For designer Tom Raffield and his family, it’s not just their incredible self-built wooden house that is their sanctuary, it’s the magical forest beyond that makes it truly home, discovers Rosalind Sack
IMAGE: TOM AND DANIELLE RAFFIELD’S FAMILY HOME SITS BEAUTIFULLY WITHIN ITS RURAL SURROUNDINGS IN SOUTH CORNWALL
Every now and again you come across a house that truly epitomises its owners, that sings to their tune. A house that is unmistakeably theirs.
This incredibly beautiful wavy wooden house nestled in South Cornish woodland is the family home of designers Tom and Danielle Raffield, co-founders of the Tom Raffield brand, known for their steam bent wooden lighting and furniture. The building is a true masterpiece that sits right into and follows the lines of the hillside of their glorious wooded plot. It is created from simple materials of concrete floors, and interior wood-clad walls of ash, sweet chestnut and beech, together with exterior steam bent oak and ash cladding, nearly all of which comes from the site.
IMAGES: (TOP) TOM ON HIS SELF-DESIGNED AND BUILT STAIRCASE; (BOTTOM) THE OPEN-PLAN DINING AND KITCHEN AREAS CELEBRATE THE BEAUTY OF NATURAL MATERIALS
This low impact building has an almost theatrical, otherworldly quality as it appears to be knitted into the magical, twisty forest beyond. “The outside is as important as the inside to us. We are really inspired by nature. We love this valley and love this place so much so it was all about doing this beautiful woodland justice,” says Tom who, together with Danielle, self-built this incredible wooden home which links via an internal glazed walkway through to their original house – a Grade II listed gameskeeper’s lodge. “Using natural materials has always been our bread and butter so it’s not a surprise our home reflects this!”
Not only is it an example of an incredible decorative and architectural feat, it is a place that makes this family’s heart sing. First and foremost, it’s a home. “We love being in the heart of nature surrounded by green. Ancient trees, open space and huge skies. It’s where we feel most at home and comfortable. The woodland is so inspiring – it changes seasonally yet feels so timeless,” says Tom who says their children adore having lots of outdoor space to roam free.
IMAGES: (TOP) LIGHT FLOODS THE HALLWAY FROM WHICH YOU CAN SEE THE ORIGINAL COTTAGE BEYOND; (BOTTOM) THE BEDROOM AND BATHROOM ARE BEAUTIFULLY SERENE
But the build wasn’t an easy endeavour – they never are. This mammoth project took over two years to complete and the impact of designing, project managing and being so hands-on in creating virtually every detail, bar the structural elements of the building, was tough.
The build coincided with the Tom Raffield brand gaining momentum and, in true self-build tradition, Danielle fell pregnant mid build. Balancing the project with their business – based a short walk up the hill from the house – and their two (soon to become three) children tested their energy levels, enthusiasm and resilience to the extreme. In hindsight, it was the making of them, and potentially of their brand.
“Trying to run a growing business and simultaneously build a house was in hindsight not an easy venture… but that being said the hard work was worth every second,” reflects Tom. “Halfway through the build we secured our first large retail stockist which added a lot of pressure to our workshop with the influx of orders. Our team were amazing, they were working on handcrafting products and also helping us with the build… that’s where our family ethos was truly born!”
IMAGES: (TOP) A SYMPHONY OF OLD AND NEW. THE EXTERIOR CLADDING ‘PEELS OFF’ TO FORM A BENCH SEAT; (BOTTOM L TO R) THE LIGHT INSTALLATION ABOVE THE STAIRCASE; MISMATCHED WOODEN CLADDING FILLS THE BATHROOM WITH CHARACTER
At every turn, both inside and outside this building, are beautiful materials, incredible workmanship and creative touches that truly stretch boundaries – including, of course, many Tom Raffield pieces such as lighting, hanging seats and furniture. It’s a true celebration of Tom and Danielle’s practical skills and extraordinary creative talents.
Outside sits a cantilevered bench which, incredibly, looks like it’s made from the cladding that has peeled off the side of the building. Inside, the staircase resembles a stack of logs with an incredible light installation hanging overhead, while the interior cladding of mismatched wooden planks, all individually chosen and fixed was a painstakingly slow process, but absolutely worth it.
“All of the interior wood in the house came from the woodlands behind our workshops. We saved a lot of the trees that felled in previous winters and used them to create cladding for the living space and kitchen. Due to the different types of trees there’s a lovely contrast of texture and tone. It feels so personal to have a feature in the house that is literally part of our woodland valley,” says Tom.
IMAGE: (TOP) THE OPEN PLAN LIVING SPACE CONNECTS WITH THE OUTDOORS WITH HUGE GLAZED DOORS; (BOTTOM) THE SNUG IN THE RENOVATED COTTAGE; A CLUSTER OF TOM RAFFIELD PENDANTS HANG ABOVE THE BED
The sympathetic renovation and restoration of the original gameskeeper’s cottage – which now houses a restful and cosy snug – and its outbuildings was afforded as much consideration and love as the new part of the house.
“We wanted to keep all of the original features we possibly could. The Gameskeeper cottage and outbuildings are so full of history it would have been a crime to strip them of their heritage!” says Tom. “We have a lot of exposed beams in the house and have worked hard to keep all of the wonky, odd shaped spaces, they make our house a home.”
To read the stories of more incredible real homes, click here.