Architects’ Showcase: The Arbor House by Brown & Brown
Brown & Brown has completed a new low energy home in a conservation area of Aberdeen, turning an open plot into a private, leafy retreat that foregrounds craftsmanship and design.
Designed for a mature couple relocating from a rural village into suburban Aberdeen, The Arbor House is a contemporary, cantilevered home organised over two floors with slim Larch batten cladding punctuated by expansive glazing. It is nestled in a gentle dip on the northern corner of the site to capture and harness southern sunlight, masking the homes’ volume below the busy sloping road it neighbours.
The Arbor House has been delivered by Brown & Brown in partnership with specialist contractor, Coldwells Build and craft workshop, Angus & Mack.
It replaces a dilapidated stone steading that extended the length of the tree-lined plot. Most of the cottage was carefully deconstructed and the masonry reused to craft a low, sweeping boundary wall at street level, while one wall of the stone cottage is left in situ to form a modern colonnade lit by original window openings.
Brown & Brown arranged these layers of salvaged masonry to balance the client’s desire for privacy and maintain the property’s original connection to the streetscape. The cloistered entry offers a ‘mental airlock’, marking a clear separation between the busy road and enclosed gardens and home.
Inside, The Arbor House follows a logical floor plan designed to adapt for independent living later in life if required. A custom fumed oak pivot door leads into a wide hallway, where occupants are drawn through the house by uninterrupted views to the gardens past a utility room, bathroom, and office, before arriving in a double height glazed atrium. This central dining space is lit by an entire wall of glazing, bringing the surrounding trees into the home.
Despite the wall of nature overlooking the airy space, a sculptural Birch plywood spiral staircase draws focus in the atrium. Designed by Brown & Brown in collaboration with local craftsman Angus & Mack, the stair was assembled over three weeks as timber treads were individually cut and hand layered to form a smooth, sinuous parabolic curve.
The remainder of the ground floor is dedicated to cooking and hosting, where a custom chef’s kitchen marks the fulcrum point of the house. A wall of joinery clad in textural slate panels conceals a back of house kitchen with floor to ceiling storage. The sleek DK&I kitchen island features a microcement counter that cantilevers out from a blackened ceramic base, reaching toward a wall of floor to ceiling glazing.
Extending into the garden to flank the internal courtyard, the lounge is given over to end-to-end, floor-to-ceiling glazing to drink in the greenery outside. A timber board marked concrete fireplace anchors the lightweight space, balancing the airy interior with a sense of solidity.
The second floor of The Arbor House hosts the sleeping quarters. The main bedroom with corner glazed bathroom sits at the eastern end of the plan, while a second and third bedroom and adjoining jack and jill bathroom designed for the couples’ grown up children sit at the western side. The volumes of the first floor, colonnade and garage are broken up by sedum roof, which blend the rooftops with the surrounding treelines and assist with drainage.
In line with the studio’s approach to sustainability, Brown & Brown designed The Arbor House to capitalise on natural materials, heating and ventilation to reduce the operational costs and carbon. The large expanses of glazing draw in and store warm sunlight in the thermal mass, and open to passively cool the house in the summer months.
A ground source heat pump maintains a toasty indoor temperature in the Winter, supported by the heavily insulated structure which has been sealed for airtightness. Air circulates with the help of a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, resulting in a very low energy in use rating overall.
Conscious of the scale of The Arbor House and careful to balance any heaviness, Brown & Brown has displayed a unique approach to crafting architecture that respects its place through use of a restrained palette of salvaged, local, and natural materials. Slender Larch battens have been used internally as well as externally to create a consistent language throughout, and will silver over time, naturally blending with the stonework.
A hard wearing yet smooth microcement floor balances the textures of the plywood and slate joinery, offering a calm, clean interior, which the mature trees beyond the glazed elevations enhance as the seasons change.
The Arbor House is a confident and resolved home for discerning clients, an exemplar for the quality of home that can be achieved by a dedicated client, architect, and contractor partnership.
Andrew Brown, director, Brown & Brown, said: “The Arbor House is a modern home in harmony with its surroundings. We worked with the natural topography of the site to create a secret retreat, tucking the volume of the home in deeper points of the plot to reduce its presence on the street. The original window apertures from the old cottage offer small glimpses into the cloister and courtyard, adding layers and intrigue to the home.”
Clients Russel Davies & Wendy Wilkie added: “Brown & Brown have delivered a house which takes our breath away every day, and we realise what a wonderful place this is to live. Living in the countryside, you get accustomed to a level of privacy and tranquillity that this house affords us in an urban setting. The house allows us to enjoy the lifestyle we’ve long wanted; space to host, easy access to the city, and plenty of green space.”
All photography © Jim Stephenson