Nearly 6 years ago, we started working with these lovely clients to help them realise their dream home on the South Coast. Nigel and Susie wished to downsize by creating a contemporary dwelling nestled into a wooded hillside surrounded by spectacular sea views across Lyme Bay and beyond.
Three years on, Senior Architect Joel Smith is back to find out if their perfect house has lived up to their expectations.
Q1) Thank you for inviting us here today. You have lived in your new home for 3 years now, how are you finding it?
Settling into the new house was easy… the success of this was largely down to effective planning and ensuring that the house was ‘ready to go’ at the point we moved in. In a modern house it seems the utilities can be quite complex, and it took a little longer than anticipated to feel fully at ease with the number of different light switches, sewage system, solar panels and the air source heat pump. However, everything worked well and there were no problems with any of these systems.
Q2) With the benefit of hindsight is there anything about your new home that you would do differently?
We would have loved to avoid a parking area in front of the house and locate it on adjoining land… we tried to achieve this but the neighbour was reluctant to play ball. Aside from that we have absolutely no regrets with nothing that would have been approached differently or wished that CMS Architects had designed differently. Our intent was always to build a house which was as sustainable as pragmatically possible. The site fought against this in some ways by dictating the use of deep footings for the house due to the nature of the ground in this area. Its location also had an impact on the choice of build system – we really wanted to build a MMC timber frame house but no supplier could deliver the sections to our site around 2 very tight corners in our lane. As such it had to be traditionally built and we tried to minimise the environmental effects of this as far as possible – in this regard Joel Smith of CMS Architects was able to use his green credentials to good effect.
Q3) …and on a similar note, is there anything about your new home that particularly stands out as a resounding success?
CMS Architects articulated and designed the house in accordance with the brief extraordinarily well. They worked in close co-ordination and harmony with our excellent builders Jason Turner Building Contractor Ltd. Although we had previously renovated and extended a number of properties, both old and new(ish), we had never commissioned a new house from scratch… this was a novel project for us! The site was very constrained and in a particularly sensitive area from a planning policy point of view. Actually getting the planning consent was a real struggle even though we were simply replacing an existing (albeit semi-detached) post-war chalet bungalow! To meet the LPA’s requirements a number of imaginative design changes by CMS Architects had to be made. We were nearing our ‘70s and wanted a future-proofed house from which we would never be forced to move. To this end the house incorporated a slope, rather than steps, up to the house from the road, a small downstairs room off the main living room which could be used as a downstairs bedroom, a ground floor wet room with a door wide enough to take a wheel chair, a space on the ground and first floors which could eventually be used for a small lift if required etc. The input from CMS Architects was crucial in factoring all these into the design without resulting in any obvious attempt to do so.
Q4) Would you say your lifestyle has adapted to the house or has the house adapted to your lifestyle?
The house has adapted to our lifestyles perfectly without any change to our habits and wishes… if anything it has enhanced them!
Q5) Have you found that the design of your home has allowed this flexibility?
Given that the design was just what we had wanted, albeit after a great deal of patience and redesigning on the part of CMS Architects, there is more than enough flexibility for our lifestyle and we have not had to compromise in any way.
Q6) During the early design stages of this project we worked very hard to ensure the design of the house sat comfortably within the site, whilst still providing enough space for your lifestyle. Do you think the right balance has been achieved between house & garden?
We always knew that the brief to build a sufficiently sized house for our wishes on what was a small and difficult site was quite an ask. CMS Architects succeeded in finding exactly the right balance.
Q7) Over the last 3 years you have clearly been very busy creating a wonderful garden. How do you feel the blurring between the notion of inside & outside has helped or in fact hindered?
We have always lived an outside/inside life. It is important for us to be able to sit or work outside even if it is raining. The veranda at the front of the house, which overlooks a stunning view over National Trust cliffs and Lyme Bay, was exactly what we wanted and has become an integral part of our life. It continues to be a joy to be able to walk out of our kitchen onto the veranda or into the garden with a cup of coffee in hand! Planting has now, 3 years later, ensured that any sharp edges on the building or hard landscaping have been softened. The building grows out of the planting and has attracted much attention, compliments, and local approval!
Q9) In a similar vein, is it a comfortable house to live in during Summer & Winter?
The house is thoroughly comfortable throughout each season of the year. In the summer the veranda, and the orientation of the house, give protection from the sun. In the winter, the air source heat pump kicks in and the house is warm. We have underfloor heating on both ground and first floors, although the first-floor system is on a much lower temperature setting than the ground floor.
Q10) The defining characteristics of the beautiful site that affected our approach to the design was and still is the amazing view towards the sea. Does the design of the house in your opinion succeed in drawing in this wider view? And is this affected by the seasons?
The design and orientation of the house makes the most of our setting and its views. Every morning we wake up to an ever-changing panorama of fields, coast, and sea. Perfect and very lucky!