The Househunter: Room by Room

3rd August 2018
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This cottage in Cornwall proved one of the most popular househunter posts so far this year along with a modern classic designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, who have been described as the among the most influential architects of the 20th century. Both houses are completely different but there are ideas and inspiration to be taken from both. Let’s take the tour again…

Right come on then we’re going straight down to Cornwall and there’s not a moment to lose as this gorgeous cottage in Mousehole is on for £395,000 and it won’t hang around. It’s a two bedroom terraced house and it’s on with Kerb Appealz (via RightMove) and if you don’t want it then I will. Because look:

There is no chain and it’s been completely renovated with exposed wooden floors and beams and a real wood fire. I particularly love this glass panelled room divider which stops it being completely open plan and gives some separation to the space without losing any light – which is what a wall would do. This is called broken plan by the way and it’s the new thing to replace open plan, which can feel a bit too open these days. It’s posh zoning basically.

It just provides a little separation between the kitchen/diner and the living room and, if you look closely, allows the placement of a piece of furniture – in this case a vintage bench – in front of the glass wall that wouldn’t quite work if the wall wasn’t there. In a bigger room you could stick another armchair there.

Upstairs for some clever bedroom ideas. Now I know we have spoken about the death of the feature wall – well all right – I have. But it’s about new ways of doing it. This is brilliant for a bedroom. One fully papered wall might look old-fashioned, but a single panel (or maybe two) masquerading as a headboard is brilliant. If you want somewhere soft to rest your head add another pillow for late night reading.

This also works in a small room where a full wall, or walls, may be overwhelming as someone mentioned last week. You could try this as a panel behind a sofa too or just in alcoves behind shelves if you wanted to do this downstairs. Also, cheaper as you will use much less so you can perhaps push the boat out when it comes to the paper.

This is a proper romantic bedroom isn’t it? I’ve never been one for a four poster, but if this was your holiday home it would be lovely to occasionally sleep under a soft fluffy white cloud that was in no danger of raining on you. On a more prosaic note, the dark padded headboard and cast iron fireplace stop this room being too sugary and frothy.

Now there’s been a lot of talk recently about painted ceilings. Apparently the searches on Pinterest for this look are massive and it’s being talked up as the trend for 2018 – painting the fifth wall. I’m not going to get into a discussion about trends here – we can do that next week if you like – but it works brilliantly in this bathroom don’t you think? It’s all just a bit more considered and interesting than a plain white ceiling.

And while I’m looking at it why haven’t I got a black showerhead? I redid my bathroom last year, grumbled about not being able to afford brass and reverted to chrome. But the thing about black is you can add what you can afford because it won’t fight with the chrome in the way that brass will so you don’t have to worry about just doing the shower or just the basins.

Right come on, we’re going to Watford and that’s not a sentence you hear very often. This is the Sugden House, designed by the British architects Alison and Peter Smithson, whose work was associated with the new Brutalism of the 50s and 60s and who are, these days,  perhaps mostly known for the much loved Robin Hood Gardens housing complex in East London. Built in the 1970s it was the subject of a fierce battle for preservation with its fans fighting desperately for it to be listed. After years of protests, demolition eventually began last summer.

This is one of their domestic projects (there weren’t many) and was built in 1955 by the couple who have since been described as one of the most influential [architects] of the post-war period. This one is listed and is on the market with The Modern House for offers over £1,000,000.

Now at first sight it’s a complete contrast to the cottage above but look closely and there are similarities. This is definitely broken-plan. The living space is effectively one large room but the staircase works to divide living from dining without the need for solid walls and the kitchen is behind that wall of cupboards with a gap between the top and the bottom units.

This is a social house. The cook needn’t feel cut off from those sitting at the table and anyone on the sofa can also join in the conversation. It’s not a house for one person watching television and another listening to music but there’s a bedroom/study off the kitchen if anyone wanted to have their own space to make their own noise.

The ceiling below is another feature. Not painted but panelled as was common in this period. It helps with insulation as well as being decorative and it goes perfectly with the door and wooden furniture meaning that the walls can be left plain as there is enough going on elsewhere.

The other joy of houses built in this period of course, and I was with a client in hers a couple of days ago is that they are well-built with square rooms, which are easy to furnish – no awkward corners here – and have large windows which allow the light to flood in. These houses were vilified for a time – in the way that we often turn against the thing that went immediately before – but it’s good to see them coming back into favour.

Right who’s buying which one. I quite fancy both again. You?




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  • Tim 3rd August 2018 at 8:39 am

    Love the Cornish cottage – just lush! But couldn’t deal with all that fluffy stuff over the bed. Everything else is perfect.

  • JC 2nd February 2018 at 10:43 pm

    There are some lovely elements in the first one, and I have even thought about dividing the lounge and kitchen area the same way. That idea of using wallpaper as a headboard is really interesting! However, I prefer house number 2 for it’s structural integrity and use of materials. The concept of broken plan and zoning in a domestic space were so ahead of its time.

  • Jennifer 2nd February 2018 at 3:46 pm

    The first one, the Mousehole cottage is so appealing. I have already moved myself in! Now, what to do with the rest of my day!

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 2nd February 2018 at 5:31 pm

      That’s hilarious – you better buy some more mugs as we’re all coming round for coffee. And biscuits.

  • Ardith 2nd February 2018 at 2:53 pm

    I’ll take both properties, as is, thank you. The black shower hardware is beautiful, but here with our heavy mineral water it would be a bear to keep beautiful. Happy weekend, all.

  • Anne Brown 2nd February 2018 at 10:40 am

    What an interesting post. To comply with your central premise, ie which house would we choose, well, both are great, but for me it’s the Sugden House which wins hands-down. The history of the house – not only the Smithsons’ involvement, but also that of the Sugdens who obviously loved it, it’s pared-down integrity, etc, etc, I could go on …
    So, a big thank you Kate for providing the inspiration. I have spent half the morning researching the Smithsons and Sugdens and their place in architectural history – absolutely fascinating !

  • DD 2nd February 2018 at 10:16 am

    I’ll take house number two please, space, light storage, and enough retro chic without it being cheesy. Top drawer. Id like the Cornish gaff for the weekends too, if you insist, but Id have to rough-up the bedroom and remove those fluffy “clouds” .

  • Harriet 2nd February 2018 at 10:05 am

    Ooh the first one. Funnily enough I was on hols just a couple of miles away from Mousehole last month. Gorgeously quirky place. And they haven’t done up the garden so it would give me something to do. Love the wallpaper panel idea and the room divider and the generous sized bathroom. Looks as if we’re all going to be fighting over this one!

  • Sally 2nd February 2018 at 9:17 am

    The first definitely! I’m not usually a cottage person, but I love the way they’ve made it so light and cotemporary. Not sure about the ‘romantic’ bedroom tho! Do like the wallpaper panel as an alternative headboard and the glass room divided is something I’ve thought of doing in our open plan space too( instead have used different colour paint to make it look less like one huge room) I want a black shower head! And black taps!
    Referring to yesterday’s post about the Rowen and Wren bathroom accessories, have found some lovely metal shelves on Cox and Cox( black and brass) for just £25! Have ordered 2 for my herbs to have next to cooker( the black ones) bargain’

  • Our French Oasis 2nd February 2018 at 9:12 am

    Oooh, pure eye candy this morning. I’ll take the cornish cottage, a perfect bolthole. Now you’ve got me thinking about black shower fittings and painted ceilings! Have a great weekend.

  • nvrm 2nd February 2018 at 7:43 am

    Both, if I were allowed to paint over that paneled ceiling in the second one. If not, just the first one.

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