“The house itself was a true one-off,” explains Duncan. “It had a flat roof and was a bit like a timber frame bachelor pad, on stilts, overlooking the sea. It had a flavour of Modernism, and it was quite controversial locally. It certainly wasn’t like anything else around here. “When we came across the existing house,” he continues, “despite its slightly faded nature, it was very popular with potential buyers — almost all of whom had plans to knock the whole thing down and make the most of the 1.3-acre site by building four bungalows or something.”
Duncan and Fiona managed to beat the developers to the house – they paid £250,000 for it – and, having stretched their finances to the limit, sold off part of the huge garden for development (for £150,000) in order to fund the work. “We wanted something that built on the Modernist flavour of the existing house, but also dealt with the obvious design and structural flaws it had, too,” says Duncan. Six months passed as the young family lived in the house, as it was, in order to get the best idea of what it could offer and really formulate a working design.
It was clear that the site really demanded a genuine two storey house – so those stilts would have to go for a start – but also that a large side extension would really transform the liveability of the whole place and make it much more open. “Despite it being quite modern for its day,” explains Duncan, “the rooms in the existing house were actually quite small by modern standards.”
Planning permission proved straightforward for the scheme, which comprised of adding a second storey ‘underneath’ the existing structure (filling in the gap left by those stilts) and adding a large two storey extension to the side, effectively doubling the footprint of the house. The two distinct parts of the house would be joined together under one contiguous copper-finished barrel roof, designed to soften the harsh lines that Modernist homes can have.
“We moved out to a caravan when work started,” continues Duncan. “I took a year off work to help out on the site, carrying out a lot of the labour myself (amongst other tasks Duncan fitted the plasterboard, joinery, insulation, flooring and other finishes). Carrying out the fiddly work was enjoyable and, of course, financially rewarding.” The new home took just over a year to build.
The existing part of the house now sits side by side with the new part and provides a sharp contrast, at least inside. “The existing rooms are still quite small, but we set out to leave that in direct contrast with the new, more open, volumetric element,” explains Duncan. “The ‘extension’ is full of space and light, with huge windows and very high ceilings.
A new living room at first floor level, which continues out onto a balcony, makes the very best of the sea views while downstairs, a large, open plan kitchen/dining/living space means that the family can interact better with outside. “It has been a real success,” says Duncan. “I feel we have kept the spirit of what was here and updated it for modern living. It works perfectly.”