Designed to harness summer and withstand winter, this Highland home is setting new standards
Just as film directors are warned never to work with children or animals, architects are better to refuse friends and family as clients. The chances of falling out are just too high. That must have gone through the mind of Francis Jones when an old college friend asked him to create a new house for her in Moray. Raising the stakes even higher was the fact that she is an interior designer and her partner is a building materials specialist. Francis, though, who runs MJ Design with his wife Shona, was determined to put a positive spin on things: “The fact that our friends are involved in the design and construction industries was actually a bonus as it meant they had a clear idea of the kind of house they wanted. Refining the brief and working with the team that they put together was also really enjoyable. But that’s not to say it wasn’t without its challenges.”
One of these challenges was the site itself. On it was the clients’ holiday home, a 1970s Dorran concrete prefab that had reached the end of its life. “We demolished it in an afternoon!” they laugh. “There wasn’t much to it – no proper foundations, the floor joists just sitting on the earth, and the paper-thin walls!”
The land vacated by the old Dorran house was a mishmash of ‘made-up’ ground in a sloping field, and as such was unsuitable for traditional foundations. New site-specific foundations comprised a concrete ‘raft’ above which a structural steel frame provides the large uninterrupted span required for the open-plan living spaces. “The steel frame was highly specified by the engineers. Indeed, Lochcarron Metalworker, our steelwork fabricators, suggested we could stick the house on top of the Cairngorms and it wouldn’t blow away!”
The house, which is built from a combination of steel, timber frame and blockwork, was designed from the inside out. “The internal layout drove the shell of the building rather than the reverse,” say the owners, whose goal with this project was to capitalise on the beauty of the surrounding Moray coast landscape. “We wanted space and big skies and to make the most of the stunning Highland light and the Moray Firth coastal landscape – and still to be warm even in the middle of a snowstorm!”
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 114-126, issue 105.
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