Accidental architecture was the inspiration behind the Shed House, a compact two-bedroom home on the Isle of Skye. ‘For every wee white cottage here there are two or three barns or quirky buildings,’ says architect Alan Dickson of Rural Design. ‘And there was already an old shed on the site. So we kept the ghost of it by using agricultural materials like corrugated sheeting, concrete and raw timber.’
After years spent working in large Glasgow practices, Alan and wife Gill Smith, also an architect, decided on a whim to move to Skye. The plan was to slow down, designing maybe one house a year to stay afloat. But their work is proving popular with the locals.
Continuing the tradition of the rough-and-ready structures that inspired it, the Shed House is conspicuously lacking in frills – but its simplicity is deceptive. ‘It’s a very bare landscape up here, so decoration isn’t appropriate,’ says Alan. ‘But we pay attention to crispness of detail. For example, where the floor meets the walls there is no skirting board – just the join. We like the work of American artist Donald Judd, who made plywood furniture that was joined very directly.'
The humble materials haven’t compromised the building’s environmental credentials, either. It’s kept warm through sheep’s wool insulation – ‘like wrapping it in a fleecy blanket’ – and a wood-burning stove, plus the concrete floor holds onto heat. And the house is positioned to make the most of Skye’s dramatic light – the breakfast table has a window that looks onto the sunrise, the living room is south-facing, while incidental windows bring in shafts of light throughout the day.
Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, who designs common-sense, low-tech buildings in a similarly harsh setting, is another influence. ‘Minimal design is often associated with a particular clean, white antiseptic style,’ says Alan. ‘But we think of it as doing more with less.’