Living large: cottage extension was no ordinary project

Adding an extension to effectively quadruple the footprint of your cottage would normally have the planners up in arms. But this house, in the Cairngorms, was no ordinary project…

Turning a traditional two-bed but’n’ben into a substantially extended and dramati­cally re-imagined five-bedroom house does not sound like a project that has an eco-friendly, carbon-neutral ethos at its heart. But the house in question, Shepherd’s Cottage, which sits in six acres of the Cairngorms National Park, is exactly that.
“I wanted to build something that would show people that an environmentally sound house is not difficult to achieve – anyone can do it,” explains its owner, David Narro. “And it doesn’t have to be all woolly jumpers and open-toed sandals.”
The new-look Shepherd’s Cottage has 250mm hemp insulated construction panels (a JJI-Joist timber system), a ground-source heat pump powering the underfloor heating, solar panels for hot water, locally sourced non-toxic materials including larch cladding, and wind turbine.
And with all these bells and whistles, you might assume it would resemble a full-on hotch-potch of eco parts. Not a bit of it. Shepherd’s Cottage’s eco credentials are barely discernible – even the wind turbine has been painted to blend in with the landscape. Instead, and even taking into account the new extension that is effectively four times the size of the footprint of the original cottage, the house is a quietly harmonious addition to the rural landscape.
“This is a lovely area and a lovely community and we wanted to put something back into it, not just by using as many local tradesmen as possible, but by creating a quality building,” says David.
The journey from traditional cottage to contemporary eco build was quite an odyssey for David and wife Hazel. “We bought the cottage in 2001, but always knew we wanted to extend it,” says David. “We have children and grandchildren so the place was becoming a bit of a tight fit.
“After we’d been here a few years we bought more land from the farmer and started to think about extending. What I really wanted was essentially a house that could accommodate the whole family at the one time – and because I work with so many top architects in Scotland I was keen to build something interesting.” Indeed, as director of consulting and structural engineers David Narro Associates, he was in a pretty good position to take the project forward.
“The main idea was to have a house that was easy to live in and that we could potentially retire to. A crucial part of our brief was that we wanted the house to be as pragmatically green as possible.”

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 100-107, issue 90.

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Words Caroline Ednie
Photography Nigel Rigden
What A traditional cottage now attached to a large extension
Where Cairngorns National Park
Architect Helen Lucas Architects
Main contractor Global Construction Ltd, 01463 870904
Construction time 12 months