CAD Divider

Transforming a Historic Building

Sep 4, 2019

“The new old house.” Transforming a historic building into a stunning contemporary home.

By Mark Dawes, Managing Director, CAD Architects

When choosing a property to be professionally converted by a residential architect, people often assume that they face an ‘either-or’ choice:

“Should we buy a historic property with lots of authentic character, but fewer of the modern design features that we ideally want? Or do we opt for a clean, spacious modern home with state-of-the-art interior design and facilities, but with less charm than an older building?”

The good news is that it is possible to design a home that gives you the best of both worlds. Furthermore, in the hands of the right architect, you will find that exceptionally beautiful homes can be created when you interweave modernity and history.

People have often observed that some of the most interesting conversations occur when you have two opposing points of view. In a way, that is what happens at CAD Architects when our team is working on a project like this. For every aspect of the building, we will consider which are the vital original features that we must preserve and how we can blend these harmoniously with modern elements to create a unique ‘conversation.’

One of our proudest achievements in this area is the work that CAD Architects carried out on Blowinghouse Mill. This is a former 19th century corn mill, situated in a pretty woodland valley at Blowinghouse, between St.Agnes and Perranporth.

There have been corn mills in Cornwall since the 13th century. Blowinghouse Mill would have been built during the last golden age for corn mills. Early in the 20th century the arrival of small, economical machines meant that farmers could mill their own corn.

A mill building had to be substantial in size. It needed to house all the milling machinery, which was powered by a water wheel, as well as space to store grain and flour. This meant that we had an excellent framework to work with, giving us huge scope to modernise the mill while retaining enough of the original structure to give a clear impression of how it must have looked in its heyday.

One of the first clues that tells you this is no ordinary home is when you initially drive up to the building. At first glance it is difficult to tell whether this is a ‘new’ or ‘old’ construction. The balcony and floor to ceiling windows may lead you to initially suspect that the whole home is a modern construction. But then the eye begins to register the gorgeous original stone of the old mill house section and the original Cornish slates on the roof. You gradually realise that this is a home where built heritage meets stylish, contemporary design.

For this project, CAD Architects worked very closely with the excellent team at Williams Creative Homes to ensure that every aspect of the exterior and interior was planned and executed in meticulous detail. The whole project was driven by a fantastic client who had a powerful vision of the outstanding home that could be created, combined with an uncompromising commitment to the quality of the result.

The client had a real passion for restoring the original character of Blowinghouse Mill and this even extended to the reinstatement of the water wheel itself.

One of the great benefits of combining old with new is that it gave us a broad range of materials to work with for the interior, from traditional stone, slate and wood to modern elements such as steel, glass, and even exposed concrete blocks. These could be used in different combinations to give each room its own individual personality.

Perhaps more than any other project we have worked on over recent years, when I show people photos of Blowinghouse Mill, it elicits a response of: “Oh my God, I want to live there!” It seems to appeal equally strongly to lovers of old houses and lovers of modern home design.

The phrase “The New Old House” is used as the title for an excellent book edited by Marc Kristal, which shows some of the best examples of how this approach has been used in houses in Europe and North America.

I believe CAD Architects will see many more projects like this over the next ten years. It is an approach which creates homes that are as individual as their owners, homes which possess a timeless style that will never go out of date. Aa a result, creating a home like this also provides and excellent long-term investment for the owners.

You can see photos of the finished design of Blowinghouse Mill by clicking on the link below: