Cross Barn, Contemporary Extension, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Cross Barn is a contemporary extension of a residential address being the former beer cellar barn of the adjacent Wentworth Hotel.

The site is designated within the Aldeburgh Conservation Area and as such is within an area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.

The design upgrades the existing accommodation (a 1970’s uninsulated barn conversion and flat roof extension) by providing a new raised roof structure with insulation levels much greater than current standards as well as rear extensions to provide additional living accommodation to replace the damp flat roof 1970s extensions. The principal design approach is to invert the living and sleeping accommodation by placing the living areas on the first floor to benefit from improved day-lighting and create a larger open plan space, which maximises the floor area available by minimising circulation. The previous conversion had very dark and damp unattractive ground floor living spaces. The internal space has a vaulted ceiling in order to exploit the volume created exaggerating light and space. The cellular ground floor plan is then utilised for bedrooms & bathrooms but with exposed floor joists and larger windows to again increase the feeling of light and space. The proposal also includes the demolition of the existing flat roof 1970’s extension, asbestos roof car port and flat roof rear store to make way for the proposed rear extensions of brick wave and zinc folly. The zinc folly provides a guest space and hobbies space over a new en suite and bedroom. A single storey wildflower meadow roof extension (coastal mix) and new study/ bed deck in a rear 2 storey extension.

Clerestory windows are inserted below the raised roof level to the front elevation. This mimics the wide glazed areas of the previous dormers but provides a continuous glazed feature, which separates the new roof from the existing brick façade and thus the living space has panoramic glazing front and rear.


The house had felted flat roof dormers to both front and rear elevations. These dormers are a consequence of its conversion in the 1970’s. They were rather alien to the existing streetscene and hence were removed and replaced by a new raised clerestory and vaulted roof over. The new roof eaves height is set at the previous eaves height of these dormers. The new vaulted roof and the first floor are visible at night providing attractive views of this lit vaulted space glimpsed from the street but the privacy of the occupiers is maintained due to the position of this clerestory and height of existing facade.

All of the works are in white painted brick, which mimics the existing dwelling and surrounding properties and help unify the proposals as a single design solution.  The new rear study has a zinc roof which slopes down into the wildflower garden.

To its North face this zinc is maintained to reinforce the aesthetic and position of the boundary wall and to give the appearance of a roof element within this courtyard space. The zinc colour is exactly chosen so as to match the neighbouring slate roofs and thus merge into the context.

The rear study extension has a small bed deck over. The rear extension facing the courtyard has a brick ‘wave’ entrance to highlight the point of entry and provide a small porch. This brick wave then merges into the tower form with a playful use of small ‘jewel’ like windows to allow in light and air but maintain neighbours privacy. The windows and brick wave animate this facade. At night these will also help background light the courtyard and add further interest.

All the cobbles to the courtyard were protected during the works and maintained in place.

All of the works to the rear are within the private enclosure of the site and as such are hidden from public view and are not visible in the street scene. Great care has been taken to create a glazed. Light and bright contemporary home but one that is sympathetic to its context, becomes subtle background architecture appropriate in form and design and cleverly hiding its mass to create a series of indoor and outdoor spaces for the occupants.


The property was much improved in terms of energy use and performance in the following ways:

– Insulation of walls, floor and roof to beyond the current building regulations

– Water saving technologies to WC’s and taps

– New triple glazed high performance windows

– New lighting throughout 100% LED

– Moving the living accommodation upstairs and bedrooms downstairs to make maximum use of internal temperature to rooms to suit their purpose.

– The installation of a full mechanical ventilation heat recovery system

– A new high efficiency gas boiler

– The installation of a hot water thermal-store.

– A highly insulated green roof


Whilst only a small site, we have attempted to encourage green spaces. The site was a rear concrete courtyard. This was replaced with a terraced stair leading to the small wildflower roof terrace and with a new tree in the stone courtyard below. The wildflower roof is based entirely around coastal planting with wildflowers common to this environment.


This proposal provides a high quality design with an improved visual environment to both street and rear private courtyard. In addition it provides a more energy efficient building with new planting, a light and bright home with interconnected internal and external spaces.

Photography by MSAP Photography


Aldeburgh, Suffolk