written by:
photos by:
January 22, 2009
Originally published in Renovate It!
Architect Piers Taylor's renovation of an old gameskeeper's cottage, complete with a castellated roof and sweeping meadow below, is an exercise in dramatic modernization, one that takes advantage of everything its storybook setting has to offer.
Moonshine is beautifully set in an isolated spot in the English countryside outside of Bath. The dramatic juxtaposition of a stone gamekeeper's cottage and a modern timber framed addition gives the home a quaint, pastoral feel while capitalizing on the dr
Moonshine is beautifully set in an isolated spot in the English countryside outside of Bath. The dramatic juxtaposition of a stone gamekeeper's cottage and a modern timber framed addition gives the home a quaint, pastoral feel while capitalizing on the dramatic view of St. Catherine's Valley.
Photo by 
1 / 9
The living room.
The living room.
Photo by 
2 / 9
The classic yellow Robin Day chairs from Habitat perfectly complement the purple Jack light by Tom Dixon. Piers designed and built the table when he was in architecture school.
The classic yellow Robin Day chairs from Habitat perfectly complement the purple Jack light by Tom Dixon. Piers designed and built the table when he was in architecture school.
Photo by 
3 / 9
In the master bedroom, an original Aalto L leg chair from 1953 offers an idyllic spot to tie shoes.
In the master bedroom, an original Aalto L leg chair from 1953 offers an idyllic spot to tie shoes.
Photo by 
4 / 9
The main living room is an open-plan space with an integrated kitchen and dining area. The table, made by Taylor and shrouded in Marimekko, is outfitted with blue Tripp Trapp adjustable children's chairs by Stokke; the striped rug is from Ikea.
The main living room is an open-plan space with an integrated kitchen and dining area. The table, made by Taylor and shrouded in Marimekko, is outfitted with blue Tripp Trapp adjustable children's chairs by Stokke; the striped rug is from Ikea.
Photo by 
5 / 9
In the master bathroom upstairs, the Tokyo roll-top bathtub from victoriaplumb benefits from an epic view.
In the master bathroom upstairs, the Tokyo roll-top bathtub from victoriaplumb benefits from an epic view.
Photo by 
6 / 9
Beyond the kitchen is a secondary room that is a pantry, prep area, utility room, and entrance hall all in one. The standard beech-top counters from Howdens Joinery Co. are doubled up to achieve a three-inch thickness, with the rounded edges cut off.
Beyond the kitchen is a secondary room that is a pantry, prep area, utility room, and entrance hall all in one. The standard beech-top counters from Howdens Joinery Co. are doubled up to achieve a three-inch thickness, with the rounded edges cut off.
Photo by 
7 / 9
The rear facade reveals a glimpse of the living room.
The rear facade reveals a glimpse of the living room.
Photo by 
8 / 9
The addition includes a large timber deck at the front, where the family can lounge and enjoy the lush scenery.
The addition includes a large timber deck at the front, where the family can lounge and enjoy the lush scenery.
Photo by 
9 / 9
Moonshine is beautifully set in an isolated spot in the English countryside outside of Bath. The dramatic juxtaposition of a stone gamekeeper's cottage and a modern timber framed addition gives the home a quaint, pastoral feel while capitalizing on the dr
Moonshine is beautifully set in an isolated spot in the English countryside outside of Bath. The dramatic juxtaposition of a stone gamekeeper's cottage and a modern timber framed addition gives the home a quaint, pastoral feel while capitalizing on the dramatic view of St. Catherine's Valley.
Project 
Moonshine Cottage
Architect 

Architect Piers Taylor had always wanted to live off the beaten track. For many years he thought he would end up taking his family from England to Australia—where he once lived and studied—to find a perfect home in the bush, away from everything. But when he came across Moonshine, a former gamekeeper’s cottage tucked away in the woods, four miles outside the city of Bath, he knew a continental shift wouldn’t be necessary. With no direct access from the road, the original stone house with a castellated rooftopis reached via a ten-minute walk along a path through the forest and is graced with sweeping views across the green valley spread out below. “I first went to see the place holding our daughter Lily in a shopping basket when she was just days old,” says Piers, who now has two children with his wife Sue, along with his first daughter Imogen. “I got more and more excited as I walked down the path to the house, and when I opened the gate and saw the setting and the views, I knew I wanted to live there immediately. I was affected by it like no other place I have ever been to. Within five minutes I had offered near to the asking price.”

The family had been living in an end-of-terrace cottage in a nearby village, which they were fast outgrowing. They were thinking about moving to a quieter area, but needed to be near Bath, where Piers has his practice—Mitchell Taylor Workshop—and also teaches. “He came back from seeing the house and told me he’d put in an offer, which is classic Piers,” says Sue. “He had the vision to see the potential of the site. At the time, the path seemed a very long way from the little hamlet where we park our car, but Piers is very good at persuading people, and I soon realized it was definitely the right thing. We moved in during the summer of 2002, and it felt like home very quickly.”

Today the house looks rather different: a striking contrast between the original 1780s cottage and a large timber-framed addition whose tin cladding and banks of glass give the effect of a semitransparent shed opening up to the landscape. The extension not only succeeds in creating a working home for a family of five, but compellingly combines the old stone cottage with the contemporary belvedere. With the Taylors now putting the final touches on the house, Moonshine represents a journey of six years since Piers first saw the property.

After two years of tidying and fixing up the place, Piers began to feel the pressure to expand: Imogen, now 17, and Lily, now seven, were sharing one of the two bedrooms when Sue found out she was pregnant with Archie, now three. “We thought we just had to have more bedroom space,” says Sue. “We went through lots of different plans and looked at different budgets. We started modestly but then decided that if we were going to build down here then it was going to be challenging in terms of the logistics and access, and so really we should build as much as we could all at once.”

Piers decided that a lightweight raised structure would best suit the site and get around the problems of building on unsteady land liable to subsidence, and went to work developing plans for a two-story pavilion overlooking the valley below. The extension would include two more bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs, and a large, open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen on the ground floor.

The family moved out during construction, and, after a month of dealing with difficult contractors, Piers decided to oversee the construction himself. “It was actually incredibly liberating to say I will build my own house,” says Piers. “It was also a catalyst to resign from my old job with a larger firm and set up my own practice, partly to build my own house. I thought it was really important to get involved in the construction, to be hands-on, and to see that it was done right.”

Although Piers was able to find a local builder and a timber-framing specialist to do most of the work, the house’s relative inaccessibility proved to be the greatest obstacle, as it made transporting materials very difficult. Even his relatively minimal, lightweight design would still require concrete foundations, heavy timbers, and thousands of component parts. The team managed to get a truck up through a neighboring field to lay the foundations and used a crane to help erect the green oak frame, but everything else had to come along the path by wheel-barrow. “The most stressful thing about the whole experience was actually coaxing people down that path,” says Piers. “I wouldn’t tell people when we placed orders that we had no proper access because otherwise they just wouldn’t turn up. Getting the oak frame down was the hardest; some sections weigh nearly a ton and had to be brought down on a trolley. It was madness but we managed it.”

After six months in exile, the family moved back into their radically reinvented home on time and on budget. Inside, materials are purposefully raw—echoing the barnlike simplicity of the extension—with plywood sections for the walls and floors and bare plaster ceilings. The whole space is bathed in light upstairs and down, with no need for curtains or shutters given the house’s relative isolation. The family has plenty of space and the world is spread out before them, literally, in the valley below.

“It’s very much a simple, direct way of building that responds to the site, weather patterns, orientation, and the desire to spill outside easily,” says Piers. “It’s also a version of an antipodean pole house, raised up above the ground, which is quite Australian, but here it’s clad in black tin, which is a reference to the black barns down in the valley. It is very rooted in this landscape and the site. I wanted to do a building that was really about this place.”

“The house has become part of our daily rhythm,” says Sue. “It does force you to live according to the daylight hours and the seasons much more than being in a house in the city. You are so close to the elements and nature. We can stand in the kitchen and see deer, munkjack, and woodpeckers and hear the owls at night.”

Even the path has become a positive element of the Taylors’ day-to-day ritual. “There is something magical for us about that walk—every day, through thick or thin, we make that walk,” Piers says. “It feels utterly right to be down in the woods, and [the children] don’t know anything else but Moonshine.” Seamlessly blending the vintage with the modern, Moonshine manages to make the unlikely union seem as natural as its surroundings and—to Piers and his family—nearly as impressive.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016