A five-storey ‘box of tricks’ in Edinburgh complete with secret hatches, moving walls and a sliding ladder is the winner of the RIBA House of the Year 2016 prize.

Also the place that architect Richard Murphy calls home, the Murphy House saw off competition from 19 other projects to win the prestigious RIBA prize, which recognises the best new houses in the UK each year.

Nearly a decade’s work has gone into the Murphy House with the design based on the Richard Murphy Architects founder’s heroes, including Carlo Scarpa and John Soane, and featuring an assortment of adaptable spaces and nifty features.

Murphy describes the building as "a quarter Soane, a quarter Scarpa, a quarter eco-house, and a quarter Wallace and Gromit".

Forming a new end to a conservative terrace in the Scottish capital, the house boasts sandstone walls, louvre-fronted windows and a 45-degree roof covered in solar panels. The residents have the flexibility to control light and privacy using folding panels in the walls. Design features also include a bedroom with a concealed bath, a kitchen raised up so visitors can't see the mess, a subterranean library with the sliding ladder, and a courtyard and roof terrace.


The entries were judged by Mole Architects founder Meredith Bowles, Charlotte Skene Catling of Skene Catling de la Pena, Jonathan Dallas from Dallas Pierce Quintero, Wallpaper's Elle Stathaki and Philip Thorn of insurance company Hiscox.

Describing the Murphy House as a real box of tricks with a unique, playful character, Philip Thorn observed that the home was deceivingly large inside due to the clever use of space though it was located on a small property.

Murphy House was one of 20 projects that made the long list for the prize; this list was whittled down to a shortlist of seven over the four-week run of the House of the Year TV series – a spinoff of the popular show Grand Designs. The other contenders included a forest home for a pair of artists, a renovated mid-century house, a home and studio with a rooftop garden pyramid, a Japanese-inspired townhouse, a sunken mirror-clad residence, and a home made up of red metal huts.

According to RIBA President Jane Duncan, Murphy House was this year's best example of "how to overcome challenging constraints – from planning restrictions and an awkward site in an urban location – to build a stunning house".

Photography by Keith Hunter