Project Director: Stefan Camenzind
Project Lead: Paul King
Core Team: Paul King, Claudia Berkefeld, Basil Helfenstein, Nicole Gögel, Anna Riekstina
Photography: Chris Humphreys
Location: Forest-in-Teesdale, County Durham, UK
Built: 1880 // Renovated: 2015
Size: 141 sqm
Accommodation: 3 double bedrooms and 1 single bedroom // 2 en-suites and 1 family bathroom
Evolution Design is an award-winning architecture and design studio. We create inspiring environments that are human-centered, data-driven, and reflect the local culture. We design for analysts, receptionists, engineers, brand managers, CEOs, call center workers, and DJs, not for corporations.
Evolution Design was founded in 2004 from the passion and drive of Stefan Camenzind to create a new level of client-focused design solutions. Today, the studio has offices in Zurich and London and employs a team of 20 architects and designers. Since 2014, Evolution Design is a partnership between executive director Stefan Camenzind, creative director Tanya Ruegg, and technical director Marco Noch.
Together, they create projects that are a synergy of comprehensive research & analysis, cutting-edge creativity, and highly skilled engineering knowledge with an extra focus on human emotional needs and well-being.
An exquisite conversion of a former Ebenezer Methodist Chapel with beautiful interior and magnificent sweeping views. Set in the very best walking area of the beautiful North Pennines, just a short walk from the famous High Force Waterfall, this stunning chapel conversion with its historic building fabric and modern interior design is a real Teesdale jewel.
The original windows of the nineteenth-century building have been reopened, framing dramatic views of the dales to create a spacious and luxurious self-catering holiday home for seven guests. It has a large and fully equipped kitchen, a cozy living room, four comfortable bedrooms, two en-suites, and a luxurious family bathroom.
The reconstruction, designed by Swiss award-winning architects Evolution Design, was finished in May 2015. The Ebenezer Methodist Chapel was built in 1880 and used to serve as a significant community center until the 1970s. The property was a windowless shell when architect Stefan Camenzind stumbled across this historic building one spring morning exploring Teesdale.
«I was captivated by the panoramic views and the wild beauty of the place, and I fell in love with it immediately. I decided there and then that I would love to buy this old chapel and turn it into a beautiful holiday accommodation,» says Camenzind. Soon after, the property, formerly in the ownership of Lord Barnard, was sold to Camenzind by The Raby Estates.
As the existing building was in a poor state of disrepair and had been vacant for so many years, the aim of the project was to bring this unique property back to life and to enable visitors to appreciate the history and local architecture while providing a beautiful environment to explore the surrounding countryside and its vast range of activities.
At the time of acquisition, the property had sustained considerable water ingress due to its state of dereliction and not being maintained. Due to its exposed location, strong winds, and driving rain, most of the interior finishes had been damaged badly, the main roof had deteriorated badly and the roof rafters required replacement.
Before any scheme or design had been drafted, the first tasks were instructing preliminary repairs for the damaged roof and boarding the windows and doors to prevent any further water damage. Once this had been completed the project team evaluated the available space to establish the type and quantity of facilities that would suit best the size and location of the Chapel.
Being located in a remote location without any communications, installing services and sewage treatment was one of the very first tasks to bring this old Chapel back to life and to allow for the conversion of this historic building into a holiday accommodation. The initial brief was to provide three guest bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen/dining area, and a living room on the ground floor.
However, it was soon clear it would reduce the space, therefore a mezzanine floor was proposed. «One of the main elements of the Chapel is the Gothic style arched windows that elegantly frame the beautiful views and allow the space to fill with light. Before the mezzanine floor could be considered we had to ensure that the new ceiling line would not obstruct any of the windows,» explains Camenzind.
The new mezzanine floor allowed for the planning of three bedrooms upstairs and the kitchen/dining area, the living room, a bathroom, and the fourth bedroom on the ground floor. «Our approach was to provide solutions that answered the brief but did not alter the historic details or essence of the Chapel.
The main hall was the core element that gives the Chapel its feel of space and with its detailed simplicity it became the heart of the proposed design,» says project lead and designer Paul King. Once the new level had been installed, all new bespoke timber frame windows and shutters were installed to complement the unique style and details of the Chapel.
During the reconstruction, it was detected that the building contained numerous crevices that might be suitable for roosting bats. Following a detailed ecology survey, it was confirmed that Pipistrelle bats were using the roof space as a permanent home. To reduce the environmental impact of the renovation works it was agreed that four bat access slates would be installed on the roof to allow the bats to continue using the Chapel as their home.
Modern, stylish, and yet in the context of the location and its history – these were the main criteria for designing the interior of the new holiday cottage. «We wanted to create a space that was modern and yet had a traditional language that would complement the historic nature of the Chapel and appeal to a wide range of guests. This was reflected in our choice of furniture and finishes,» explains King.
«All materials and design had been considered in the context of the character and appearance of the existing building and the Teesdale vernacular. Traditional materials were proposed to ensure the scheme respects the character of the landscape and the existing buildings.» As the heart of any home, the kitchen and dining space was intended to be open and bright, taking advantage of the Gothic windows and the beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.
The aim was to keep a traditional feel by retaining the roof trusses with a natural finish. The kitchen units were styled to keep a homely rural feel, which is framed by the feature wall tiles. By using traditional tiles to cover the full height of the back wall complemented the generous ceiling height and feeling of space.
Being located in the very heart of Upper Teesdale, the Chapel is a perfect location for unforgettable holidays spent walking, cycling, climbing, fishing or just relaxing with a book and a glass of wine in front of the log burner. Set high on the rolling hills, the Chapel offers peace and quiet, yet Middleton-in-Teesdale with shops, restaurants, and pubs is just a few minutes’ drives away.
«People built chapels on hills for a reason; they wanted to be alone with nature, but not controlled by it. And that idea underlies everything we have tried to do here,» says Camenzind. «We have sought to create a place of warmth and contemplation, a place where you can be immersed in the landscape or enjoy it in comfort framed by the Chapel’s Gothic style windows. I hope guests love this place as much as I do.