The Moonshine retrofit project by Piers Taylor adapts to the changing times

The Invisible Studio founder's new retrofit design turns a dated building into a sustainable success to adapt around its harsh climate, lush green landscape, and Taylor’s family.

by STIRworld Published on : Nov 02, 2020

What started as a schoolhouse in 1786 near Bath, UK, is now home to architect Piers Taylor’s vision for the future. The building, which has been called ‘Moonshine’ ever since it was made, has been the resident home for the Invisible Studio founder and his family since 2002, and in the surrounding 100-acre woodlands stands Taylor’s studio as well.

A closer look at Moonshine, Piers Taylor’s off-grid home | Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
A closer look at Moonshine, Piers Taylor’s off-grid home Image: Courtesy of Piers Taylor

Having won the AJ Small Project Award soon after its completion, Moonshine has been reworked to future-proof it and make it as low-energy consuming as possible. The house now lends itself to Taylor’s growth as an architect and is testimony to him moving from his initial design approach in 2002. 

07 mins watch Piers Taylor and his family talk about their home| Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
Piers Taylor and his family talk about their home Video: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson

Given how close this project was to Taylor, he personally built the extension of the 18th century building, carrying everything across the 600-meters woodland because the house didn’t have vehicular access yet. His design set out to achieve great levels of insulation, airtightness, and autonomy. And while the design boasts of ingenuity, Taylor’s wishes for the house to still have a homely appeal to it for his family to live in.

Moonshine has been home to Taylor’s family since 2002| Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
Moonshine has been home to Taylor’s family since 2002 Image: Courtesy of Piers Taylor

In terms of the structure, the house still retains the timber frame it was built with, replacing the floors, walls, the roof, and the glazing. Given the extremely cold winters of the place, the house was thermally modelled and glazing on the windows was reduced to allow more sunlight into the house.

  • The house surrounded by the woodlands | Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
    The house surrounded by the woodlands Image: Courtesy of Piers Taylor
  • Insulated exteriors of Moonshine | Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
    Insulated exteriors of Moonshine Image: Courtesy of Piers Taylor

In order to make the house energy-efficient, environment friendly techniques of heating have been implemented in the house. A biomass boiler which is fed with the waste timber from the adjoining woodland area is responsible for providing heat and hot water to the house, when needed. The floors are heated with electric in-floor heating linked to off-grid photovoltaics on the roof, along with a battery back-up.

  • The extension’s original timber frame | Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
    The extension’s original timber frame Image: Courtesy of Piers Taylor
  • Bright interiors of the home | Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
    Bright interiors of the home Image: Courtesy of Piers Taylor

The process of reworking the house has furthered Taylor’s appreciation for the overall landscape. He says, “Renewing the house, if for me, is less of a process of falling back in love with the physical building as it is about falling back in love with this wider landscape, these trees, this place, this weather, this view, this context which for me, this building is a part of and is sort of inseparable from”.

Sunlight streaming into the first floor | Moonshine Retrofit | Invisible Studio | STIRworld
Sunlight streaming into the first floor Image: Courtesy of Piers Taylor

Moonshine stands as a reflection of Piers Taylor’s holistic and sustainable design approach.

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