Moxon Architects converts Highland farmstead into guesthouse and studio



Source:London Architectural Photography

Client’s view

Moxon has created a new guesthouse, glasshouse and artist’s studio for an artist and architect client on a hillside farm in the Cairngorms National Park, with views out over the River Dee and Lochnagar.

Start on site 2013
Completion date 2023
Gross internal floor area 419m2 (farmhouse: 125m2; guesthouse / Steading 108m2; glasshouse 100m2; studio 52m2; workshop 12m2; blackhouse 22m2
Form of contract or procurement route Construction Management
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Moxon Architects
Client Private
Structural engineer Graeme Craig Consulting Engineer
Project manager Moxon Architects
Principal designer Moxon Architects
CAD software used Revit, 3DSMax



The glasshouse is the product of collaboration between the artist/architect owners, the joiners Jacek and Waldi Zapała and the steelwork fabricator Craig Monteith. Iteratively designed bespoke lighting is clamped to the glasshouse’s steel beams. Water for irrigation of plants is collected from the roof and stored in an internal tank, which overflows to an external water butt carved from a windblown larch tree. Internal condensation is collected by a copper gutter and distributed into a bay tree planter. Ventilation is adjusted by large opening hatches along the top back edge of the building while supplemental heating can be provided by a wood-burning workshop stove.

Beyond a principal entrance and kitchen space, a living room and study occupy one double-height wing of the solid ‘L’ plan granite and slate building, while a ground-level bathroom suite and upper-level loft bedroom complete the adjacent wing.

The completion of these three buildings marks the culmination of a 10-year project that celebrates the art of building and craftsmanship. It is testament to the robustness and resilience of the historic buildings that this is a project characterised by retention and repair. Where there are new interventions, they are modest yet highly crafted, and seek to emulate the craft, form, and rigour of the 170-year-old architectural fabric, that for a large part retains its integrity on the site. By spending time on site in all seasons, we developed the design and details to ensure that these once-derelict buildings will survive for the next 200 years to come.
Ben Addy, founding director, Moxon Architects

For the guesthouse steading, we carefully rebuilt and restored the partially collapsed walls and roof of the original 19th-century cattle shed, inserting frameless glass within the original apertures to preserve the building’s vernacular detail and form. Using the pre-existing volumes as a template for the new living spaces, the interior has been fully insulated and lined with clay plaster to give a seamless, spacious feel, while oak joinery conceals modern appliances and fittings preserve a minimalist rural aesthetic. The bathroom features ceramic-clad walls and dark black-grey Caithness slabs. A new roof emulates the original construction techniques, introducing a newly rationalised pyramidal geometry at the hip, while the hayloft entrance and ventilation slits for the former cattle byre define the guesthouse entrance.

At the northern end of the glasshouse, meanwhile, a two-storey farmstead has been repurposed as a private studio for artist and designer Naomi Mcintosh. Formerly used to winter sheep, the granite steading has been sensitively converted, to provide a compact workshop, kitchen, wet room, and storage, using robust materials to retain its agricultural character.

The largest building on the site, the Guesthouse Steading has been repurposed from a 19th-century cattle shed, to provide additional study and living space to the client’s main residence, while providing self-contained guesthouse accommodation for visiting friends and family.

Source:Ben Addy

I believe that we are temporary caretakers for our home and have a responsibility to honour the hard work and craft that has gone before us. Every day I think about the craftsmanship that the original builders used; the consideration of the site, the beautiful and simple forms of the granite and the measured symmetry. I felt very strongly that I did not want to extend our small farmhouse. I wanted to retain all the original proportions and simplicity of the buildings but also wanted friends and family to be able to come and stay. The steading therefore is our house extension without extending our house. It has one bedroom and a space to be together.
Naomi Mcintosh

A former farm store and sheepfold at the rear of the site has been reinvented as a glasshouse, partially embedded into the bedrock of the hillside by a pre-existing retaining wall.

Source:Moxon Architects

Project data


Following a decade-long undertaking, the newly converted buildings have been restored and repurposed in keeping with the earlier restoration of the owners’ main farmhouse residence, with their fabric upgraded to meet modern standards of energy efficiency.

Source:London Architectural Photography


Source:London Architectural Photography

Source:London Architectural Photography

Architect’s view

The studio incorporates a steel block insertion, finished in a protective phosphate coating and beeswax, giving the space a sense of durability and depth. The former square entrance to the steading has been glazed with a single sheet of glass, and the bespoke floor, ceiling and stair tread are made from a wide-boarded maritime pine, offering seamless contemporary lines. The addition of the wood-burning stove serves as both a nod to the tradition of its rural surroundings as well as providing the primary source of heat during extreme Highland winters.


In the case of the glasshouse, the original granite structure now serves as the backdrop to vines and lemon trees, and as a thermal store, soaking up heat from the new south-west-facing glass wall and roof that complete the enclosure. Steel portals support the roof, with large section Douglas fir fins defining a sheltered external space at one end and a secluded exercise room at the other.