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Maidstone countryside home scoops prestigious House of the Year award

A stunning home nestled in the Kent countryside has scooped the prestigious prize of House of the Year.

Caring Wood, in Leeds Village near Maidstone, boasts a unique interpretation of an English country house with contemporary design beautifully merging into its rural surroundings.

Its inspiration hails from the county’s traditional oast houses and agricultural buildings for kilning hops.

Caring Wood won the prestigious award of House of the Year 2017. Copyright James Morris.

Caring Wood won the prestigious award of House of the Year 2017. Copyright James Morris.

The house is 13 times the size of an average three-bedroom home and is equipped with its own music hall, courtyard and underground tunnels.

Nicknamed an “Oast House on steroids”, the huge house is home to 15 members of the same family with grandchildren who communicate with walki-talkies.

The plans consist of a central building with a performing area while four separate individual living areas connected by hidden walkways. 

Its inspiration hails from the county’s traditional oast houses and agricultural buildings for kilning hops. Copyright James Morris.

Its inspiration hails from the county’s traditional oast houses and agricultural buildings for kilning hops. Copyright James Morris.

The winner of the Royal Institute of British Architecture award for 2017 was designed by architects James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell and comprises four towers.

Materials include naturally sourced handmade peg clay tiles, quarried ragstone from the area and coppiced chestnut cladding.

"This intimate house delights in the way it beautifully manipulates space and avoids grandiosity. Unobtrusive within its landscape, it builds on the pattern of settlement centuries old. This is a house for all ages.”

RIBA House of the Year 2017 jury chair, Deborah Saunt:
“Beyond the impression of sublime craftsmanship and spatial grandeur this house offers, Caring Wood leads us to fundamentally question how we might live together in the future.

"At a time when we are increasingly atomised, individually preoccupied and lost in personalised digital worlds, designing homes where families come together - in their many permutations - is an increasingly important aim.

“Whilst this might seem to be a particular brief for one extended family, it is one taking huge risks in asking how we collectively might live inter-generationally as social structures evolve.

Caring Wood, in Leeds Village near Maidstone, boasts a unique interpretation of an English country . Copyright James Morris.

Caring Wood, in Leeds Village near Maidstone, boasts a unique interpretation of an English country . Copyright James Morris.

"This is a brave project offering a new prototype. In deploying homes that cater for extended families across urban, suburban and rural sites, this may offer solutions not only to the country’s housing crisis - where families might live together longer- but also by providing care solutions for young and old alike, freeing people from punishing costs throughout their lifetimes.

"This intimate house delights in the way it beautifully manipulates space and avoids grandiosity. Unobtrusive within its landscape, it builds on the pattern of settlement centuries old. This is a house for all ages.”

The home in Leeds Village wasdesigned by architects James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell. Copyright James Morris.

The home in Leeds Village wasdesigned by architects James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell. Copyright James Morris.

The collaborative effort between the two architects also picked up the RIBA South East Award, RIBA’s South East Sustainability Award and RIBA’s National Award.

RIBA House of the Year 2017 juror Sandra Coppin added: "This grand and expansive project is the result of an imaginative collaboration between two small practices.

Materials include naturally sourced handmade peg clay tiles and quarried ragstone from the area. Copyright James Morris.

Materials include naturally sourced handmade peg clay tiles and quarried ragstone from the area. Copyright James Morris.

“The architects of this highly original building, as well as their client, set out to reimagine what a home could be, raising brave and highly relevant questions about cohabitation and the family home.

"The lively and sculptural house, despite its scale and grandeur, manages to also feel pleasingly domestic and intimate. Its poetic form sits comfortably into the hillside, echoing the rural Kentish landscape and vernacular oast-houses.

“Created from a rich palette of local materials, this highly crafted building is skilfully detailed and beautifully constructed. It has been created with a stunning sureness and originality.”

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