At­ten­tion to de­sign and de­tail

A stun­ning new home at Alde­burgh

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - WORDS & PHO­TOS: Tony Hall

Iam stand­ing in the en­trance hall of a stun­ning eco-house, over­look­ing the river and marshes of Alde­burgh, with owner David Vil­liers. With his wife, Hen­ri­etta (known as Henri), David de­signed and built this ex­tra­or­di­nary home.

I com­ment on the un­usual de­tail­ing to the walls, which are grooved, with oc­ca­sional LED lights in some of the re­cesses.

“If you look up,” says David, “you will see that the thin­ness of the ban­is­ter rails up­stairs fol­lows through to th­ese raised and low­ered spa­ces down here in the hall.” As a vis­ual per­son, I am most im­pressed. It clearly il­lus­trates the cou­ple’s great at­ten­tion to de­tail and de­sign. This new build is some­thing spe­cial and re­flects the cou­ple’s creative roots.

Brought up in Cardiff, David went to art col­lege there, be­fore go­ing to Not­ting­ham Univer­sity for four years. “I was al­ways in­ter­ested in fur­ni­ture de­sign,” he says. “I like 3D sculp­ture and fur­ni­ture al­lows a mix­ture of cre­ativ­ity, en­gi­neer­ing and the need to be use­ful.” While still at col­lege, he en­tered and won a com­pe­ti­tion which se­cured him his first job at lead­ing brand and re­tail con­sul­tancy Fitch De­sign group, be­fore he grad­u­ated.

David worked in the fur­ni­ture and prod­uct de­sign depart­ment for 16 years and met Henri when she also joined Fitch. She grew up in Wim­ble­don, where she says the school she at­tended tried to push her into academia. She went to col­lege to study maths, but found it ex­tremely hard and switched to the his­tory of art. “

“Odd jobs fol­lowed in Lon­don stu­dios, do­ing fash­ion graph­ics, be­fore end­ing up at Fitch as a trainee graphic de­signer, where I was in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment, work­ing on cor­po­rate iden­tity, brand­ing and pack­ag­ing. David and I got to­gether 25 years ago and nowa­days I am a free­lance graphic de­signer, in­flu­enced by this won­der­ful coastal lo­ca­tion.”

Orig­i­nally, David and Henri lived in a Re­gency town house

in Stoke New­ing­ton, Lon­don. They bought their week­end bolt­hole in Alde­burgh in 2004. They con­sid­ered Corn­wall and Whit­stable, but loved Suf­folk.

Their first pur­chase was a two-up, two-down fish­er­man’s cot­tage. “My mum knew Alde­burgh,” says Henri, “as my grand­mother had a friend liv­ing here and they would visit on hol­i­day dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. She re­mem­bers find­ing am­ber on the beach.”

“Down the road,” says David, “was a small 1930s bun­ga­low, which ap­peared never used, ex­cept for a cou­ple of weeks in the sum­mer. Even­tu­ally, by chance, it came up for sale and we bought it.

“I have al­ways wanted to de­sign and build our own place and this gave us a golden op­por­tu­nity, on a per­fect site over­look­ing the river, coun­try­side and sea.”

David has been in­spired by the lo­cal land­scape, tex­ture and ma­te­ri­als. The con­cept is a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the area’s iconic black fish­er­men’s huts, boats and the gen­tle curves of the river – a fus­ing both in­side and out. It also fol­lows the me­dieval con­cept of el­e­vated vol­umes. The first floor is big­ger to gain max­i­mum space and pro­vide great views. Out­side, the cor­ru­gated alu­minium fol­lows the in­dus­trial de­sign of boat yards and the ma­te­rial stays shiny, echo­ing the sea.

“I have kept it ver­ti­cal to re­flect the reeds. I also cre­ated three sail awnings over the top ter­race. Ev­ery­thing is sim­ple shapes and de­sign, a pu­rity, but with great at­ten­tion to de­tail, such as hid­den gut­ter­ing to cre­ate clean edges.”

The cou­ple bought the site in 2009 after sell­ing their Stoke New­ing­ton house. The de­sign and build took two years and they moved in in 2013.

“As keen cooks, we love the first floor,” says David, “a won­der­ful open space, where we can be to­gether with friends. We like to buy fish freshly caught on the beach, and we en­joy en­ter­tain­ing.

“This unique, un­in­ter­rupted view, lack of light pol­lu­tion and the con­tem­po­rary, com­fort­able feel, are all big plus points for us. Look­ing out you re­ally do feel king and queen of your own cas­tle. “Watch­ing the weather

com­ing in, cou­pled with the open­ness and pri­vacy makes it very spe­cial. Seag­ulls in flight at eye level, at home with the el­e­ments – it’s ev­ery­thing we could ask for. We have so many mag­i­cal mo­ments.”

Henri likes be­ing able to step out­side and down to the high street to a good se­lec­tion of qual­ity shops, an ex­cel­lent butcher, a deli, in a town with vi­brancy.

“There’s a good tra­di­tional pub, The White Hart, with good beer. There’s a fan­tas­tic artis­tic com­mu­nity, many part of Suf­folk Open Stu­dios.” Hav­ing worked for more than 30 years in Lon­don con­sul­tan­cies, the cou­ple have moved to Suf­folk per­ma­nently to set up their own de­sign busi­ness, Stu­dio­pond, of­fer­ing brand­ing, pack­ag­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign services.

“It also al­lows us time to pur­sue more hands-on creative projects,” says Henri. “David is now de­sign­ing our own stu­dio in the gar­den, both for work and to ex­hibit, which we hope to have fin­ished to­wards the end of 2018.

“We have also de­signed a seat­ing area and a sculp­ture in­stal­la­tion in the sen­sory gar­den of the lo­cal hos­pi­tal. Mean­while I am con­tin­u­ing my print mak­ing and colo­graphs.”

One of the at­trac­tions of Alde­burgh for David and Henri is that al­though it’s in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, it re­mains a tra­di­tional sea­side town for fam­i­lies, with sea­side ac­tiv­i­ties, like Punch and Judy, won­der­ful sail­ing and coastal walks.

“Cre­at­ing our new life in this cor­ner of Suf­folk, is the best thing we ever did,” says Henri.

For news of the gallery and to find out more about Stu­dio­pond’s de­sign services stu­dio­pond.com

Colour and tex­ture cre­ate a vi­brant in­te­rior

The stair­case and hall de­signed along strictly ver­ti­cal lines

ABOVE: Sim­ple, stylish and rest­ful bed­rooms

BELOW LEFT: Ver­ti­cal lines through­out re­flect the reedbeds in the sur­round­ing land­scape

BELOW RIGHT:A mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a tra­di­tional black fish­er­man’s hut

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