PAD studio has created a sustainable and serene three-bedroom home for a London family in the New Forest National Park, inspired by Japanese architecture and a love of immersion in nature. The home, called Clay Retreat, features a wood exterior, natural interiors, and strong connections to the outdoors.

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Exterior of the Clay Retreat

“This is a deliberately modest and sensitively crafted home that embraces its setting, remaining harmonious with the wider landscape,” the designers say.

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Other angles of the wooden exteriors

PAD studio was originally commissioned to renovate an existing cottage on a rural site. Instead, the local planning authority suggested PAD studio design a new, sustainable and cohesive home rather than revive the disjointed cottage. They suggested this as long as it could match the footprint of the old home. Therefore, the architects designed a home clad in wood and white details to match the local historical architecture and blend into the site without increasing the footprint or volume of the home.

Wood exterior of the home

Clay plaster was used throughout the interior, which creates a tactile surface and a softness that makes the walls welcoming and touchable. The clay serves a double purpose; it also absorbs toxins and pollen from the air and offers a naturally low-carbon alternative to gypsum plaster.

Skylights on the roof and photovoltaic panels

The walls contrast with a polished concrete floor and hearth that reflect light and absorb the sun’s warmth during the day, releasing heat at night to balance the internal temperature of the home without extra energy usage.

Dining area with natural light and concrete floors

“We are architectural storytellers, and it is essential that every project has a unique storyline that is considerate of the people and place,” the designers say of the home. PAD studio aims to create homes that allow their clients to celebrate the joy of creation with them.

Simple wooden bedroom with large vertical window

In addition, PAD studio tries to engage with climate and biodiversity issues. They are proud signatories of the Architects Declare network and the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge. The goal: meet net-zero or better life carbon for new and retrofitting buildings by 2030.

Loft area above a desk and chair

As for the Clay Retreat, the goal was to focus on high insulation values combined with triple-glazed windows to minimize thermal bridging that results in heat loss. The construction of the building is airtight but breathable to control airflow and makes the most of solar heat gain through the windows as well as natural light. Also, openable windows and roof lights were used for ventilation.

Bathroom of the retreat house

Meanwhile, systems use Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery to provide background ventilation and extraction to control CO2 and humidity levels while retaining heat. An Air Source Heat Pump then provides off-grid background heating and hot water stored for later use. Photovoltaic solar panels generate electrical power to offset the use of mechanical systems, neutralizing their power use. Waste is also treated on-site using a treatment plant.

The Clay Retreat monitors heat and humidity as well as CO2 to keep track of winter heat loss and summer heat gain. Purrmetrix worked with the designers to process the data. Thermal imaging will be used to review the building fabric and thermal bridging.

+ PAD studio

Images via Jim Stephenson