garden view of hidden house with stone walls and external steps up to first floor

The Hidden House

A partially subterranean self-build house in Dorset countryside
Location Pimperne, Dorset
Status Built
Use Residential
Client Private

Nestled into the landscape is a unique and unusual house. This partially underground house is concealed from its village neighbours yet retains distant rural views.

wooded clad house with hidden ground floor and sedum green roof

Planning Process

Planning approval had previously been refused for a conventional new pitched roofed two storey house in the garden on a former council housing estate. This site was a legacy from a post war era, when council houses were provided with very generous gardens.

We negotiated with the planners, who would only agree to a house on this site if it did not impact on views of the surrounding countryside. It had to be built below the boundary hedge to be approved.

The only way that we could achieve this was by putting most of the house below ground level. We were able to design a new house with all the principal windows facing South and views across the valley by making use of the natural lie of the land/terrain, putting the bulk of the new house underground.

visual aerial of hidden house with parking and sedum roof
visual aerial of underground house with sedum roof
internal corridor in house with modern concrete walls and spotlights with staircase at end
open tread staircase in open plan living space with concrete walls

Raw minimalist materials

In the spirit of the ‘bunker’ style of the new house, the walls are constructed of fair faced reinforced concrete, cast on site. The smooth finish mirrors the texture of the timber shuttering.

The polished concrete floors reflect the light flooding down the open stairwell from the rooflights above.

The cool, hard texture of the reinforced concrete gives a distinctive contemporary feel to the interiors.

The high thermal mass of the materials used in the construction keeps the house cool in summer and warm through winter. South facing glazing provides thermal gain in winter.

The flintwork of the external walls is softened by the grass of the green roof. The wild landcaping contrasts beautifully with the hard lines of the house.

The resulting hidden self build house is discreet, private and surprisingly cosy.


ground floor plan of house and garage
lower ground floor plan of house
visual of underground house from ground floor
visual plan of house with sedum roof

Such a great design……Thanks for your help in designing a house which has to be built!

Chris, client

external garden and rear view of house with stone walls and external stairs in garden
wooden open-tread staircase with metal ballustrade and concrete walls

Completed 2023
Photography Jack Lodge Photography