OBSERVED from a distance, the rustic red corrugated metal-clad gables and steeply pitched roofs of Ceangal House could easily be mistaken for agricultural farm buildings – a response that would delight architect Iain Monteith of Glasgow-based firm Loader Monteith. Its vision for a young family’s new build home was inspired by the site’s disused steading buildings and the family’s long-standing ancestral ties with the land that forms the heart of a working farm in South Lanarkshire.
Responding to a brief by clients James and Lorna Hamilton to design a new ‘outstanding home of architectural interest’ to replace the original 1800s steading buildings that had long since fallen into a state of disrepair, the architects conceived a five-bedroomed courtyard home which echoes the language of the original steading, organised in an L-shape to provide shelter from the unforgiving Scottish landscape.
The house is titled in relation to the Scot’s Gaelic origins of the farm, the earliest operations of which have been dated by the family to the 1600s. ‘Ceangal’ is derived from Scot’s Gaelic meaning ‘to bond’, a word not only reflected in the fabric of the house, but also in its purpose; to strengthen the bond between the family and their past, present, and future connection to the land.
Volume is central to the design principles in play at Ceangal House. The house is characterised by three pitched red gables, increasing in volume from east to west, which offer both visual interest and generous interiors. These accommodate a hall, kitchen, dining, living room and reading room, with a guest bedroom housed on the first floor of the largest gable.
The north-south wing contains bedrooms for the Hamiltons’ three children, leading to the master bedroom at the northernmost part of the house. The main living space interiors are arranged in a semi-broken plan, allowing light to fill the pitched volumes of the gables and spill into adjacent spaces, while a new timber-clad office and guest studio lie at the western boundary, connected to the main house by a red aluminium and timber pergola.
Ceangal is also a celebration of the family’s ancestral links to the land, a connection Loader Monteith brings to the fore through constant, continuing views to the surrounding farmland. There are no visual ‘dead ends’, therefore the family can enjoy long views across and down the length of the house from any point within. A large, glazed corner reading room provides a serene space to rest and observe the landscape, while each ground level bedroom connects directly into the private courtyard by way of sliding or French doors. Vast expanses of triple glazing allow the house to experience the changing seasons of the location along the southern elevation. There’s a refreshing honesty and simplicity to this beautiful country home, which owes everything to the design response to the landscape and choice of materials.
Architect Iain Monteith says: “We were given a clear brief but creative licence by James and Lorna. We envisioned Ceangal House as a place that protects and holds you within the wild Scottish weather, balancing open, light spaces with warm, cosy nooks. This is achieved by the semi-broken plan visually connected by the pitched roof form; the family can be in the main wing together yet have their own space to enjoy the views beyond.”
In line with Loader Monteith’s rigorous approach to sustainability, 90 per cent of the original masonry from the old steading was reclaimed and used throughout the home. The Hamiltons played a hands-on role by hand-cleaning more than 4000 locally cast bricks, which were used to create visually striking herringbone flooring throughout, literally grounding the new house in its place.
Loader Monteith overcame the technical challenge of incorporating underfloor heating beneath the layer of thick brick by digging deep foundations of 90 centimetres.
This solution allows the expansive brick floor to act as a thermal store for heat throughout the day and gently radiate warmth overnight. The floor also adds a textural dimension to the interior.
To keep running costs low, the house is highly insulated and includes triple glazing throughout, heating by way of an air source heat pump, super-insulated metal cladding, and a rainwater harvesting system. Externally, red sinusoidal aluminium cladding and roofing – a sustainable and economical solution – references the agricultural heritage of the site and surrounding region, while reinforcing the presence of the house in the wider landscape.
Reclaimed sandstone cladding also features externally, further anchoring Ceangal House in its setting.
Work was scheduled to start on site in March 2020, which coincided with the onset of the Covid pandemic and the first lockdown. As a result, not much happened at all for a while and, even when it did, obtaining materials became increasingly problematic, particularly timber, windows, and appliances. Contractor Lawrie Construction had hoped to complete the build within a year, but it took an additional six months.
On the upside, it allowed plenty of free time for James to meet his daily deadline of cleaning 100 reclaimed bricks a day.
The final word on this truly inspired home must belong to its owners. “Growing up in the Scottish Highlands, I had a lifelong ambition to build a home of architectural merit that allowed me to enjoy the outside all year round,” says James Hamilton. “Ceangal House is just this: a beautifully designed, interesting home which we hope will contribute to our children’s appreciation for design, local craftsmanship and materials, and family history. The farm has been in my wife’s family for generations, so we hold a close connection to the land and the materials used in construction, many of which were salvaged and reused from the old stone and brick farm buildings.”
He adds: “My favourite place is the sitting room. The large windows throw wonderful light around the pitched ceiling and it’s a very beautiful place to relax.”