Stepping Stone House

A sensitively designed residential extension by Hamish & Lyons forms a close connection with its site


James Brittain

Stepping Stone House in Oxfordshire by Hamish & Lyons is located on a heavily constrained green belt site, which is in a conservation area and flood zone, as well as surrounded by listed buildings. Five planning applications over the course of three years were required before permission was obtained.

The brief was to redevelop three disconnected, underused and flood-prone outbuildings to provide additional living space for the existing house. Specific attention was given to the clients’ children (five boys aged 8 to 15) who all have ADHD to varying degrees. As such, the design seeks to engage the family with the calming effects of nature through the use of daylight, an organic structure and natural materials.


The smaller of the two new buildings is a self-contained guesthouse comprising a kitchen/living space, utility corridor, bathroom and bed deck. The larger one includes a bathroom and bed deck, and will be used primarily as a children’s playroom. It is connected to the existing house via a structural glass bridge. Both buildings can be opened up to each other via sliding glazed doors on the ground floor. At night-time, the spaces can be closed-off and screened with blinds. Stilts elevate the structures above their lake setting, lifting them clear of potential floodwaters and allowing access to the existing house.


Much of the timber-framed building was pre-fabricated ensuring fast onsite construction and minimal waste. The architect developed the design as a building system that can be deployed on sites where water is prevalent, such as lakes, coastal land and flood plains.


The landscape design is integral to the overall concept and includes the swimming lake and a continuous route around the buildings. A path snakes through the sheltered garden of large tree ferns before leading out onto the stepping-stones in the lake. Steps rise up to an elevated tree fern walkway and the bridge connecting the two buildings. At night-time, the exterior lighting design highlights mature trees and creates longer views out from the buildings. Jets of water form an archway of illuminated lights over the stepping-stones.

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