life on the edge

The home­own­ers took a gam­ble when choos­ing their ar­chi­tect and builder — a risk which paid off, if this strik­ing new self-build perched high on the Cor­nish coast is any­thing to go by

Homebuilding & Renovating - - Port Folio - Words Daisy Jef­fery Photography An­thony Greenwood c/o Kast Ar­chi­tects

Perched on a cliff path along the south Cor­nish coast with noth­ing but un­ob­structed sea views to en­joy, it’s not hard to see why the home­own­ers fell in love with this idyl­lic spot. “It was the views that first sold it to us — even with the pre­vi­ous home that stood here, the views are to die for,” say the Coop­ers. Per­haps the most strik­ing fea­ture of the whole project, how­ever, is the level of trust shown by the home­own­ers: this project was a first for ar­chi­tect and builder alike.

The Coop­ers bought the ex­ist­ing prop­erty on the site in early 2010 with hopes of mod­ernising and ex­tend­ing it to cre­ate a hol­i­day home for their fam­ily to en­joy. They had en­gaged an ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice to come up with a de­sign, but the plans weren’t de­liv­er­ing the space the fam­ily needed. A chance en­counter with a kitchen com­pany brought them into con­tact with their in­te­rior de­signer Steve Coombe of 3idog. He in turn in­tro­duced the fam­ily to Ni­cholas James, a lo­cal ar­chi­tect who was in the process of start­ing up his own prac­tice, Kast Ar­chi­tects.

“We did our ini­tial sketches over a cup of cof­fee and we set­tled on a de­sign early on,” says Ni­cholas. “The whole house was de­signed very much around the view, and has been built into the cliff with an up­side-down ar­range­ment. The front door opens to an open plan kitchen/liv­ing/din­ing space on the top level with a through-view out to the sea to cre­ate a real ‘wow’ mo­ment as soon as you en­ter; three bed­rooms are lo­cated on the lower level, all with sea views. Ser­vice spa­ces, in­clud­ing the stair­case, stor­age, util­ity and the sit­ting room at lower level, are all po­si­tioned to the rear.”

Given the de­vel­op­ment in the area, there was no one lo­cal ver­nac­u­lar style to ref­er­ence, which gave the prac­tice a free rein when spec­i­fy­ing ma­te­ri­als for the ex­te­rior. “We’ve gone down the ar­che­typal coastal ar­chi­tec­ture route with white ren­der, lots of glaz­ing, and tim­ber cladding,” ex­plains Ni­cholas. “We then in­tro­duced can­tilevers, over­hangs, bal­conies and an ex­ter­nal stair­case to give the house depth, in­stead of con­form­ing to a sim­ple box.”

In or­der to gain favour with the lo­cal plan­ners, the prac­tice de­signed the new house to sit on roughly the same foot­print as the ex­ist­ing struc­ture, and to re­spect the ridge height of neigh­bour­ing houses. “We even went down the route of us­ing a se­dum roof cov­er­ing so that they would have a more pleas­ing out­look,” says Ni­cholas.

The Build

Un­for­tu­nately, just be­fore work was due to start on site, the cho­sen build­ing com­pany went bust. Fol­low­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with one of the builders who’d lost his job as a re­sult of the com­pany go­ing un­der, the home­own­ers took a risk and of­fered him the op­por­tu­nity to build their house. “It was a leap of faith as it was his first project, as well as the ar­chi­tect’s first project — we had to trust ev­ery­body com­pletely. Know­ing that peo­ple in the in­dus­try can take short­cuts, my only in­struc­tion to the builder was to build it as if he was build­ing his own house. The care and at­ten­tion to detail is ex­cel­lent, and it’s so much bet­ter than we could have ever imag­ined,” the home­own­ers say. na­ture Due to of the the site, nar­row ac­cess cliff was path not and straight- tight for­ward. “Luck­ily the neigh­bours were very un­der­stand­ing,” says ar­chi­tect Ni­cholas. “In­stead of large de­liv­er­ies, the tricky ac­cess meant that we had to have smaller and

more reg­u­lar de­liv­er­ies in­stead. The builder was also from the area, which helped mas­sively as he was able to talk things through with the lo­cals.”

With work be­gin­ning on site, it took just over a year to build the house, which was con­structed pri­mar­ily of tim­ber frame with steel­work sup­port­ing the can­tilevers. In or­der to with­stand the coastal con­di­tions, the ren­der cho­sen lends it­self well to ma­rine en­vi­ron­ments, and the tim­ber cladding has been left to weather nat­u­rally to a sil­ver grey. Low-main­te­nance pow­der-coated alu­minium was the ma­te­rial of choice for the win­dows and slid­ing door frames.

In­ter­nally, the house is ef­fort­lessly stylish and oozes coastal charm. Pared-back fin­ish­ings, in­clud­ing white-washed tim­ber floor­ing, ex­posed lo­cal stone and white walls, al­low the views to do the talk­ing, while de­tails such as the win­dow seat in the din­ing area, a large dress­ing room to the mas­ter suite and in­dul­gent bath­rooms of­fer mod­ern-day lux­u­ries.

Out­side, the con­tem­po­rary land­scap­ing scheme com­ple­ments the ar­chi­tec­ture and in­cludes an out­door din­ing area as well as a hot tub from which to en­joy the stun­ning sea views.

“The Coop­ers put a lot of trust in us, and this house has been a real priv­i­lege to do — it’s a dream com­mis­sion for any ar­chi­tect, es­pe­cially for their first project. We are ab­so­lutely thrilled that they love their new home,” says Ni­cholas. The home­own­ers are equally pleased: “It al­most feels like liv­ing in a pent­house be­cause you’re so high up on the cliff with noth­ing in front of you but the waves,” they say.

“It’s a zen house and ev­ery­one loves it. The area has a cer­tain un­touched charm about it, and from the mo­ment you en­ter the house it just takes your breath away. It’s per­fect.”

Coastal Charm Keen to make this a re­lax­ing re­treat, the home­own­ers spec­i­fied a pal­ette of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing white­washed tim­ber floor­ing and stone to cre­ate a beach house style. “The in­te­rior de­signer came up to visit us in our home in Chel­tenham and saw how we cur­rently live,” says the Coop­ers. “We like con­tem­po­rary de­sign and the house in Corn­wall has been de­signed to be sim­i­lar; the dif­fer­ence be­ing that with this project we had a blank can­vas so we could re­ally get it right.”

Sub­tle De­tails In or­der to make best use of avail­able space, as well as add in­ter­est, Kast Ar­chi­tects has de­signed in clever el­e­ments that home­own­ers and guests can en­joy. The win­dow seat in the din­ing area is a prime ex­am­ple, and makes for a great spot to con­verse with din­ers or sim­ply re­lax with a book while watch­ing the boats sail by.

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