Thor­oughly mod­ern hour­glass by the sea­side

On an undis­cov­ered stretch of the south coast, this modernist gem by Pa­trick Gwynne stands out from the sub­ur­ban crowd, says An­gela Per­tusini

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Bright Ideas -

If you visit Vista Point in East Pre­ston, close to Lit­tle­hamp­ton, don’t lose your nerve. It is not just that a Pa­trick Gwynne-de­signed modernist house seems un­likely in this sea­side vil­lage that wants to be a stretch of Sur­rey sub­ur­bia; you be­gin to ques­tion even the ex­is­tence of the beach it­self, which is con­cealed be­hind twist­ing roads, private es­tates and high hedg­ing. Keep faith. Both are there, though well hid­den.

Vista Point was de­signed in the late 1960s by Gwynne for his char­tered sur­veyor. Unim­pressed by the lo­cal house styles in the Wil­lowhayne es­tate – al­though there is a Mar­cel Breuer villa in a nearby road, for the most part, it is a hodge­podge of chalet bun­ga­lows, flat­u­lent Tu­dor­bethan and 1930s neo-rus­tic – Gwynne showed his con­tempt for the neigh­bours by de­vis­ing a home that sev­ered ties with them.

Imag­ine a chubby hour­glass and you are close to its floor plan: one that made the most of the gar­dens, brought in plenty of light but suc­cess­fully dis­guised, from the in­te­rior, the fact that any other peo­ple lived nearby. With its five bed­rooms on the ground floor and its liv­ing ar­eas on the first, cen­tral spi­ral stair­case lit by a roof dome and mix­ture of straight lines and gen­tle curves, it must have been some­thing of a cu­rios­ity. Gwynne’s at­ten­tion to de­tail was in­cred­i­ble, al­beit some­what con­trol­ling. There is so much in­te­grated stor­age, built-in furniture, re­cessed ledg­ing and fixed shelv­ing that, even from be­yond the grave, he still dic­tates ex­actly how the house should be used.

Per­haps un­able to make the house their own, its orig­i­nal own­ers stayed for only a cou­ple of years; a re­tired cou­ple then lived there for 30 years be­fore Ri­ley Stemp and John Mer­ri­man took it over as a week­end home three years ago. The house re­mained in the kind of glo­ri­ously in­tact con­di­tion that purists sali­vate over: brim­ful with orig­i­nal fit­tings, with the only ad­di­tion be­ing a small swim­ming pool and pool house that Gwynne oblig­ingly de­signed in the early 1970s.

“We did get rid of the sea­grass wall­pa­per, which was filthy,” says Ri­ley, but apart from that, the re­dec­o­ra­tion has been thor­oughly sym­pa­thetic. The orig­i­nal bath­rooms, til­ing out here,” says Ri­ley, stand­ing on the high tide shin­gle and watch­ing a lone dog-walker re­cede. It’s the mid­dle of Au­gust and, true, it’s an­other grey day typ­i­cal of this year’s sum­mer, but the light on the wa­ter is mes­meris­ing, and, in the dis­tance, there is the out­line of Lit­tle­hamp­ton, Bog­nor and the Isle of Wight. Surely it must at­tract an oc­ca­sional crowd? “No, not re­ally.”

Clearly this is what she likes about the place and why she and John plan to buy an­other home nearby that will be eas­ier to lock up and leave – their two chil­dren are get­ting to the age where week­ends in Lon­don hold more at­trac­tion than for­ays to the south coast. “I look at it and think I won’t ever own a house as nice as this again,” she says for­lornly. “But it needs peo­ple who can spend a lot of time here. If it is on the mar­ket again in 10 years’ time, I’d def­i­nitely want to buy it back.”

Vista Point is for sale for £1,295,000 through The Mod­ern House (08456 344068; the­mod­ern­house.net)

Hasta la Vista Point: Pa­trick Gwynne’s modernist de­sign re­mains largely in­tact, though the pool was added later. The in­te­rior is a mix of straight lines and gen­tle curves

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