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
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.
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.