For one brief moment, visitors to Pennard House, the new self-built home of Andy and Chrissy, might find themselves imagining they have been teleported to sunny California. That is, until they are confronted with a blast of coastal wind that brings back the reality that they are, in fact, on the Gower peninsula on the south-west coast of Wales, just outside Swansea.
You might wonder why, then, that the Sandbrooks decided to build a house that so seemingly celebrates the sun, with its vast sliding doors, outdoor living spaces and unprotected swimming pool, oriented towards Gower’s glorious sunsets. Yet these features which celebrate the sun have been designed to respond to harsher elements too — white blinds take on the form of walls to shut out dreary evenings, a canopy running the length of the building offers protection from rain, and the swimming pool… “Well, that’s still best avoided in the depths of winter,” laughs Chrissy.
Situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the site housed a small bungalow that failed to make the most of the plot. “It’s safe to say that the new house takes no inspiration from it,” says Chrissy. Yet despite the bungalow’s shortcomings, the Sandbrooks faced a battle to get permission for a replacement dwelling.
Their own design for a two storey modern dwelling was turned down twice and so Andy and Chrissy approached Kay and Kristian Hyde of Hyde + Hyde Architects.
One of the first things Kay and Kristian did was arrange a meeting with the local authority to find out what would be appropriate for the site. The planners, it turned out, were supportive of building a contemporary house, but it had to be sensitive to the local vernacular. “The planners wanted the roof to be largely in line with the neighbouring properties on the road,” explains Chrissy. “We hadn’t previously envisioned a single storey property but when we saw the idea boards and model that Kay and Kristian came up with, we knew that it was going to be something special.”
The design, a contemporary take on regional Welsh architecture with a strong Californian influence consists of three distinct wings – a master bedroom ‘box’ on top of a kitchen diner, the central living area and a guest wing – unified by a canopy running the length of the exterior.
Permission was finally granted in early 2008 and work began in March with the demolition of the bungalow. The couple were able to live close to site and Andy project managed the build, working with Hyde + Hyde to ensure the house’s vision remained intact.
Andy and Chrissy are both averse to unnecessary clutter, so there is underfloor heating instead of radiators, shadow gaps in place of skirting, and discreet LEDs as opposed to pendant lights.
Completed in November 2009, 20 months after breaking ground, Andy and Chrissy are delighted with the house! Since moving in, they have lived up to their reputation by throwing a series of parties. “Our friends love staying here, which makes us happy. And we’re constantly discovering things we love about the house — it’s a dream come true,” smiles Chrissy.