Get a group of people to picture a country farmhouse and the images they’d conjure wouldn’t be terribly dissimilar. It’s a pretty stable image- and a somewhat romantic one too. Common thought depicts a home lost somewhere amidst fields of barley, which like its surroundings, wears a medley of rustic colours and textures- thatched roof and all. Certainly, in the way of reinventing or even modernising the concept, the heavy weight of what we expect to see when we hear the word ‘farmhouse’ presents designers with a near impossible challenge: how can one honour tradition and yet make it new all at the same time?
Nestled in the fields of the West Lancashire countryside is a home that walks this fine line with splendid grace. Situated within four acres of Ormskirk’s green belt, the Narrow Lane Farmhouse was completed in 2015, designed by the award-winning London-Based architecture practice, Studio Verve. With a focus on design, the RIBA Chartered Architecture Practice are known for their thoughtful and bold contemporary designs. Their penchant for non-conformity and lateral thinking, paired with a close dialogue with their clients’ preferences, regional styles and traditions has given rise to a striking portfolio of bespoke homes, apartments, conversions, hotels, restaurants and religious buildings across the globe.
Sporting an assortment of bold lines and clinical vertices, though still speaking the vernacular of the British farmhouse, the Narrow Lane Farmhouse aligns with Studio Verve’s brilliant design ethos. We take a tour of this stunning property, diligently observing how Studio Verve seamlessly negotiate contemporary design, sustainability, tradition and the needs of the family that call Narrow Lane ‘home’ in one, award-winning design.
The Modern Farmhouse
Though a distinctively modern home, Narrow Lane’s farmhouse identity is carried to the very core of the home. From the front, Narrow Lane still keeps the silhouette of the traditional farmhouse, with a more expansive play with form and more liberal use of glass being reserved for the south eastern, field-facing regions of the home.
The striking cartographies that have been etched into it, and the fluidity and sense of play between its interior and outdoor spaces are certainly indicative of the home’s rural philosophical focus. Studio Verve achieved this through the incorporation of a patchwork of small courtyards, with a larger central one around which the house’s structure wraps, into the plan of the home.
Whilst delineating the home’s various zones, the home’s water bodies are also instrumental in achieving a seamless sense of connectedness between home and countryside. Narrow Lane’s farmhouse identity is similarly observed in the tonal and textural palettes of the home’ exterior.
A medley of off whites, light stone and deep, musky browns courtesy of timbre slats affirm the home’s distinctly rustic and naturalistic focus, blending it in with both the local scenery as well as neighbouring buildings. However, the home’s focus on rurality, and the traditional farmhouse is not merely a visual one but a philosophical one, also.
The farmland that surrounds Narrow Lane is cultivated and harvested as per the crop cycles of the region, further developing on the narrative of Narrow Lane as an organic part and fit to the Ormskirk countryside.
Inside Narrow Lane
Spread across a ground and first floors, Narrow Lane’s interior spaces continue with the mantras of naturalistic and simple, as observed with the home’s exterior. Studio Verve’s mainly open plan design for the ground floor accentuates the space’s airiness and breathability of the space.
It is here that we also encounter the foundational colour and textural palettes that sets the tone for much of the home. The off white seen on the home’s exterior walls continue indoors, matched with dark wooden flooring. Studio Verve’s confident use of sharp contrast, the juxtaposition of light and dark on the home’s vertical and horizontal planes, develops the depth and complexity of the living space.
Nevertheless, the prominent grain of the wood, retains a dressed-down natural touch, vital to Narrow Lane’s farmhouse narrative. The neutral nature of these colours opens up the home to endless possibilities in the way of design, which Studio Verve maximise to full effect.
Nestled in around the living and dining areas are dark silhouette-like art and furniture pieces in mid-century modern, industrial, and late colonial styles. The home marries the adventurous angles and frills of these various traditions with ease, making for a unique and charmingly personal living space for the family.
An assortment of wheat, ochre, and sandy tones that compose much of the upholstery similarly injects the home with a rustic edge, gorgeously matching the tawny-gold of the cornfields, just on the other side of large windows that tie the interior space to the countryside.
For the most part, bedrooms and bathrooms retain the mode of design seen in the home’s social areas, though it does shift gears ever so slightly. Lighter fabrics and tones are replaced by heavier, more muted leather touches, evoking a mellower, more tranquil ambience in these spaces.
Texturally, the pairing of grey slate tile with darker matt grey and dark wooden tones, introduces a notably modern edge to the bathroom. Paired with the simple yet adventurous forms of the bathtub and mirrors and sinks, the cumulative effect creates a relaxed, but nonetheless robust and daring, mode of sophistication for the bathroom.
In Studio Verve’s own words, ‘the swimming pool is both the visual and physiological focus for the family’- and it’s not particularly difficult to see why.
Large, glazed panels that surround the pool allow for breathtaking views of the local countryside whilst still retaining complete privacy. Its sunken design, which features underfloor heating for year-round use, also means that when the surface is undisturbed, it captures striking views of the sky in a mirror-like vein.
A Green Home
A green, environmentally conscious home forms an integral part of Narrow Lane’s look and philosophy, and by consequence, has been a key factor from the moment of the home’s conception. Studio Verve have fitted Narrow Lane with a host of energy-saving measures, ensuring the minimisation of the home’s carbon footprint.
The home’s structurally insulated panels are particularly noteworthy. Having been fabricated offsite and assembled during the home’s construction, they greatly minimise heat loss from Narrow Lane’s main, structural frame. Similarly, a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system catches escaping heat, recycling it so that the home can run at lower temperatures. The home is also equipped with a ground source heat pump, the installation of which necessitated two-thirds of the land beneath the house to be dug out. This heats the home more efficiently, whilst also ensuring that the pool can be used regardless of either the season or shape of the weather.
As a home, Narrow Lane wears many hats. It is, most essentially, a home, and caters to the needs and requirements of the growing family that call it precisely that. Secondly, it is a farmhouse, and embodies a look reverent of that tradition, faithful to the stylings of the region’s historical properties whilst also being a distinctly modern, twenty-first century home. Narrow Lanes is also a home that is in tune with its surroundings. Environmentally self-aware, its carbon footprint and energy consumption is appreciably reduced, whilst the home also gives back through the crop that surrounds it.
The above stands in attestation to the ingenuity and robustness of Studio Verve’s design, which unanimously won the West Lancashire Design and Sustainability award in 2015, the year of the home’s completion. Narrow Lane has the functionality of the family home, whilst also functioning as a twenty-first century reimagining of the farmhouse- both home and statement, in the truest sense.
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All photos are (c) and courtesy Luke White