Tag Archives: norfolk refurbishment

Designing out sound in the garden

The garden in our Norfolk project is set back from the road but still there comes a whoosh every five minutes from the cars driving past in the nearby road. We wanted to create a calmer environment with pockets of tranquillity. So, what is the best way to eradicate unwanted sounds in the garden? We investigated some ways to help relieve the ears from traffic noise and help us enjoy the garden.

  1. Adding water features

The sound of moving water can be a relaxing addition to any garden and create a welcoming distraction. Sound can be created by creating a waterfall or using a fountain (differing scales will give varying results) from light splashing, gurgling or trickling to cascading and crashing into rocks. Not only a delight to look at water can disguise unwanted sounds.

designing out sound in the garden

Gurgling water fountain

2. Noisy plants

Plants themselves can make noise especially in particularly breezy sites. Our Norfolk site is surrounded by grass which creates waves of sound, giving a powerful but pleasing rustling.  There are also a number of swaying shrubs like the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii), Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena); that have dazzling bright blue flowers which form puffy seed-heads that rattle when shaken, Japanese Silver grass (Micanthus oligostachyus) and Bamboo

designing out sound in the garden

Love in a mist

designing out sound in gardens

Japanese Silver Grass

3. Plants that bring wildlife into your garden

Picking plants that attract both birds and insects will aid the concealment of sound. Nectar rich plants will attract pollinating insects and then birds will follow, so there will be a lot of acoustic activity from the birds chirping and the bees buzzing. Popular plants for insects are Honeysuckle (Lonicera), lavender (Lavandula), Japanese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis), Foxglove (Digitalis) and Paradise Joyce (Hosta hybrid cultivar paradise Joyce).

Japanese Anemone

designing out sound in the garden


4. Underfoot noise

During the autumn months the leaves of deciduous plants will create a crunching sound underfoot , as will loose gravel/ shingles material laid in pathways. Stems of plants that edge and lie on pathways will rustle or snap when you brush past. All these elements should be considered as they form part of the layering of sounds within the garden.

5. Physical barrier

Using hedgerows or dense evergreens may be your first thought to ward off noise but even at a depth of 25-30ft evergreen will only reduce sound by 25%. A solid man-made barrier is much more effective. A brick wall or solid timber fence will reduce traffic noise significantly if it is at least 2 metres tall giving a 50% reduction in sound creating some relaxing pockets of tranquility in the garden.


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Gardenista Winner August 2017




Weekend at the cottage

There was so much activity this weekend at our Norfolk project, with cabinets being fitted, walls being plastered, new timber staircase being clad and the hanging of the hand blown glass light bowls in the roof space!

The new pendants highlight not just the height of the room but the unused roof space and midnight black trusses giving a twinkling yet warming effect. Each light positioned was to to serve a different function, the patatas (potato-shaped) to give a focused light and the sigeretta (cigarette-shaped) lights to cast a general light, all by Album lighting.

A solid plywood stair graces the floors with a sharp modern geometric twist. The stair is not directly fixed to the wall to give the illusion of it floating, this helps the solidity to be broken and an excuse to introduce lights from the underside to add drama!

Metallic Zellige black tiles form a mottled splashback to the upper kitchen area, creating memories of the water pools we saw in the grass areas of the marshland. Daily ever-changing reflections are formed on the tile’s surface with greens from the main garden and blues from the sky.

Downstairs the use of green Richlite doors (an eco friendly paper-based fibre composite) and golden oak carcusses of the storage cabinets are to remind the guest of the surrounding green marshes and golden grass lands. Thanks to Jack Trench for the doors and Joinex for the joinery pieces.

Finally the oiled hand carved oak wood floor gives character and interest to both ground and first floors. The feeling underfoot is rather like that of the dried salt marshes, which can be experienced in the numerous walks along the nearby coastal path.

Sensitively designed, all the finishes contribute to a property that not only relates to its function and appearance, but most heavily on its location.

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Work in progress and a story of Zulu baskets in Norfolk

Images of a barn

Images of a barn

The design process of our barn project is well underway but where does one start? A glimpse into our thought pattern!

With the palette….

Armed with a selection of existing construction materials of course, such as bricks in terracotta, sandstone and chalk. We then started to create a palette, we love the unstable look of the metre thick flint walls wouldn’t the flint stones look great with sharp rendered borders to give a crisp edge to for the new openings?

Terracotta colour bricks can then be patterned in a way to achieve a beautiful almost woven-like texture in the floor which when combined with an underfloor heating system gives a cosy surface perfect in the chillier months.

brick texture floor

And then the envelope…

The existing barn is pierced with vast swathes of glass originating from the 70s. Single glazed safety glass with spindly metal frames. We carried out a lot of research looking at a number of companies who produce glass for building conservation. The aim is to get an elegant slim frame with deep profile to provide a striking but strong outline and rhythm to the property. The look of the refined framing against the undulating flint and pan tiles gives a good contrast and a luxurious touch to a once working barn building with openings to the elements.

After a visit to Architect@work this year we happened upon Capoferri . An Italian window manufacturer who produces large glazed units with thin bronzed frames who have worked with the likes of Renzo Piano is some of the more remote areas of the US. Perfect for a coastal retreat.

Capoferri windows

The structure….

The ceiling of the main space of the first floor is to be opened up. New timber trusses are to be introduced to give back the characteristic barn interior look. The repetitive pattern of the trusses will add structure for the large span roof and add interest to the space which has the most amazing view over the marshes. Investigating the design of the trusses, brings up a lot of questions – larch or green oak? , standard or scissor truss? modern or classic?. Looking at Japanese methods we might decide to incorporate complex jointing between the wood to give a elegant beauty (whilst avoiding any unnecessary steel) to the ceiling.

Old vs new, how to blend the two?Neues Museum Berlin

Bulging brick walls and perfectly linear concrete stair balustrades as shown in the Neues Museum in Berlin by David Chipperfield. The image shows well how a delicate intervention can work well, keeping the historic fabric intact, whilst adapting the building to accommodate new roles. We have to understand how to relate every old piece of building to the new. How to align new walls with bellying flint, how new framed doors and windows will sit in the deep stone walls pre-empting everything that a builder will encounter.

It’s an enjoyable ongoing process and we travel back to the East Coast tomorrow. We will report more when we start detailing the internal elements and materials, to create atmospheric relaxed spaces!