Stephanie Macdonald

My Object of Desire: a five-metre hand-carved tapered oak column at 6a Architects’ Coastal House


Stephanie Macdonald

Johan Devlin

Coastal House is a 120-year-old home overlooking the Devon coastline which 6a Architects was asked to update. It was stripped back to uncover thick stone walls and timber joist floors and its raised ground floor was dropped to connect back to the surrounding landscape.

One of its four substantial stone chimney stacks was removed to create a double-height living room and a new two-part 400mm-deep oak beam, spliced together with a traditional stop-splayed, wedged scarf joint and propped by a five-metre-tall tapered oak column, was introduced to support the floor above.

It echoes the form of a ship’s mast, and is based on mast-making technology”

New tapered oak verticals act as supports at multiple scales throughout the house, from this primary column, to external veranda posts and the alternately splayed stair spindles. While the smaller spindles were turned on a CNC lathe, the solid oak primary column was too large to turn, so was hand-carved. It echoes the form of a ship’s mast, and is based on mast-making technology. The convex curvature naturally increases the strength of the column towards the middle, where the resistance to buckling is most required.

The column was fabricated using air-dried, sustainably sourced French oak, with a moisture content of 20-30 per cent, by Carpenter Oak (Adam Milton, Paul Slemmings and lead carpenter Ben Richardson). The square column was initially facetted with a circular saw, and then shaped with a hand-held electric planer. The project won the Arnold Laver Gold Award in the 2017 Wood Awards.


6a Architects
Price & Myers
Main contractor
JE Stacey

Timber supplier
Traditional Oak & Timber Company
Carpenter Oak