Sharp-edged and elemental, this new building has its own angle on what makes a house a home – and has been shortlisted for the RIAS/RIBA 2014 award
Chris Lemons and his wife Morag keep having to pinch themselves. They’ve been living in a state of quiet disbelief since the New Year, when two significant events occurred that have had a profound impact on their lives. Chris, a commercial diver, was on a job when he found his air and heat supply cut at 262 feet underwater. He spent 38 minutes there, freezing, before colleagues managed to pull him, unconscious, to safety. He was revived and, according to diving experts who say he should not have survived, has made a remarkable recovery.
Not surprisingly, this event made moving into a new home pale into insignificance. But, when the house in question is the one that Chris and Morag built at Camusdarach, in the Highland village of Morar, excitement levels can’t help but rise again. “The whole house is wonderfully quiet and calm, which we have found has reflected directly on how we behave in the house,” explains Chris. “For the most part, however, we simply stare in wonder and shake our heads in disbelief.”
The couple moved to the West Coast village when Morag got the head teacher’s job at the local school. They rented to begin with while looking to buy, but when they heard there was a plot of land up for sale, they jumped at the chance to build their own home.
Enter Graeme Laughlan, architect and director at London-based RAW Architecture Workshop. Originally from Glasgow, where he trained at the city’s prestigious Mackintosh School of Architecture, Graeme had worked with Chris’s sister at London’s Foster & Partners. At the outset, Graeme had given Chris and Morag a few pointers about building their own house, but they quickly realised that his ideas really captured what they wanted for their new home. They’d found the perfect architect and Graeme had found the ideal project to allow him to move from Fosters and set up on his own.
“We all met up in Glasgow and I’m pretty sure we had made up our minds in the first ten minutes,” recalls Chris. “Certainly, by the time we parted, Morag and I were incredibly excited by the prospect of Graeme designing our house, sure that we would get something very special and unique at the end of it. We weren’t disappointed.”
Graeme was given only one instruction: they wanted to be able to see the sunset from the living space. “Early in the process we agreed an upside-down arrangement, with living on top of sleeping, would work best,” recalls Graeme. “We also realised that the sunrise and the mountains were amazing and we wanted to capture these, too.”
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 106-112, issue 95.
Words Catherine Coyle
Photography David Barbour
What A four-bedroom new-build house
Where Camusdarach, Morar
Architect Graeme Laughlan, RAW Architecture Workshop
Contractor Toby Robinson, Knoydart Construction
Timescale On site September 2012; owners moved in January 2014