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‘Contemporary, calm and monastic’ | East-London timber home wins national award

Written by:
Timber Development UK (organisers of the Wood Awards)
Rory Gardiner

Spruce House & Studio, designed by ao-ft, is the UK’s best new timber home, having won the top prize for the Private category at this year’s Wood Awards.

This newly built East London home and self-contained garden studio celebrates the beauty and sustainable nature of cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is used for both structure and interior finishing, to breathe new life into an otherwise constrained urban environment.

Within this infill site in Walthamstow, generous open spaces have been able to rise through a narrow Victorian footprint, through careful, considered designs. The primary structure uses custom-milled, prefabricated CLT panels, lifted into place, while built-in timber joinery creates seamless uncluttered interiors.

With a lowered ground floor and clear views into the surrounding area, the designers create a strong connection to the garden where a studio is constructed using the same principles as the house.

Referencing the area’s historic origins as a village high street, a front façade of full-width glazing, broken down by full height glulam mullions, creates a contemporary interpretation of nearby Victorian shop fronts. Daylight enters through privacy screens made from Siberian larch, which add beauty and contrast to the façade.

Through a functional and efficient design, the architects sought to minimise carbon emissions at every stage of construction, from fabrication through to finishing. Off-site manufacturing was used to reduce waste, while the shell of the house and kit of parts staircase were designed for ease of disassembly.

Spruce House & Studio was designed with the support of structural engineers Entuitive and installed by PSS London, with timber supplied by ConstruktCLT and cladding from Russwood.

Jim Greaves of Hopkins Architects, the lead building judge, said:

“This simple but rigorous plan has been resolved with incredible precision. Carefully integrated joinery, considered detailing and the gentle filtering of natural light create an overall calm, monastic feel to the space.”

The Wood Awards building judges, a team of world-leading professionals led by Jim Greaves of Hopkins Architects, visited all 20 buildings shortlisted in the Wood Awards before deciding the winners, in one of the UK’s most rigorous assessments for any competition.

This year’s best new timber building announced as New Temple Complex, designed by James Gorst Architects. The likes of The Black & White Building, Dragon Flat, Westminster Hall Roof & Lantern, The Boathouse, Benenden School, Centenary Hall & Music School and Field Station also all won their categories, showcasing the diverse use of timber, from large commercial offices through to intimate private homes.

You can find out more information about the 2023 winners by visiting www.woodawards.com.

Spruce House & Studio, designed by ao-ft, image © Rory Gardiner

About the Wood Awards

The Wood Awards is the UK’s premier competition for excellence in architecture and product design in wood. Established in 1971, the Wood Awards recognises, encourages, and promotes outstanding wood design, craftsmanship and installation.

Through the Wood Awards, we aim to continually encourage British designers and manufacturers to aim ever higher in the design world and showcase some of their incredible achievements to a national and international audience.


American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC)

An international creative collaborator and invaluable material resource, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is the global face of U.S. hardwoods, championing their performance, sustainability and aesthetic potential to timber markets all over the world.

Carpenters’ Company

The Carpenters’ Company is a City of London Livery Company. The Company was originally established as a medieval trade guild to safe guard the welfare and interests of carpenters in the City of London. Today, charitable activities and support for the craft of woodworking through scholarships, competitions and the Building Crafts College are the two cornerstones of its work.

Timber Development UK (organisers of the Wood Awards)

Timber Development UK has been formed from the merger of two of the largest and longest established organisations in the supply chain, the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA).

Bringing these two associations together as one will create the largest, most comprehensive supply chain body in the UK, spanning from sawmill to specifier and all points in between. We want to use this new organisation to capitalise on the growing interest in designing with timber and to act as an agent of change towards more sustainable, low carbon forms of construction.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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