Plummerswood Passivhaus

Client: Private Commission
Design & Construction: Stephen Finch,
Project Management & Initial Concept: Neil Norris
Items: Interior doors, glazed screens and panels
Materials: Oak, Spalted Beech, Birch and Ash

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Taking inspiration from nature and bringing the outside in was the challenge at this award-winning eco-house.

Plummerswood was the first house in the UK to be constructed using the mass timber Brettstapel technique to Passivhaus standards. The house was designed by Gaia Architects and prefabricated in Austria before being shipped to the site. Completed in October 2011 the house overlooks the River Tweed at Cardrona in the Scottish Borders and is designed to last at least 100 years. Plummerswood has won numerous awards including the Scottish Home Awards 2012 and shortlisted for the Guardian's Top 10 Eco Homes 2014.

Plummerswood main lobby with curved glazed screen to the right and panelled wood door to the back - both made from oak and spalted beech.

Plummerswood main lobby with curved glazed screen to the right and panelled wood door to the back - both made from oak and spalted beech.

As part of Real Wood Studios, myself and Neil Norris were commissioned to design, make and install a series of bespoke wooden doors, glazed screens and panels. A total of 16 interior doors were required in four different designs - two variations of a panelled wood door, a glazed panel door and matching pairs of double wardrobe doors. The brief called for a design that was inspired by nature and trees in particular - the view through a wood, past tree trunks and branches. In keeping with the unique nature of the project the doors were all non standard sizes with the average door being H: 2400 x W: 100 x Th: 70mm.

A total of 16 interior doors were required in four different designs - two variations of a panelled wood door, a glazed panel door and matching pairs of double wardrobe doors.

The clients are passionate about locally sourced timber and as makers at Real Wood Studios we were able discuss the various options available to them for the project. As a result it was decided to split the house by floor and use a different combination of woods on each. Oak was chosen for the primary wood downstairs with spalted beech as the accent wood, with birch as the primary and ash as the accent wood upstairs.

Connecting bridge on the first floor spanning the lobby below. To the right is a panelled door in birch and ash with a glazed wood door across the bridge.

Connecting bridge on the first floor spanning the lobby below. To the right is a panelled door in birch and ash with a glazed wood door across the bridge.

Four designs of door: two versions of a Panelled Wood Door, a Glazed Wood Door and Pairs of Wardrobe Doors

Four designs of door: two versions of a Panelled Wood Door, a Glazed Wood Door and Pairs of Wardrobe Doors

Panelled Wood Doors
Seven panelled wood interior doors were required for the bedrooms, bathrooms, study and utility rooms. The design comprises of a series of interlocking branches, either with one or two curved horizontal lines bisecting the branches, to create an organic pattern showing the grain and texture of the various woods used. Douglas fir was used to construct the door’s inner core which was then overlaid with up to 34 individual panels. Each panel went through a multi stage process to cut, shape and rebate it to an exact profile ready for installation. The panels were applied using a combination of glue and plugged screws to allow for seasonal movement in the wood. Between 250 and 300 wooden plugs were required per door.

We useda CNC router system to cut exact templates that could then be reused for all the various door designs and in the glazed screens. The CNC’d templates were essential as the design called for a very high finish standard with close tolerances. Each panel had a 2mm expansion gap all round that had to remain consistent to keep the detail crisp.

Wardrobe Doors
Two of the bedrooms have built in wardrobes and a matched pair of double doors were required for each. The design for the wardrobe doors is an extension of the solid wood doors with additional branches added to increase the width. The doors are single sided with the panels applied to a douglas fir frame. The meeting edges of the doors follow the curved profiles of the branches.

Click the images below to launch the door gallery.

Glazed Screens & Glazed Wood Doors
Two glazed screens were commissioned to section of the portions of the house without losing the open, light and airy feel. The lobby screen follows a curved profile and acts as an indoor porch - keeping warm air inside the house when the front door is open. The screen was made up of eight glazed sections decorated with panels covered in a flowing branch design. Two laminated curved rails, with a series of wooden stiles fixed between, were installed on the floor and ceiling then the sixteen branch panels were fixed within the stiles and covered with matching trim. A glazed wood door was installed as the ninth section of the screen with the branch pattern continuing across it.

A smaller two section glazed screen was also installed between the lobby and the kitchen. This screen also had a curved profile - although much shallower - and also had the added complication of terminating against a natural stone wall. In both screens, the branches were installed leaving a 10mm shadow gap between the wood and the glass - this increases the depth of field and provides interesting interplay of light and shade throughout the day.

To keep the light and airy feel of the house, glazed panel doors were designed for the public rooms. Traditional wooden frame doors were constructed with strong mortice and tenon joinery. These housed large toughened glass panels which were then overlaid with wood branches. As part of the two glazed screens, these doors give a real feeling of looking through a woodland. Three doors were made in oak and beech for the lobby, lounge and kitchen with a fourth door, in birch and ash, for the master bedroom.

Additional branch panels were also installed in the bathrooms as decoration to the outside faces of the shower screens.

Plummers Wood was a very exciting and challenging project to work on. Seeing the house evolve from plans, ground works and initial construction right through to the finished home was fascinating. Working to our usual high cabinet making standards proved challenging on a project of this scale - especially during onsite work. However our skill and knowledge of materials paid off as the doors and screens look as new nearly eight years later.

Glazed screen in oak and spalted beech allows light to flood into the lobby and kitchen.

Glazed screen in oak and spalted beech allows light to flood into the lobby and kitchen.

Click the images below to launch the screens gallery.