Todd Cooper and Giuseppe Sironi have built a Modernist-style home around the shell of a 1970s beach house in West Sussex, incorporating influences and materials from around the globe.

Locating the front door of Todd and Giuseppe’s quirky beachside home can prove surprisingly difficult for the first-time visitor. Thanks to the lack of a handle or other conventional door furniture, the entrance and neighbouring garage door are purposefully and effectively camouflaged within a wall of unusual oak-strip cladding.

“It does sometimes confuse people, but we didn’t want to detract from the overall look of the entrance,” says Giuseppe. Such attention to detail is evident throughout the couple’s contemporary five bedroom home, which was built around the shell of a large but unremarkable 1970s brick beach house. Though uninspiring, it did benefit from unobstructed views out over the Channel.

Todd and Giuseppe had previously spent many years living in nearby Brighton but despite their local knowledge, they were shocked at the asking price of close to £1,000,000 for the unappealing reverse-level Seventies property. “It was a funny-looking place, and to be honest we initially thought it would be dead cheap to buy,” Todd admits.

The couple realised that they were paying for the location, and saw that knocking down the high garden wall would open up even better views. “It was spring when we first viewed the house, and the nature reserve beach was literally covered with wild flowers growing between the pebbles — something we’d never seen before,” says Giuseppe, a long-retired doctor. “It’s quite a special place.”

Todd and Giuseppe bought the property in 2006 with the intention of undertaking a full rebuild. “We’ve tackled plenty of renovations to period homes in the past, but this build was particularly challenging and also our first contemporary design,” explains Todd, a former banker.

Giuseppe and Todd worked together to produce a unique design. A single storey annexe and open courtyard have been incorporated into the layout to create a grand entrance hall, with a feature staircase leading up to the open plan living/dining/kitchen space on the first floor, which overlooks the water through a wall of glass doors.

Travertine flooring surrounds the indoor pool, and has also been used externally for the terrace around a rectangular swimming pool. The rear garden area was purposefully kept as simple and natural as possible to allow the beach to remain the focal point, with a balcony designed to limit the direct sunshine into ground floor rooms below.

“The house has two very different faces: the glazed side overlooking the water, and the front — which has small slot windows and appears to be made up from different boxes stacked together,” says Todd. At first the couple struggled to gain a planning application, however with the support of neighbours and a local councillor their plans were eventually approved. It’s considered a rebuild/refurbishment rather than a new build, which meant we couldn’t reclaim the VAT,” says Todd, “but the end result looks like a totally different house which sits really well on the beach.”

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  • Anonymous

    An interesting,stunning, indeed exciting looking house. Perhaps you could elaborate on the dealings with the local planning department in another article for reading between the lines it appears not to have been straightforward and consent only obtained because the refurb work was to an existing house. One can presume that if the application had been for a new house on the site it would not have received planning consent. Surely this suggests that if a scheme of alteration is acceptable then a scheme for a new house of similar design should also be acceptable. A change in planning law needed I’d suggest.

    In our work area I can say that such a design as achieved by Guiseppe and Todd would not receive official blessing either as a refurb or new build. Our local council (officials)like most others I suspect have determined that the local vernacular, in this case of traditional stone/brick under a clay pantile roof in the main, is to be followed. Out of context with local vernacular was the response of the planning officer to one of my schemes even though the site of the existing house was so isolated and hidden from public view he couldn’t find it on his site visit and required to seek help from the client via his mobile. In another instance a client had difficulty gaining consent to restore a cottage roof to it’s original thatched state because in the words of the planning conservation officer “there’s nothing else like it in the area”.

    Have fun.

    BM

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