District National Park.

Parti and ARC are designers and co-founders of both businesses.

Eleanor Hill, founding director at Parti, said: “To preserve and protect this beautiful and historic building for many decades to come is a deeply important task for us. We all share a desire to celebrate these historic sites, repurposing materials, creating spaces and encouraging togetherness among groups that may otherwise struggle to find high quality yet affordable rural holiday accommodation.”

Project details

Architect and interior designer Parti
Client ARC
Bespoke furniture and kitchen Parti
QS Adams Fletcher
Structural engineer Simple works
M&E Withycombe design
Main contractor King Construction Gloucester
Stone floor Quorn Stone
Kitchen island Stainless direct uk
Ironmongery Corston
White goods Miele
Sanitaryware MPRO