What would you do with a crumbling, spider-filled 17th-century cottage? When architect Kate Darby and designer David Connor acquired just such a property, they didn’t attempt to tear down the structure or restore it back to its former glory. Rather, the creative couple built a modern shell over the existing ruin, leaving everything from climbing ivy to spiderwebs and an abandoned bird’s nest intact.
The design creates a startling juxtaposition. The clean-lined exterior, made of black corrugated iron, wraps the disintegrating remains of the old building within a completely sanitized white interior. The cottage’s ancient stone fireplace has been outfitted with a modern wood stove, and a black metal railing cages off the exposed edge of its lofted bedroom. The original building is otherwise untouched within its new case.
The beautiful Frankensteined building currently serves as Darby’s studio, with a double-height workspace in the addition, and a kitchen, dining area, living room, store, and bedroom in the older structure. The entire project cost roughly £160,000 ($200,000) and recently won the Architect’s Journal Small Projects award for 2017.
“What is special about the project is the extreme length we went to preserve everything,” said Darby. “Initially there was the prejudice to clear it up, but we realized the value of the project was in that extreme approach. It was an approach to how you might create something new in an old context. If you go there it is like going back in time – we wanted to do something new and represent the era we come from but in a way that was respectful.”