A contemporary contextual semi-suburban family home

Project details


Amersham, Buckinghamshire









Chelwood is a five-bedroom detached family home in the village of Chesham Bois, near Amersham in the Chilterns. The project replaces an existing dilapidated home with a new build contemporary airtight house that carefully responds to the site’s architectural context through its form and use of materials.

The house is in an area of special character, distinguished by its rural settlement and spacious avenues of large one-off homes set behind tall hedgerows and interspersed by trees and verdant gardens. The streets were primarily laid out during the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, with many of the houses exhibiting large roofs, front-facing gables, prominent chimneys, elaborate brickwork, roughcast render, and other arts and crafts features.

The side elevation of Chelwood house with its decorative red brickwork and clay roof tiles.View of the overhanging upper storey at Chelwood.

Vaulted roofs and front-facing gables lead Chelwood’s design. A three-bay red brick upper volume cantilevers over a recessed charred black timber clad ground floor. The triangulated folding peg-tile roof maximises the internal floor area and creates a contemporary seamless detail between roof and wall, while deferring to the rhythm of the streetscape and surrounding homes.


Obtaining planning permission for a new home in this sensitive semi-suburban context can be challenging. Napier Clarke’s approach was to carry out detailed analysis of the local vernacular houses to discover their prevailing characteristics and establish a context for a considered and appropriately scaled proposal.

View from the living room through the glazing into the garden. The ceiling has exposed steel and timber beams.

The red brick and charred timber rework the materials of the original house, allowing the upper floors to appear to float over the boundary hedge from the street. The facade is constructed of highly insulated, wrapped timber panels. The overhang provides solar shading for large openings on the ground floor, while the slender first floor windows with vertical brick fins ensure privacy and prevent unwanted solar gain.

The built in furniture and window seat in one of the living spaces at Chelwood house.

Chelwood house's kitchen with a black island, surrounding white units, pink wall units and open shelving.Steel internal staircase with steel balustrade and handrail at Chelwood house.

In plan, the house is organised around a central hallway that draws on the red brick and black of the exterior. A steel and timber stair rises through the house and forms an axis on the ground floor between the front kitchen dining space and rear living room pavilion overlooking the garden. Finishes are pared back to a simple robust palette of red, black, white walls and timber, with exposed beams and vaulted ceilings.


The house has become a high performing, thermally efficient, as well as naturally ventilated, home with a multitude of spaces for the family to enjoy. There’s even a secret yoga studio in the roof space.

Press and Awards


Buckinghamshire Design Awards, Unique Building – Runner up


Brick Award 2022 – Winner

Manser Medal 2022 – Shortlisted

BD AYA Individual House Architect of the Year – Shortlisted

British Homes Award 2022 – Highly commented

The partially suspended steel staircase at Chelwood with its views over the rural landscape.One of the bathrooms at Chelwood house, Buckinghamshire.

View of Chelwood house from the street, showing the driveway, black timber garage and the first gable of the house.


Site plan

Site plan showing L-shape and two-part design, Chelwood house, Buckinghamshire.


Ground floor, first floor and second floor plans, Chelwood house, Buckinghamshire.

Rear and front elevation

Front and rear elevations, Chelwood house, Buckinghamshire.



Project Manager - FEPM Construction Consultancy

Structural and Civils Engineer – Donald McIntyre Design

Services Engineer/ contractor – Matters

Lighting – Lighting by Plum


Lorenzo Zandri