By Tom Robinson18th December 2023

As we go about our work designing buildings, certain trends come to light through each year. I was musing on this at the start of December, and four emerged. First is an increased desire for the protection and luxury of covered balconies and verandas, the second is metal-framed windows, which are definitely having a resurgence of popularity, the third is the dream of a small cosy building – a cabin or bothy – apart from one’s main house, and finally, the re-emergence of lime-based plaster to provide a traditional look and feel to interiors.

Covered verandas and the casting of shade  

Recently I have noticed clients welcoming ideas for verandas, large roof overhangs, deep window recesses and even designs with whole first floors above decking or terracing to create covered outdoor rooms. New house design in colonial style is booming in America just now according to Architectural Digest magazine and it’s also a theme here in Scotland. To my delight, elements from the style have been asked for by clients on four of our current projects. The components enable expressive elegant architecture and inviting flexible spaces. While the need for shade and designing to minimise heat gain are more prevalent in hotter countries than Scotland, there is an increasing yearning for it here. But what is appealing here is the ability to shelter from inclement weather while still having that sought-after inside-outside connection.

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Metal windows making a comeback

Windows are the eyes of a building and like in people they express much of the character. We often think of Art Deco style when metal windows are mentioned. The W20 steel profile, often with a grid-like design, is the classic look, which offers elegant simplicity and fine sections, which allow for really large expanses of glass. Versions today are thermally broken – meaning there is less heat transferred through the window frames so your home is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter – and double glazed, preventing the condensation problems of the original metal windows. Metal offers a different aesthetic from timber, often with a slightly more industrial feel, although it’s also churchlike in some instances, benefitting many designs. Metal astragals can be used to divide up an opening in a particular way and the proportions created say something about the whole building. I have enjoyed designing window frames in bronze on a project this year. The sharp precision of bronze alongside a rough Scottish harl with spare stone cills will, I hope, give an unshowy mix of quality and permanence.

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Cabins, bothies, summer-houses, fishing huts and grottos

The desire to build small exquisite buildings in the landscape is not new. Architects have been doing it for centuries. And the idea of a tiny house deep in a forest or up a hill endures as a fairy-tale inspired dream. Often, these small buildings are a destination for their own sake, in a garden, on a country estate, up a hill or beside a river, in which case they need to be a delight. In our case we have seen them being added on to larger projects and then becoming the house-owners’ favourite spot – a secret escape to enjoy. I have noticed book authors, building suppliers, gardening magazines and makers all apparently busy in these spaces. The wish to go to a quiet and lovely little retreat in nature seems to be particularly high just now. Our challenge is to make them as creative and special as we can, while keeping their inherent simplicity intact.

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Lime-based plaster

Lime-based plaster, or Venetian plaster as it is often referred to, is becoming extremely popular. In contrast to plain matt walls, lime-based plaster brings variation across the surface making every inch of wall unique. We have collaborated with suppliers and installers to create these textured wall surfaces on several recent projects. These surfaces bring life and interest to living spaces without necessitating bold coloured walls, meaning that the furniture and views can be more in focus. We work with specialists to control the depth of texture, level of contrast, and length of stroke used to create the texture that clients are looking for. Some lime-based plasters can even be used in wet areas, allowing whole bathrooms to be finished in the same material, including within walk-in showers.

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If you have a dream for a bothy, veranda, or building with metal windows, don’t hesitate to get in touch >

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