A guide to house design with Stuart Bagshaw. 

If the first thing your architects asks is, ‘how do you want to use your house?’, know you’ve chosen wisely. Admittedly, we were a little surprised when Stuart Bagshaw kicked off Louis Croft’s briefing with such a simple question. After all, he’s won rafts of awards for his organic Hebridean vernacular architecture and he’s a hugely admired and respected sustainable design pioneer, so we were expecting a lot more ego, and a lot less inclusion.

Happily that’s not how it works with Stuart. The topographical survey had already established that the site was best suited to a three-tier, ground floor and upper mezzanine design for the main house, and that we’d be able to incorporate stone from the original croft into our new home. Apart from those guidelines and practical elements, everything else was a conversation. And most of it was about us: our family, our lives and what we envisaged Louis Croft bringing to the landscape and local community.

The process might sound slightly esoteric, but it’s actually incredibly effective to focus on details you don’t necessarily think are important, but are in fact integral to designing an empathetic, people-centred, green and responsible 21st century home from the ruins of an 18th century croft.

For instance, we’d never really considered how we’d use different parts of the croft throughout the day. We loved the views, but hadn’t thought about how we could take advantage of every single one of them, or that the outside could extend the living space, even in the depths of winter, and its relationship to the house was a vital design feature. It wasn’t that we didn’t have experience – we first met Stuart in 2012, working on another of his projects and we had our Strathearn master craftsmen hats on at that point. But what we didn’t have was experience creating our own home, from scratch, and if we’d known it was this exciting, involving, creative and – honestly – fun, we might have made Roto an offer on his land a decade earlier.

But since Stuart got the design exactly right at first draft and Highland Council approved all plans without any changes, we didn’t have long to ponder on what might have been 10 years ago: project Louis Croft was go, now.

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