NEWS... BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
After the excesses of Christmas, could this be Britain’s most refreshing home?
Owner Emma Jenkins thinks it just might be, thanks to a range of features that are designed to cosset and relax its inhabitants, as well as cure sleep problems, revitalise with fresh air and provide soundproof pods for escaping the world.
‘I think if you are starting from scratch building a home it is important to make something good for wellbeing,’ she says of the year-long project in a village just outside of Guildford.
‘I would certainly say it’s one of Britain’s most relaxing homes,’ she smiles. ‘It is calm – that’s the feeling you get when you walk through the door. The organic materials give it calmness, plus it is also big and welcoming.’
The house started life as a different house. Emma and husband Neil bought a 1971 bungalow on the plot with planning permission for a finished new-build that had got through the planning stages by the skin of its mock-farmhouse teeth.
The only problem was the couple couldn’t stand what had been allowed.
‘It had gone down to the wire, with committee meetings, and was a mock farmhouse-style thing. We hated it.’
The site is in a conservation area in the Green Belt and has Grade II-listed buildings all around so new planning was not easy to get.
The couple worked closely with John Wilson of Foundations Architects to create an alternative design that met all the couple’s needs, as well as the council’s stipulations.
Their needs, though, were also different.
Emma’s father hails from Northern Ireland and craved a forever home in a converted barn. Neil is a lover of mid-century modernism, of the likes of Mies van der Rohe, and wanted something sharp-edged and contemporary.
They met in the middle and, after much wrangling for planning permission, the result is like nothing else.
‘It’s unique,’ says Emma. ‘We took the opportunity to be brave. We could have built what had been approved but we decided to start from scratch. We were at loggerheads for six months [over the final design] but it worked out quite well in the end.’
On the outside it has the appearance that Le Corbusier has been tasked with reimagining an agricultural building. The silhouette is a fairly traditional barn, with uncompromising pitched roof and a black composite cladding that has a passing resemblance to corrugated iron.
But then the windows have a scalpel-like draftsman quality, with any fussy details smoothed off, and the huge 13-metre glass-front to the open-plan living area would get a nod of approval from Frank Lloyd Wright.
It is both simplistic but at the same time curious and bold in its execution. Then there is the turret.
‘I would describe it as a modern barn with a turret,’ says Emma. ‘It is so square and angular that the turret adds a bit of softness and whimsy. Originally the turret was a chimney but it has evolved into being a space. Upstairs is an en suite and below is an office. We both like it. It is quite Marmite but it’s different.’
The eco-friendly composite cladding, made from 80% wood fibre, is just one of several sustainable design features Emma and Neil chose to incorporate into their home that would often improve the living conditions of those inside.
The property is filled with knowhow from the couple’s two companies, Welltek and Couch Potato Company, a design-led wellbeing firm for offices and a mid-century modern furniture specialist, respectively.
Hot water and heating comes from an air source heat pump, which means there is no gas or oil required, lessening the overall carbon footprint.
Fresh, filtered air is supplied to the entire house courtesy of a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system, which helps with the family’s hayfever.
In the main living room area, which is an impressive triple-height space, there is an Air0 Purifier. Resembling a stereo speaker, it maintains air quality throughout the main living area.
Then there is NAP, or Neuron Activation Pod, in the living room.
It sends out gentle waves of vibrations to the body to create a mediation-like state – it has helped Neil with better sleep as well as creating a place for a recharging power nap.
The couple even sent some to the NHS for doctors and nurses to take refuge during Covid.
Also in the living room is what looks like a large phone box. This is a soundproof pod from Framery.
‘It’s amazing,’ says Emma. ‘When the kids were at home during lockdown and we needed to do Zoom calls it’s just fantastic.’
On the side of the Framery booth is the Naava smart green wall, whose biophila is not only great to look at but the plants help to keep humidity levels optimum by pumping air through the roots.
The attention to wellbeing is only matched by the fastidious use of only the best mid-century modern furniture. This is Emma’s other passion, the couple having dreamt up Couch Potato Company on their honeymoon in 2003, specialising in Vitra, Knoll and Fritz Hansen.
Mid-century classics, such as the Eames Lounge chair, the Egg chair and the Tulip table, fill the living spaces, with a beautiful Florence Knoll sofa taking pride of place.
These pieces are matched by wonderfully pared-back local designs, such as the on-trend black kitchen with oak base units and a cedar-clad island unit by Naked Kitchens in Suffolk.
‘Why mid-century? I really like the simplicity. The designs are so clever in their simplicity and look. Mies van der Rohe said “God is in the detail,” and it’s true, there’s a lot of effort and work to look so simple. I always encourage people to invest in pieces like this – copies are just fast furniture and won’t last.
‘These pieces will be passed down to our kids. I can get it repaired, too. It’s that longevity. People can get misled, the law was supposed to change. Many people think they are buying the original.’
In terms of the colour and material palette, black and natural wood dominate.
The kitchen and living areas benefits from being double-height, whilst the entire dining area features a ribbon of cedar wood on the ceiling and wall, creating a more intimate feel. Each of the four bedrooms has an en suite.
The north-facing master bedroom comes complete with a balcony so the couple can enjoy views of the river while enjoying their morning cups of tea.
‘It has always been a shared dream to build our own house,’ says Emma. ‘It matches our needs and personalities, and we love it.’
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