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Arbor House by Brown & Brown Architects


Brown & Brown has completed a new low-energy home in a conservation area of Aberdeen, Scotland, turning an open plot into a private, leafy retreat that foregrounds craftsmanship and design.

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Designed for a mature couple relocating from a rural village into suburban Aberdeen, The Arbor House is a contemporary, cantilevered home organized over two floors with slim Larch batten cladding punctuated by expansive glazing. It is nestled in a gentle dip on the northern corner of the site to capture and harness southern sunlight, masking the homes’ volume below the busy sloping road it neighbors. The Arbor House has been delivered by Brown & Brown in partnership with specialist contractor, Coldwells Build and craft workshop, Angus & Mack.

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The Arbor House replaces a dilapidated stone steading that extended the length of the tree-lined plot. Most of the cottage was carefully deconstructed and the masonry reused to craft a low, sweeping boundary wall at street level, while one wall of the stone cottage is left in situ to form a modern colonnade lit by original window openings.

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Brown & Brown arranged these layers of salvaged masonry to balance the client’s desire for privacy and maintain the property’s original connection to the streetscape. The cloistered entry offers a ‘mental airlock’, marking a clear separation between the busy road and enclosed gardens and home.

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Inside, The Arbor House follows a logical floor plan designed to adapt for independent living later in life if required. A custom-fumed oak pivot door leads into a wide hallway, where occupants are drawn through the house by uninterrupted views to the gardens past a utility room, bathroom, and office, before arriving in a double-height glazed atrium. This central dining space is lit by an entire wall of glazing, bringing the surrounding trees into the home.

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Despite the wall of nature overlooking the airy space, a sculptural Birch plywood spiral staircase draws focus in the atrium. Designed by Brown & Brown in collaboration with local craftsman Angus & Mack, the stair was assembled over three weeks as timber treads were individually cut and hand layered to form a smooth, sinuous parabolic curve.

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The remainder of the ground floor is dedicated to cooking and hosting, where a custom chef’s kitchen marks the fulcrum point of the house. A wall of joinery clad in textural slate panels conceals a back-of-house kitchen with floor-to-ceiling storage. The sleek DK&I kitchen island features a micro cement counter that cantilevers out from a blackened ceramic base, reaching toward a wall of floor-to-ceiling glazing.

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Extending into the garden to flank the internal courtyard, the lounge is given over to end-to-end, floor-to-ceiling glazing to drink in the greenery outside. A timber board-marked concrete fireplace anchors the lightweight space, balancing the airy interior with a sense of solidity.

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The second floor of The Arbor House hosts the sleeping quarters. The main bedroom with a corner glazed bathroom sits at the eastern end of the plan, while a second and third bedroom and adjoining jack and jill bathroom designed for the couples’ grown-up children sit at the western side. The volumes of the first floor, colonnade, and garage are broken up by a sedum roof, which blends the rooftops with the surrounding treelines and assists with drainage.

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In line with the studio’s approach to sustainability, Brown & Brown designed The Arbor House to capitalize on natural materials, heating, and ventilation to reduce operational costs and carbon. The large expanses of glazing draw in and store warm sunlight in the thermal mass, and open to passively cool the house in the summer months. A ground source heat pump maintains a toasty indoor temperature in the Winter, supported by the heavily insulated structure which has been sealed for airtightness. Air circulates with the help of a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, resulting in a very low energy in-use rating overall.

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Architects: Brown & Brown Architects; Area: 274 m²; Year: 2022; Photographs:Jim Stephenson; Manufacturers: Geberit, Aquabella, DK&I, Kast Concrete Basins, Russwood, Vado Taps, Woodpecker Flooring; Main Contractor: Coldwells Build; General Engineering: Design Engineering Workshop;

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