Sailing Into the Future
Mark and Fiona Collier decided the best way to ensure the future of a home owned by the family for generations was to knock it down and start again — the result is a six bedroom house with stunning sea views
A contemporary self-build, built using local materials, replaces a 1920s bungalow on a stunning coastal plot in Cornwall
“We wanted to exploit the fantastic cliff-top position,” says Mark, who, along with his wife Fiona, decided to put that incredible sea view at the heart of their design. The kitchen is a key area, as they spend a lot of time there and previously, it faced the driveway to the rear. By opening up that entire kitchen/dining/living space there are views of the sea from two different aspects. The separate sitting room on the top floor, known as the ‘upper deck’, has the most commanding views of all.
It’s not just the living spaces that have received careful consideration for proportion and orientation, however. Downstairs, in the bedrooms on the lower ground floor, Mark says: “It’s like being in a passenger liner.”
The couple had to make one small change to their plans, which was the position of an external staircase. Originally they had placed it in the centre of the property, but Mark and Fiona realised this made little sense and moved it to one side during the build.
Main contractor Nova Construction: novaconstruction.co.uk Architect Sanders Architects: sander-architects.com Scaffolding M & M Scaffolding: mandmscaffolding.co.uk Timber frame Perkins & Perry: perkinsandperry.co.uk Roof structure installation Chirgwin & Renouf: chirgwin-renouf.co.uk Roof slates and installation Horizon Roofing: horizon-roofing.co.uk Waterproofing Timberwise: timberwise.co.uk Steelwork Hewaswater Engineering: hewaswater.co.uk Windows Velfac: velfac.co.uk Electrical work CWC Electrical: cwcelectrical.co.uk Plumbing Jose & Blackler: joseandblackler.co.uk Internal staircase Marnick Builders: marnick.co.uk Plastering C & P Plastering: cpplasteringltd.co.uk Painting Williams & Martin: williams-martin.co.uk Kitchen Howdens: howdens.com Paving Curtis Paving: curtispavingcornwall.co.uk Tarmac E. Roberts Contractors: erobertsltd.co.uk Handrails Mid Cornwall Metal Fabrications: midcornwallmetals.co.uk Flat roof under balcony Western Flat Roofing: westernflatroofing.co.uk Tiling Peter Jones & Sons: tilingcornwall.co.uk Garage door South West Garage Doors: swgdgroup.co.uk
The decision to tear down a home that has been in a family for half a century is not one that is arrived at lightly. For Mark and Fiona Collier, it was something that could only be confirmed with the blessing of Mark’s parents.
The family’s connection to the house in Gorran Haven, Cornwall, dates to 1966, when Mark’s uncle bought it. In 1976, Mark’s parents took ownership, moving in permanently after Mark’s father retired in 1986. Five years ago, Mark and Fiona took the house on, but it was poorly suited for modern living: “It had single block walls, no wall insulation and the fact it hadn’t been lived in for a while had exacerbated the damp problem,” begins Mark. “It was beginning to fall apart at the seams.”
The property was a coastal bungalow on the highly photogenic Roseland Peninsula in south Cornwall and Mark had originally considered renovation, but feared he would be doing more works in the future. So the decision was made to demolish and rebuild.
“Our brief was to create a home from home we could pass on, taking full advantage of the sea view,” says Mark. “We also wanted to futureproof it as much as possible, utilise new eco technology and increase the size, so it could accommodate two families at a time.” Despite the lengthy brief, Mark and his wife Fiona designed the new house themselves, before passing it onto an architect to draw up the formal plans.
The Colliers’ ideas of incorporating environmental technology, choosing a design in keeping with the local vernacular and using local materials went down well with the local planning department, despite the increase in size to 340m2 from around 220m2. “The footprint isn’t that different,” explains Mark. “We just went up a floor and put four bedrooms on the lower ground floor.”
As they live in London, Mark and Fiona chose local Cornish firm Nova Construction as the main contractors, with Nova responsible for sourcing subcontractors, suppliers and materials. The Colliers tried to visit the site at least every fortnight — a necessary evil due to a punishing 10-hour round trip. “Going on site is essential,” Mark admits. “There is no way to get a more accurate picture.”
It wasn’t just the Colliers who found it tricky to get on site, however. The home’s location, accessed via narrow country roads, caused havoc for delivery drivers. This meant some sections of the timber frame were constructed on site, with steel also used in parts. The lower level is masonry, with exterior cladding in local stone from the Trecarne Rustic Stone
Quarry at nearby Delabole, while the upper level is timber frame, with a rendered block exterior skin.
The traditional materials continue on the roof, where the slate is in keeping with most Cornish homes, although Mark shelved plans to also lay slate on the terrace, once he realised how slippery it would be. He opted instead for the composite resin product Millboard, which looks like timber decking, but is anti-slip and has excellent weatherproofing properties.
Inside, the high-quality finishes continue, with composite wood and aluminium windows from Velfac, which Mark chose on the recommendation of his contractor. The floors throughout are pre-finished engineered oak, suitable for use with the underfloor heating.
The home’s hot water demand is provided by an air source heat pump. As with so many properties in Cornwall, mains gas is not available in the village. Mark and Fiona didn’t want oil and, following a negative experience with a ground source heat pump previously, were keen to try an air source heat pump.
Although cheaper than oil, LPG or electricity, air source heat pumps can be more expensive than mains gas with a modern boiler. Mark, however, is pleased with the pump’s performance. “It’s still early days, but so far so good. It works efficiently and is reliable,
unlike the old boiler we had. And we don’t have to worry about refilling the oil tank that we used to have in the garden.”
Though the oil tank may have gone, elements of the original house have been recycled in the new house. Victorian tiles have been reused as colourful splashbacks in the bathrooms, while original hand-blown glass doors have been used in the porch and, perhaps most strikingly, the original transom from a Cornish Crabber is affixed to the wall of the ‘upper deck’ living room.
This elegant six-bed home now has a pleasing maritime feel and makes the most of those amazing sea views from all three floors. With two sitting rooms in addition to the open plan kitchen diner, the new house has more than enough space for those lazy summer holidays with the extended family. “The real high point was realising that we’ve done it,” says Mark. “Our vision has been realised and it’s lovely to go into a home that works.” H