Category Archives: Schools

I’m converted: your unique hideaway

10 Feb 15
Michelle Gaffaney
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Have you ever dreamed of having your own private bolthole? Maybe you want a private haven at the end of the garden, or think you could break up your workplace with an enclosed meeting room. We’ll help you create a unique hideaway with charm and style.

1. Choose your structure

The first step is to choose the structure for your new bolthole. The sky’s the limit with this – it could be an old bus, a railway carriage, a freight container or an old boat; or maybe you want to build something new from reclaimed materials. It could be a treehouse, perched up in a sturdy tree with beautiful views, or an old caravan given a new lease of life.

2. Get the basics right

Here’s where our design expertise is at its most practical – you’ll want your bolthole to be warm, damp-free and easy to look after. We’ll make sure the basics are right by installing the right insulation and materials to keep your hideaway just the way you like it.

3. Decide on a style

Your unique hideaway will work best if you make a personal imprint on it. Maybe you have a collection of old cameras that could be put on display, or some beautiful rugs and paintings left to you by a family member? Juxtaposing vintage style with modern comfort is what it’s all about, so we’ll twin antiques with sofas and beds in cosy, flouncy patterns.

4. Select magical lighting

For enchanted summer evenings and cosy winter mornings, lighting is crucial to making your bolthole a success. Candles, lanterns and fairy lights will help you get into a chilled, reflective mood. We can help you find the perfect lights to give your converted space a magical atmosphere.

For more great ideas, take a look at Distractify’s gallery of cool conversions, including some amazing converted grain silos!

We’d love to help you make your conversion a success. Get in touch on 01706 813777 to tell us about your unique hideaway plans.

External cladding: Larch and lime

10 Oct 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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Now the straw walls of our eco-classroom at Castle Hill School have had their first coat of lime render, it’s time for the cladding.

We’re using Scottish-grown larch boards – a durable hardwood which will naturally mature over time to an attractive silvery grey.

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A ‘truth window’, created so that users of and visitors to the building can see the material behind the cladding.

Other parts of the building have been simply rendered using traditional lime, a material often used on straw buildings. Lime is a carbon neutral building material, created by burning limestone. When lime is applied to any surface, the carbon dioxide released during the burning process is re-absorbed as the render dries.

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Cosy cob reading nooks

09 Oct 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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One lovely feature of our straw bale eco classroom is the creation of two cosy reading nooks.

They’re made from cob, a mixture of clay, straw and aggregate (more on cob here) and are specially designed so that children can curl up inside with a good book.

They’re not yet finished, but these photos show the raw state – a simple wooden platform and cob casing.

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Arthur, our plasterer, tries it out for size.

Adding a green roof to the straw bale classroom

28 Aug 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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The walls are up, and it’s time to add the green roof to our straw bale classroom at Castle Hill School.

First the beams go on

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Then we need to edge the roof

It will be a green roof – a living ‘lawn’ of sedum on top of the classroom, so a strong ‘fence’ around the edges is needed to prevent the ground from shifting when it rains. There is also a pathway of gravel around the lawn to provide structure and drainage:

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Adding the sedum

For a project of this scale, it’s easier to buy sedum and soil in rolls, like this:

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They can be easily unrolled onto the surface of the roof:

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Dan thought he was at the park and tried to take a nap...

Once complete, the roof looks like a field – it’s hard to tell it apart from the landscape behind!

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School toilets

19 Aug 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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Do you remember your school toilets? Not a good memory, right? If they were anything like mine, they were smelly, dingy and felt a bit like there might be a bully about to grab you at any minute. It doesn’t have to be like that – with thoughtful design, school toilets can be positive, clean and fresh.

A serious issue

Around 25% of schoolchildren avoid using the toilet at school, with many reporting that they drink less during the day so they won’t need to go. As the wonderful charity ERIC’s The Right to Go campaign makes clear, this is a serious issue, with impacts on educational outcomes and even the risk of long-term health impacts such as incontinence and infections.

So, how do you make school toilets better? If you’re redesigning your facilities it is really worth thinking of more than a lick of paint and some new fittings. Here are some of the things to think about:

1. Bully-free bathrooms

Lots of pupils worry about being cornered in toilets. Having more than one door means students can flow through without feeling trapped. Too many toilet blocks are dark and dingy, hidden in a corner of the school; bright, light toilets in a central place feel safer. If you can, you might even consider having single cubicles dotted around the school instead of a single block. Get some really robust locks to make sure students feel their privacy is respected.

2. Good scents

School loos get heavily used, so they can get a bit whiffy! Investing in a really good system of ventilation will ensure those pongs are kept at a minimum. There is also no substitute for maintenance: it’s worth investing in easy-clean fittings at the outset. Think about having flooring that slopes up to meet the wall, hands-free soap and taps, and lighting that sits flush with walls or ceilings to avoid cobwebs and dirt building up.

3. Make it cool

If you’ve got a problem with vandalism in your toilets, it might help to rethink the design. When children like something and think it is special, they are much more likely to treat it well. Think about having an accent wall decorated with street art, bright glittery surfaces or a theme chosen by students. It doesn’t cost much more and it could make a real saving in the long run. You could even think about having piped music – pupils won’t be worried about embarrassing noises and they will feel more relaxed and respectful.

4. Heavenly hygiene

We know keeping school toilets clean can be a really thankless task. Try hands-free equipment to reduce germ transference and keep your fittings much cleaner. A modern, trough-style sink could be much more attractive to students than old-style basins. Push-button toilet flushes are also a great way to keep bacteria at bay.

If you think your school’s toilets could use a bit more pizzazz, just get in touch to see how we can help!

VIDEO: The classroom so far

11 Aug 14
Michelle Gaffaney
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Take a look at our straw bale classroom in progress!

Our wonderful work experience student Autumn has put together this fab video showing the build so far at Castle Hill School. It shows the foundations being dug and built, the straw bale walls going up, and finally the timber roof going on:

Of course, there’s still plenty to do. Watch this space for further updates as we continue work on the new eco-classroom at Castle Hill School.