Alex Ball and Helen Quinn have not only faithfully restored a listed 1960s home – an architectural masterpiece of its time – but have made sixties living a way of life.
Alex and Helen had never been to Brixham in Devon and cared little for 1960s homes or their contents, but all that changed when they spotted a picture of Parkham Wood House advertised for sale in The Guardian. One year later and they had totally embraced the era.
The couple, who both work as solicitors, now enjoy the different pace of life offered by their unusual elevated home, with its panoramic views of Brixham harbour. The house was originally built in just six months for the owner of an adjacent hotel and integrates rock formations into its design. Inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, the cliff-side house was designed by architect Mervyn Seal, now 79, and was recently awarded a Grade II listing following a submission by the Twentieth Century Society, which seeks to promote important buildings from the last 100 years.
Determined to secure the fabric of the listed building, Alex and Helen paid £19,000 to restore the original roof, which included covering it with an additional layer of roofing felt. Scaffolding was also erected to enable the exterior of the house to be decorated, with two carpenters spending a week replacing sections of rotten timber. The rusting bottom rail of the long balcony was also replaced as part of the exterior restoration.
“In addition, we replaced the cracked frosted glass with smoked glass panels to improve the outlook, and felled two trees that were obscuring the view,” explains Alex, “but wherever possible we tried not to tamper with what was already there.”
Internally, some of the rooms have been rewired by Alex’s electrician cousin and many have been redecorated with help from family and friends. Gradually the couple turned their attentions to the finer details of the interior design. “We were lucky to inherit so many original features,” says Helen. An existing shelving unit, for example, serves as a room divide between the sitting and dining areas and has proved to be the perfect setting for displaying smaller items such as Soda Streams, 1960s radios and a red plastic punch bowl.
Since buying Parkham Wood House Alex has discovered that he is, in fact, distantly related to its architect, Mervyn Seal — who was incredibly surprised to be invited to visit the house, and overwhelmed to find the building so well preserved.
Half a century after the ambitious ‘butterfly house’ was first constructed it still captivates the imagination. “Being here lifts our spirits and has given us a totally new way of life,” explains Helen.