‘The Germans took one look and said they wanted the job’
An ultra-modern kit extension to a pictureperfect English cottage was an ideal solution, finds Zoe Dare Hall
As a child growing up in the Hampshire village of Broughton in the Test Valley, Jonathan Turpin would often stand on the bridge near his house, trying to catch brown trout in the prized waters below, and wonder about “the magical, mysterious little cottage” on the other side of the stream.
When he returned to live in Broughton years later with his wife, Leslie, he was delighted to see the Grade II listed, 18th-century cottage was for sale. What he never knew as a child was that its real beauty lay out of sight, with four acres of landscaped parkland, surrounded by water.
“We could never have afforded a large house with this amount of land in Broughton, but we could afford this small cottage, with a view to extending it,” says Jonathan, 48, who runs branches of hairdressers in Hampshire and Surrey. The sale went to sealed bids, and while theirs wasn’t the highest, Jonathan sent a letter to the elderly owner, explaining his memories of this cottage. It worked; they were asked to come around for tea, invited to match the highest bid of £387,500, and the cottage was theirs. He and Leslie, also 48, spent the next eight years pursuing planning permission to extend their historic home.
There were applications, rejections and appeals. Given its bucolic, watery setting, they needed flood surveys and wildlife studies. “We have deer, nesting buzzards and kingfishers in the garden, all of which needed to be monitored,” says Jonathan. On top of that, there were the delays that came with going down the wrong track from the start.
The couple assumed that such a period building would require an extension that blended in, but their first two submissions – ones that complemented the existing house with authentic peg tiles and old brick – were rejected flat out. “It was a frustrating, long process in which the conservation officer informed us it wasn’t a case of him telling us what we could do, but of us proposing what we wanted to do and him saying yes or no,” says Jonathan. “I then read an article about how conservation officers want to see modern extensions on old houses.”
His research into contemporary buildings led him to Huf Haus, the German manufacturer of modern prefabricated homes, which builds only around 150 a year in the UK. Initially, however, it didn’t look like the Turpins would be joining the Huf-owning set. “The company told us that it didn’t do extensions, but we were politely persistent and suggested they come and see the property. Three Germans turned up in their smart cashmere coats, took one look at the setting and said they wanted to do it,” Jonathan says.
The Turpins decided to challenge the German designers to come up with the smallest ever Huf Haus as well – a one-bedroom Huf granny annexe for Jonathan’s 80-yearold mother, Susan, in place of an old garage in their garden. “She was still living over the road in the house I grew up in, but she has mobility problems. It made sense to swap a big Victorian property for a very user-friendly, openplan glass box,” he says.
Over the next six months, the Huf crew designed the exterior of the 646 sq ft extension and 1,076 sq ft bungalow – both of which were immediately given the green light by planners. Then the Turpins spent three days in the factory in Hartenfels, western Germany, deciding on every light switch, plug socket and where to put the TV in a room with four glass walls. “Once you have signed off the design, it can’t be changed. There’s no going back,” says Jonathan.
Several months later, on the dot of 7am as promised, a huge articulated lorry arrived. Within two days, the structure for both buildings was complete. Over the next few weeks, the internal flourishes were added, including a wood-burning stove as the centrepiece of the new extension.
“Within one step we walk from the 1700s into the 21st century,” says Jonathan of their glass box, which is bolted on to the historic brick wall of their cottage. “It doesn’t detract from the listed building. It’s clear what’s old and new, and it works. In winter, we use the snug, old part with its low beams, and in summer we have a beautiful glass sitting room where we can slide all the doors open and overlook the garden,” he says.
Susan, too, is delighted with her ultra-modern, triple-glazed annexe overlooking the meadows. “We have kept some of her traditional Victorian furniture, which works well in a modern cube,” adds Jonathan.
It may be the smallest Huf house ever built, but it’s also the priciest on a per-square-foot basis because of the tricky logistics when installing it. The extension cost around €230,000 (£207,000) and the annexe €460,000. Savills recently valued the house at £1.7million. The Turpins have no plans to sell, but there are many expectant buyers waiting in the wings, says Jonathan. “We get several letters a year asking if we will sell. It’s a one-off. It’s like living with a limited-edition Ferrari.”
BLEND ON THE RIVER Jonathan and Leslie Turpin, below; their Grade II listed, 18th-century cottage, above
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL The Huf Haus annexe, main, and extension, below