​Modern Detached by Coffey Architects

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Location: Harpeden, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

Year: 2017


2017 RIBA East Awards – won

2017 Brick Awards – won

Architects: Coffey Architects

Project Director: Lee Marsden

Architects: Ben Edgley, Uli Kraeling

Associate: Michael Henriksen

Architectural Assistant: Andrea Ruffilli, Selena Dong

Photography: © Timothy Soar

Having demolished their previous home to make way for a new dream family house, the client was keen for the Modern Detached home to be built quickly. The context is unashamedly suburban. Set between the poor examples of 1960s architecture, there are more attractive Arts and Crafts homes nearby. This millieu required a tempered approach that married the client’s desire for an uncompromisingly contemporary design with the restrictions of local planning sensibilities.

We drew inspiration from the Arts and Crafts houses nearby.  By studying their complex symmetries, materials and mass, we secured planning permission without compromising the client’s vision, delivering a house that was considerably larger than what had preceded it.

Inside, large areas of glazing and windows keep the spaces light and airy. The central staircase is a play of light and shadows. Outside, a palette of serrated brick details, black charred timber and bronze bring a warmth and luxury, creating a stylish, contextually responsive new house.


The house is composed from two distinct elements. The more traditional cellular spaces are contained within a simple brick and plain tiled ‘house’, typical of the area. The contrasting dark timber clad element interlocks with the house type and contains the dramatic double height entrance and circulation spaces as well as open plan kitchen, living dining areas which open to the garden.

At the beginning of the design process an analysis was made of all the different types of Arts & Crafts typologies on the street leading to a proposal that reinterprets the features of an Arts & Crafts house.


The southern and northern facades have brick fin details that give depth to the elevation. The eaves are crisply finished with beautifully cut bricks and recessed integrated gutters.


The staircase adds playful connections to the upper floor as well as enhancing the spaciousness of the house by creating a three storey high void. Like many of the Arts & Crafts properties in the area the house has a predominant parti with the central stair exposed to the street with a central hall and rooms accessed from it. The hall is full of light, delicacy and experience with the grand brass staircase climbing through the triple height volume. Light from the south penetrates from a large ocular zenith window.


The black insertion breaks through to the rear creating a complex relationship with the garden. A contorted glazed threshold creates shading for the south facing sliding doors whilst also increasing the boundary between inside and outside. A series of elliptical and circular dining and bird tables run from the dining area into the garden like throwing pebbles into a pond to allow the family (and the birds) to enjoy the garden at all times of year.

Coffey Architects

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All images courtesy of Coffey Architects |© Tim Soar


Coffey Architects



+44(0)20 7549 2141

11-12 Great Sutton Street


Coffey Architects


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