Lancashire Interiors - Wolden Haus, Halsall
PUBLISHED: 16:47 22 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:21 26 February 2013
First appearances are deceptive at this award-winning house, which has stunning views over West Lancashire. Roger Borrell reports
The project won BYA Architects a top prize at the Northern design Awards. It was named best affordable new build under 500,000.
The name Wolden Haus is a bit of a mystery. The Youngs decided to adopt it because the name features on the OS map for Halsall. One theory is it was a name first used by Dutch drainage experts who were once employed in West Lancashire.
The entrance lobby walls are decorated with Luxury Coatings which gives them a oxidised, rusty look. This provides a brilliant dark-into-light contrast to the white walls of the main house.
Brians contact with the parish council during the planning phase resulted in him standing for office and hes now the chairman.
There are 180 metres of triple-glazed glass which are self-cleaning. Does it work? I have a very good window cleaner, Carol confesses.
We never move in anywhere and just give it a lick of paint, laughs Carol Young. She and her husband, Brian, could be described as people who like to take their work home quite literally. By day, they run BYA Architects, which has been established in Liverpool for 30 years, specialising in housing projects among other things.
Their previous home was a Grade II Georgian corner house in the vibrant heart of the city, which they lovingly converted back from offices. Another was at the coastal community of Blundellsands, where their company designed a close of self-build houses that included one for themselves.
Theyve spent most of their adult lives rooted in and around Liverpool and it holds many happy memories for them. But we felt the time had come to leave behind the hubbub of city living, says Carol. Besides, the house had 46 steps up to bed and I thought I wouldnt be able to do that all my life!
Roughly 15 miles north of their office they spotted a 1960s timber-framed bungalow on half an acre of land on the outskirts of Halsall in West Lancashire. We liked the idea of getting involved in a rural community and people have been very welcoming, says Brian.
The original plan was to refurbish but it soon dawned on them that knocking it down and starting again was the only realistic option.
There was one proviso that tested the design skills of Brian, Carol and their colleagues it had to work as a house for two people but with enough space for their two children and partners plus three grandchildren for gatherings when they visited from their homes in Shanghai and Gibraltar.
The project required jumping through many planning hoops, including an appeal, but with the support of the parish council the project started in May 2011 and it was completed an impressive eight months later.
It was worth the effort. The result is Wolden Haus, a stunning house of steel, wood and what seems like several acres of triple-glazed windows flooding the house with light. Having a view across the ever-changing rural landscape was a must for Carol.
Brian says: I think weve created a house that suits our lifestyle. We wanted it to be open plan but comfortable when there are just two of us. The communal areas are generous but nothing is redundant the only rooms not used when we arent entertaining are the spare bedrooms.
Its true that the spaces are generous and one of the labourers on the job was dumbstruck when he discovered the large wall in the elevated living room was not going to be home to a mega-size television. Instead, it is dominated by a piece of modern art (a painting that was part gift, part payment of a debt).
But there is nothing barn or box-like about Wolden Haus, despite the fact the ground floor has an unobstructed vista from back to front. Interesting shapes and niches keep the eye engaged. A suspended glass staircase allows you to see from the lounge in the back through to the dining room at the front with its glass table and transparent chairs. But , as Brian points out, the entire house is just over 3,000 square feet much the same as their old home and matching the footprint of the previous bungalow.
While first appearances make this look every inch the sort of 21st century house you would expect to see on Grand Designs there are nods to Bauhaus style, Frank Lloyd Wright and coloured panels that echo the artist Modrian the building is not a slave to functional, cold, modernist furnishings.
Theres a Victorian sofa in the living room and a jardinire from the 1800s. Our Georgian house was a mix of modern and contemporary furniture and we certainly didnt want to reject antiques just because this was a modern house, says Carol.
Brian adds: If that had been the case, it would mean there is something wrong with the design.
However, the kitchen is one place that is firmly rooted in the 21st century, galley-shaped with a central island for preparing food and breakfast table above a mix of sealed concrete flooring giving way to slate tiles that extend out onto a patio.
Cleverly hidden behind the bank of cookers and those Modrian-style coloured cupboard panels is a scullery-cum-laundry with plenty of cupboards. In fact, the house is full of smartly concealed storage.
From the dining room there is a ground floor en suite bedroom, perfect for elderly or disabled guests, and a snug which really lives up to its name. Here, they can watch TV or see the action outside courtesy of resident wildlife, including woodpeckers and weasels.
The upstairs, which opens out into a large office space, again combines the old with the new with some of the four bedrooms containing Edwardian sleigh beds. One bedroom easily converts into a playroom, invaluable when the grandchildren arrive. The family bathroom is dominated by a dinosaur egg of a tub which weighed in at a girder-straining 23 stone, requiring some extra floor supports.
Making the house work with its environment was always important and it involved using materials sympathetic with the landscape such as grey brick, natural mortar and red cedar boarding. Despite the fact the former house was demolished, a surprising amount of original garden was unscathed.
Eco-friendly materials and energy conservation features were also key in the build and the house was constructed to Level 4, which is towards the top of the range for sustainability.
Other features include solar panels allowing the Youngs to feed power back into the National Grid, rainwater harvesting, and a ventilation heat recovery system which maintains the temperature in a cost-efficient manner.
When you are the architect, project manager and customer there is no hiding place when things go wrong. So was there anything they would have done differently? Carol doesnt hesitate. The yellow downstairs bathroom its hideous and itll have to be changed. Please dont take a picture in there!
Brian adopts that patient, undertsanding expression that husbands the world over will recognise.