House extensions ~ Contrast or Blend?

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while and the impetus was a recent meeting with a potential client discussing the planning problems of another architects work on a house extension to a fairly modern property. I’m not going to go into too much detail but the crux of the problem lay in the principles in which the 1990’s house were to be extended.

After viewing the other architects drawings; the conclusion that I came to was that the proposals were reasonable and that (unusually) the planners may be barking up the wrong tree.

As the regular reader may have observed, I’m constantly recommending (and following) the Mayo County Council Guidelines for One-Off Rural Houses but what if the project is an extension rather than a house and what if the existing house is fairly modern and does not conform to the Rural House Guidelines?

Well here are my thoughts…

Extending a traditional property

As an architect and architectural Practice Accredited in Conservation, we are taught that minimal intervention is the key to a successful restoration/conservation project; any new works should be ‘read’ as being from the current period and using new materials without ‘staging’ them to look old. I also apply the same theory to extending a period property; why should a new extension be faked to look old? Any extension should be of the current time, it needs to reflect this period and therefore be ‘read’ as from the 21st century.

I wrote this piece for on my thoughts when working with traditional Irish cottages which discusses the above theory in more detail.

The example below shows this theory in action, where the existing two storey extension is being refurbished, we’re creating a glazed separation between the old and the new and the new extension is contemporary (and thereby contrasting) with the old:


Existing 2 storey farm house that is to be refurbished & extended, note the first floor ‘break through’ that will connect with the new


Front elevation of new extension to traditional property

But what if the property is more modern, say something that was built in the last 30 years?

Extending a more ‘up to date’ property

Well I see nothing wrong in extending a property of this type in a sympathetic way to the existing house; ie making the new works ‘blend’ in with the old. And then if possible to improve on it a little by changing the window proportions, changing the wall finishes etc…

It would be ridiculous to try and force the Rural House Guidelines onto a more recent property; obviously the extension needs to be in proportion and not restrict the neighbours’ amenities but I see nothing wrong simply extending the property in a similar fashion to what was already there!

Comments as always (and especially this time) welcome…

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