The Complete Oak Home

Architectural design principles

Architectural design of oak framed houses

Over many years we have seen many well-intentioned architects designing oak frame houses without the necessary knowledge to ensure the end result is architecturally pleasing, meets the clients brief and is financially efficient. Here we explain some of the important design principles that need to be understood, and why it is important to use a specialist oak frame architect.

When considering the architectural design of oak timber framed houses, more than in any other building type, it is essential to think through not just the structural functionality of the oak frame, but also how it looks in the resulting space. The oak frame will not be covered up, so if anything incongruous is incorporated into the design, it will remain on display. The best architecturally designed oak frames display a comfortable marriage of form and functionality where the structure is celebrated and expressed. At one end of the spectrum, a poorly considered oak timber frame might work well structurally but have within it room layouts or window and door apertures that are juxtaposed with the rhythm of the frame, or worse still, oak posts that are located where a door should be or braces across the middle of a window. At the other end of the spectrum, a well-designed oak frame will simply complement the space it creates and therefore will make the architectural design sing.

Basic design rules

There is no way of getting round it: the architectural design of a successful oak frame house requires a different approach to a house where for example the masonry is the only structure. If you want an oak framed house rather than a house with some feature oak in it, the following basic rules are well worth keeping front of mind both before commencing, and during the design.

One: Understand oak as a building material

As with any building material oak has its limitations. To an inexperienced oak timber frame designer, this first rule is probably the most foreign and possibly surprising.

Two: Design only what is appropriate

One of the delights in an exposed oak timber frame is that it always looks good. The frame as we’ve said many times is one of, if not the major feature – and that feature speaks for itself.

Three: Use the frame as the main structure

Allied to the above two rules is the third. Because the oak frame is structural, to not treat it as such would be missing a trick. If the oak frame is designed to be structurally efficient, then the rest of the building system and the internal walls need not be designed to take the loads that the frame is already dealing with. In simple economic terms, this makes good sense.


Oak frame layout techniques

Bearing in mind the golden rules for the architectural design of oak timber framed houses, we go on to look at how a frame should be organised.

Using a Grid

The concept of setting out a building on a grid is well established, and in oak frame design it is of paramount importance.

Curved plan

Just because working to a grid is essential, this does not mean that a grid must be linear.

Using an oak framing manufacturer to design a house would be like getting a window manufacturer to design it, there is a good chance you’ll end up with more windows than you either want or need!

oak framed house Devon

Oak framed home on a curved floor plan


Contemporary oak framed house with curved roof form

Contemporary oak framed house with curved roof form


Cruciform oak frame house

Working to a grid need not restrict creativity



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The Complete Oak Home incorporates The Complete Architect, a RIBA Chartered Practice.