Artist Bothy / Suffolk

Functioning much like the traditional mountain bothies found throughout Scotland, this Artist Bothy in rural Suffolk provides a simple shelter for its owner to use while working outside. Situated in a small managed woodland, the Bothy features Corten steel cladding chosen to blend in with the surrounding trees. Importantly, the use of ground-screw foundations minimises the building’s impact on its natural setting.

The owner of this bothy chose not to be named. This is his bothy story:

A few years ago we acquired a woodland about 20 minutes’ drive from where we live. It had been quite badly kept for a long time so we’ve been slowly tidying it up, removing all sorts of waste and various human interventions to try to encourage natural regeneration of local tree species and the undergrowth.

Renovate or rebuild?

When we bought the woodland there were already a few structures that had been used for storage or for overnight stays by the previous owner. These were in bad shape and our initial thought was to renovate one to provide both reliable storage space and shelter from the worst of the weather. However, as soon as we came across Bothy Stores we changed our plans and decided to replace one of the derelict buildings with a new structure.

Renovating existing buildings can be very expensive and it is risky because you never know what you might find during that process. Of course, if the building you’re renovating is worth saving that’s one thing, but in this case it was a poorly constructed shack. We could have replaced it with a cheaper, simpler structure but we were prepared to spend a bit more to have something beautiful with a superior level of design and finish.

A humble and hard-wearing solution

The woodland was historically a managed wood and so all of the existing buildings are quite functional and robust in their appearance and construction. We wanted to stay true to the character of the site and avoid introducing anything overly complicated or showy. Instead we felt it should appear functional, rugged and built to last.

When we’re in the woods we’re used to spending all of our time outdoors, regardless of the weather, so it seemed honest to build something that feels industrial and hard wearing. Having said all of that, my wife and I are architecture lovers and it was important to have something that is thoughtfully designed and takes its cues from various historical precedents. The Bothy is a beautifully designed architectural object that isn’t over the top or ostentatious in any way. Instead it feels like an honest fit for this rugged, outdoor working environment.

Minimising environmental impact

One of the most important considerations for us was to avoid any unnecessary disruption to the forest floor, so it was a real benefit that Bothy Stores uses screw foundations when installing the buildings. Having knocked down the derelict shed and removed its foundations, we didn’t want to dig a new hole and pour massive concrete foundations that would damage existing tree roots. The screw foundations are minimally invasive and can be removed in the future if the Bothy ever needs to be relocated. Even while it’s there, these foundations are not going to impact the tree roots.

Built to blend in

Because of the Bothy’s location and the limited site access, we opted for a flat pack rather than a prefabricated structure. It sits within the envelope of the previous building and is oriented diagonally in relation to the rectangular plot to make the most of specific views. We positioned the windows very carefully to exploit the different outlooks, adding a really large opening in one elevation that frames a view through the nearby chestnut trees. Some of the windows have views where the trees give a real sense of enclosure and intimacy, while others look out towards the open countryside. 

We chose the rusted Corten cladding because it ties in really nicely with the colours of the trees and ensures the Bothy sits quietly within the site. Internally, we kept things really simple, opting for the standard finishes of birch plywood and engineered oak flooring. We added some vintage furniture and specified the Charnwood Aire 3 stove, which we’re looking forward to using once it gets a bit colder. Currently, the Bothy is entirely off-grid but we had plumbing and cabling added during construction to future proof it in case we want to connect it to these services later on.

An investment for the future

If you’re looking to install this sort of simple, multifunctional building I guess there’s a choice where you can purchase the easiest, cheapest option or you can go for a slightly more expensive and complex product where you’re a bit more involved in the process. Having enjoyed our Bothy over the past year or so I can say that it is well worth the investment. We’re really happy with it and look forward to using it for many years to come.