Holly Barn, Norfolk, Reedham, Norfolk


Holly Barn, a new house near Reedham at the edge of the Norfolk Broads, was built on the site of a derelict timber barn. The timber-clad exterior relates to the local vernacular of windmills and boat-houses. Inside, the house has been carefully designed and detailed to allow total mobility for the wheelchair-bound client. Holly Barn has won a number of awards including an RIBA National Award, the Wood Award for private projects 2006 and the RIBA Manser Medal 2006 for the best one-off house designed by an architect in the UK.


Building description

The new house, 27 x 6 metres on plan, is similar in size to the old barn except that it has two-storeys. Through a porch and door set in the north-west gable you enter the entrance hall, a double-height open plan space with a freestanding staircase with oak treads and a platform lift to the first floor. Upstairs, the kitchen, dining room and living room form an enfilade, lightly sub-divided by glass partitions and with lofty ceilings which rise to the ridge of the roof; they are connected by a band of oak flooring which acts as a visual ‘corridor’ and leads to the main bedroom, bathroom pod and study. A series of sliding timber windows running alongside the corridor give panoramic views over the Broads.

The ground floor contains a playroom, two bathrooms and four bedrooms, entered from a south-facing corridor, its walls rippled on plan. The undulations form reveals to hold the French doors when open, they allow people to pass comfortably along the route and permit easy wheelchair movement. On the north elevation the windows are generally small punctured 'holes' to harness solar energy and light.


Architect’s description

The building has been detailed with a simple and smooth envelope; to give a clear clean profile to the skyline. The hidden gutter allows the curved eaves to melt into the roof. The timber boarding on the roof and walls is intended to resonate with the traditional construction of windmills, boat houses and boats of the Broads.

The house is designed to give total mobility to the client who is wheelchair bound. Wide passages, doorways and a platform lift give accessibility to both floors.

Timber is the predominant external material, with walls clad in alternating strips of wide and narrow larch shiplapped boarding. The fully-glazed east and west gables are screened by deep-louvred iroko slatted panels. Sliding windows and doors are also made in iroko timber. The roof is clad with lapped Siberian larch boards. They were selected to use the natural tendency of the timber to bow and cup to improve water shedding; heart side out on the upper boards and heart side in on the lower boards. Narrow horizontal slots were routed into the external boarding, on several elevations, as bat boxes. The curved ridge of the roof is covered with Rheinzink standing seam cladding, the colour of which tones closely with the weathered timber boarding.

Construction work was divided into a series of packages and awarded to local subcontractors, whose work was closely scrutinised by the main contractor, Willow Builders. Work started on site at the beginning of February 2005 and practical completion was in December. The construction cost was £500,000.

Completion Date:


Year Published:

September 2007

Building Type:



Reedham, Norfolk




Private owners


Knox Bhavan Architects

Structural Engineer:

Eckersley O’Callaghan

Timber Element(s):

Wall and roof cladding Sliding doorsets and windows Floor and staircase

Timber Specie(s):

Siberian larch, Iroko, oak


RIBA National Award Wood Award for private projects 2006 RIBA Manser Medal 2006

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Suggested Reading

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An update of British, European and International Standards relating to timber, including new and revised Standards, those withdrawn or amended and drafts now available for public comment, updated bimonthly.


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Chapter 5, Driving innovation with process solutions, features three very different and remarkable projects:

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Article from 03/06/2019