Nestled in the beautiful coastal town of Lyme Regis, West Dorset, is The Crow’s Nest – a stunning clifftop clad housethat positively boasts kerb appeal.

A R Design Studio was approached by the clients who were looking to extend their holiday home on a clifftop on the south coast. During the planning process, and due to an unprecedented amount of rainfall during the winter months of 2014, concerns about movement in the land were raised and a decision was made to replace the house entirely.

The team was then tasked with designing a completely new home; the idea of movement and fracturing formed the backbone of the concept. Working closely with engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan, an imaginative structuralsolution was proposed to prevent future failure.

A concrete slab was built into the ground, and a series of strategically placed dwarf walls were then built on top of it. A floating structural frame wasthen laid on top of the wallsto act as an adjustable raft in case of future movement. Beneath the frame, there are specific places for mechanical jacks to be positioned so that the house can be securely re-levelled.

The design starts as a traditional cabin-likeform that then splits, twists and rotates, resulting in four pods. The outcome is a beautifully haphazard rough-sawn larch clad house that silhouettes against the wooded backdrop. The clearly defined entrance pod, the smallest of the four, guides you through the hallway into the central pod; the main living space comprising of kitchen, dining and living room. The extensive sliding glass draws you into the stunning coastline setting, with uninterrupted views of the English Channel beyond a floating timber deck.

The tower pod houses the large open plan master suite, situated on the first floor above a children’s bedroom, utility room and shower room on the ground floor. The right-hand pod, at the opposite end of the house, consists of the guest quarters; a bedroom, two bunk rooms, and a bathroom. This section of the house can be closed off when not required. The result is a playful and calm space for the owners to enjoy weekends with family and friends while taking in its spectacular and isolated location.

The owner of The Crow’s Nest told us: “The Crow’s Nest isin a fairly unique location and we always knew that it would need an architect who would not only be sympathetic to that but who would also design a contemporary house that did justice to itssurroundings. AR Design Studio have exceeded all our expectations. From the moment we first sat down with the team we knew they understood exactly what we were looking for.”

Established over 15 years ago by Andy Ramus, AR Design Studio is a RIBA chartered architects practice, based in Winchester, Hampshire, pecialising in elegant and imaginative contemporary new homes, extensions, renovations and mulitplot developments. Their expertise and flair has been recognised by winning a number of prestigious industry awardsincluding the Royal Institute of British Architects(RIBA) 2012Regional Award, Civic Trust Award, Daily Telegraph Small House of the Year Award 2014 and were shortlisted for BD House Architect of the Year 2014.

With a comprehensive knowledge of planning, AR Design Studio has built a stunning portfolio of completed residential projects.

Architectural designer Jonathan Oswald has worked with AR Design Studio for over five years, having started while he was still at university. Jonathan worked on the initial design stages of The Crow’s Nest, working out the brief and aspirations with the client and developing a scheme to take into the planning stages.


“We were originally approached to design an extension to the previous house on the site, primarily to give the family a larger communal space and to engage better with the views over the English Channel. When a landslip caused the original house to split in two we were then tasked with developing an entirely new house. The brief, however, did not change – the clients requested a modern,spacious home that would make the most of the views from the site, sit into its hillside location and give them the open space and flexibility they desired.”


“Designing a building that would stand the test of time on a site that is within an active landslip zone was a major challenge. We worked closely with engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan from the beginning of the project to develop a coherent architectural and engineering solution that would respond to the site conditions rather than fight against them. Site access would also prove to be a challenge, as the site was only accessible down a narrow winding lane. This required us to consider from the start how we would get materials onto site and what the limitations of this would be. We worked with an excellent contractor, Mew Developments, in this regard who provided many practical solutions.”


“The site has stunning panoramic views out over the English Channel. The main spaces of the house are all designed to engage with this, featuring large picture windows and sliding glass panels that allow the building to open up and engage with its environment. The other main characteristic of the site is the backdrop against the hill. Our response was to clad the house in haphazard rough-sawn larch that silhouettes against the woodland backdrop. The timber will weather, allowing it to further settle into the landscape over time.”


“We were driven by the client’s brief, the sea view, the woodland backdrop and the engineering challenges. The clients ultimately enjoyed the original house layout and the way it worked, so we reinterpreted it into the form of the new home while using the natural setting to develop and influence the architecture.”


“A sense of elation and relief! Projects like this are years in the making so it is fantastic when one is completed and looks as great as when it was first imagined. The biggest reward is seeing our clients enjoy using the house and the kind words that they and their guests have to say about it. This for us is what defines the success of a project.”

Architect: AR Design Studio


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Photographer: Martin Gardner /