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The key to adapting a historic building into a comfortable living space lies with sensitive design and the use of appropriate materials. A hand-crafted oak framed ex from Devon-based Carpenter Oak helped transform this Victorian counting house into a beautiful yet practical and efficient home.
Set on a renowned beauty spot on Dartmoor along the river Plym, for 100 years this building was home to the wage captain responsible for paying the men who came on foot from surrounding villages to work in the china clay pits.
Architect Mike Hope, from Totnes-based Roderick James Architects, and his wife Zoe wanted to retain as many of the original features as possible. After removing plasterboard and a layer of wonderful pencil-bead tongue and groove boarding from the walls – which were carefully restored and re-used – the original Baltic pine frame was revealed.
A timber framed building made sense to both Mike and Zoe and to the planners; the extension was created using a new green oak frame resting on six foundation pads, which was necessary due to the proximity of extensive root systems to the build site. In order to create a very light airy space, traditional oak diagonal braces have been replaced with stainless steel rod bracing panels.
"Access to this site was tricky: with less than a three metre wide approach the client wanted to minimise heavy traffic, so we decided to hand roll all of the massive oak timbers in on a trolley."
The counting house has impressive eco-credentials, designed and installed by Sungift Solar of Exeter, with its own borehole, wood burning stoves, under floor heating, solar panels and an air-source heat pump driven by electricity which produces 3kw of heat from an intake of 1kw.
The Counting House strikes the delicate balance of efficiency, beauty, and comfort for Mike and his family.
Featured in: Homebuilding & Renovation, September 2009
Designed by Roderick James Architects
Timber cladding by Southern Timber
Glazing installation to oak frame by Kevin Ireland of Silvaleaf, Totnes
Retrofitted back boilers to existing Croft Clearburn woodburner and new installation in hallway, as well as Uniq 5 woodburner & flue installation by Dean Forge, Newton Abbot
Air source heat pump, underfloor heating, and solar system design & installation by SunGift Solar, Exeter
Devon (UK) based award winning specialists in the design, construction and raising of oak timber framed buildings. We have a dedicated team of Project Managers, Frame designers and Carpenters who work closely with clients and architects to deliver a wide variety of bespoke oak frame projects across the UK, Europe and beyond.
We celebrate the beauty and joy of timber frames in many different styles and raise over 60 frames a year for inclusion within schemes ranging from oak sunroom extensions to extensive high-end architectural oak houses.
We love wood, we love design and we love a challenge.
Firstly its important to say that we advocate that the frame is not exposed to the outside. That means that it can be finished in a variety of ways. The choices are extensive, and that means that wherever you are in the country (or world!) you can adopt a vernacular which is in keeping with the style of the building s around you (and keep on the good side of the planning authorities!)
The insulation build up can be done on site or using SIPS panels. Outside of that our clients finish buildings in an outer layer of brickwork, rendered block, weatherboarding, natural stone, slate, shingle, glass.
Usually this kind of work requires a site visit, advice and a report before the work is agreed in discussion with the engineer, architect and conservation officer. We regularly work on a consultancy basis during that phase and if there is a frame to build at the end then we can take that on too.
Adam Milton (Managing Director) was one of the carpenters involved in the roof repair after the Great Fire at Windsor Castle.
Contact us to discuss your project.
We regularly build oak frames for inclusion in renovations and barn conversions. A timber oak frame structure is ideal if the existing building is in structurally poor condition. The oak frame can slot into the fabric of the building to then carry the new roof etc.
You will need to find a builder to undertake the project as a whole but we are happy to design and build a frame for you or to give your builder dimensions. We can deliver this to site either as a kit or with the carpenters who made the frame, dependent on the size.
Yes. If you are looking for a complete build or ‘Turnkey’ service, we can offer a solution to include each stage of the process, from the feasibility assessment, design, management and construction, right through to completion. We pride ourselves on being adaptable as every client is different. We can offer a number of routes for you and your project, depending on how involved you want to get. We aim to understand your particular situation and respond to deliver what you need. For many people that means us working as a contractor alongside your architect and builder, for others, involvement at each stage or a self build project. Get in touch to find out which route would suit your project best and we can deliver a range of options from a finished frame to a finished house, ready for you to move into.