The reframing of a 300-year-old thatched cottage in Preston, rural Kent, for contemporary times.

Early investigations focused on the potential of an evolved rural approach that enhances existing character through careful renovation. This method provides contextual, self-referential, and contemporary architecture, reflecting the immediate context, history, and local narratives.

Project intimacy led to greater interrogation of the host cottage – an inherently straightforward building tectonic comprising simple foundations brought up to plinth, masonry walls, topped with a timber-framed, thatched roof. It is unclear as to whether a timber frame preceded the brick walls. It is this tectonic that has informed response – and the question; how might we add to this cottage now, and how should such additions then relate to their host? Works saw the removal of poor quality accretions and their replacement with additional accommodation, sought to extend its host yet sit within a collective envelope, or whole – here, oldest is painted brick, old is painted render, and new is scratched render; though precisely coloured to match antecedents.

Internally, the building’s tectonic is continued and prominently displayed. Masonry walls are topped with a hierarchical timber roof structure, where each joist system stacks above the previous one. Level one supports accommodation, level two houses the kitchen, and level three contains the master bedroom, rising in a knapped pyramidal form, mirroring the post-production state and often scythed oasts of the area.

Upper construction exclusively uses timber—timber structure, reconstituted timber insulation, and timber shingles—echoing the original thatched cottage. Soffits invert the existing colour scheme: timber with plaster infill becomes white painted timber with naturally sealed timber infill. This time-based codification extends to new elements like windows and doors, positioned beyond the structure and within or over the thermal envelope.

The project also incorporates personal touches: monogram-led references of the current custodians, architect-gold-leafed reveals, cast against reeded texture copings, and self-cast plinths and hearth inserts.

Gaining statutory consent was challenging (a prior scheme saw a facsimile across a courtyard) as was the effort to work with fabric such as this — especially when working with family members a decade into practice.

Preston, Kent, UK
Carl Trenfield, Taylor Grindley, Simon Nicholls, Daniel Stilwell.
Corbett + Tasker. Harwood. Tim Stiles Construction Ltd. Adam Stevenson. Chapman & Son.