Butterfly House assists supported living and lifts the spirits – ADC

Oliver Leech Architects’ skilful manipulation of light, space and materiality has resulted in a visually-striking Surrey home that supports assisted living.


Designed by Oliver Leech Architects, Butterfly House is a multi-generational dwelling located in Esher, Surrey. Commissioned by Nikki and Richard Earthrowl, the two-bedroom property occupies part of the couple’s garden and is intended for Nikki’s mother to live in independently with an on-site carer if need be.

The form of the single-storey structure is dictated by its constrained triangular plot and comprises four pitched volumes, fanned out to frame views and prevent overlooking. A large open-plan living space is accessed by a gentle ramp through a darkened vestibule. Above, a row of clerestory glazing pours daylight into the space, drawing the eye along and into the garden.


The kitchen features oak units and a thin, dark porcelain worktop, along with personal touches, such as the families’ fossils, which were collected by Nikki and her mother in their careers as geologists. Double-height spaces make the house feel spacious and airy, despite its compact size. The windows frame a small private garden with mature trees – without directing views onto the main house.

The inverted ‘butterfly’ roof structure is expressed internally with exposed larch beams. A restrained material palette of muted sandy tones provides a warm interior aesthetic in contrast to the burnt timber cladding used externally. Pale clay plaster walls and polished concrete floors complement the exquisite larch joinery.


While accessibility and functionality are central to the design, the house feels far from clinical. It is wheelchair accessible, and the use of low-level furniture means that everything can be reached from seated and moveable elements, such as the kitchen island. High levels of insulation combined with triple-glazing provide excellent thermal performance and comfort, as well as reduced reliance on heating.

Five years in the making, Butterfly House has been a careful exploration of form and material, but also a new expression of multigenerational living. By not falling into the tropes of accessible design and elderly accommodation, it proposes a new model for assisted living that empowers rather than restricts its future user; ensuring continuity of use for generations of families to come.




Nikki & Richard Earthrowl

Architect and interior designer

Oliver Leech Architects

Structural engineer

Corbett & Tasker

Main contractor

Trace Design & Build


Source: Architecture Today