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Mad About . . .

The Househunter: Blending inside and outside

18th June 2021
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I was going to show you something else this week – something instantly more classically (and perhaps universally) appealing and then I thought this might be more useful. Not least because one of the most searched pieces on the blog over the last (nearly) 10 years (after how to choose grey paint – still going strong that one) is should I put curtains on my bifold doors. And lo, this house is full of them so I thought it was worth sharing.

It’s a “single-storey three bedroom modern house” in Cuddington, Berkshire, (about an hour from Oxford) that is on the market with, er, The Modern House for £950,000. It’s around 2,000 sq ft (185m2) made up of sliding glass walls so the inside and outside blend seamlessly. (Note also how the word bungalow hasn’t been used… we talk about single storey now).

But the acclaimed architect Peter Aldington hasn’t lost sight of the fact that it’s in the UK and that not all our days are cloudless blue skies, or even cloudy blue skies come to that, so there are curtains to pull across all these glass walls meaning this house will be cosy in winter as well as in the evenings when you might feel as if you were living in a goldfish bowl without them.

So for all those people who have been wondering about whether you can have curtains on your bifold doors you can study these images and see that you can indeed. These look to have been fitting on a ceiling track which, if your bifolds go all the way up to the ceiling as many do meaning there is no space at the top for a traditional pole, is the best/only solution.

And don’t forget that you will need space for them to pull back, either at the sides or at points in the middle depending on how many doors or panels you have. I would suggest a fairly light fabric (with a lining) so they’re not too bulky when open, or you’ll end up cutting out half the light you paid so much to enhance with your windows.

The kitchen is at one end and goes the full width of the house with a fireplace that is open on both sides in the middle dividing it from the living room. I like the idea of a white minimal kitchen but I’m pretty sure I would have painted it within a few weeks of moving in. It’s so close to the outside I feel it should be green.

Note also the drawers – so much easier to see what’s going on than bending down to ferret about at the back of cupboards. We have a mix of doors and drawers and honestly if I go again I’m going full drawer.

Here you can see how a little utility room leads off the kitchen. This is the dream for many but very few of us actually manage to find the space. I have spoken before about finding room for an ensuite – as adults we need less bedroom space, so rather than install a cramped shower room consider making the bedroom smaller. You can install a shower room with 1m depth and 3m across so if your bedroom is rectangular you might be able to shave a metre off one end. Put a  standard shower tray (around 80cm wide) at one side, the loo on the other and the basin in the middle so you see that when the door is open and not the loo. Finally add sliding doors to save space – which they haven’t done with this utility room I note although they could have.

You can get away with slightly less than 3m but I’m thinking roughly a metre for the loo, a metre for the basin and a metre for the shower – work out your own measurements and see. Obviously if you have more you will have more room either side of the basin or even space for two. The point of putting the basin in the middle is that that is what you will see when the door is open rather than the shower or loo so it’s prettier.

If there is no natural light then consider making the top of the walls glass to borrow light from the rest of the room. Again, no need for a utility room but good for a shower room.

Back to the kitchen and this shot shows you have the owners have carried on the line of units to create an outdoor kitchen. I first saw this done by the minimal architect John Pawson and it’s a trick that has been widely copied but it works brilliantly if you have bifold doors or glass walls in your kitchen as it tricks the eye into thinking the kitchen is bigger than it is.

Here’s a shot of those curtains which puddle down to the floor creating a luxurious look and also softening all the clean lines of this modern building. The fireplace chimney screens the two ends of the room so they become broken plan rather than open plan – allowing the light to pass from one end to the other but giving a little more separation between the two spaces.

This room is the snug and has been decorated as such with darker curtains and warmer, deep colours in the furniture. The shelves of pictures add decor but allow the look to be easily changed. So often modern houses are filled with new, modern furniture and it can be hard to bring a sense of character but this room feels both warm and comfortable and has personality.

Back to the main living space and the plants by the fire and on the coffee table serve to emphasise the link between inside and out as do all the pots on the terrace outside. I have to say I’m so pleased this isn’t floored with giant tiles inside which you so often see in new builds and which, I feel, is cold and unwelcoming in the UK climate. The wooden boards tie in perfectly well with the outside paving as you can see below and the whole effect is much warmer than shiny ceramic tiles would be.

Outside you can see the overhang which provides shade inside and shelter outside. So who’s in? I think this is rather fabulous and once I’ve painted the kitchen green and bought a few more vintage rugs I’m all set.

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  • Cathryn 18th June 2021 at 4:53 pm

    I just returned from holiday in east Devon staying in a modern place with echoes of this. Single storey, flat roof, wooden floorboards, open plan kitchen/sitting room/dining room. Sliding glass doors along one and a half walls, wrap-around decking under an overhang. Looking out on a fabulous garden with pond and fruit trees, mostly to lawn, maintained by daily lawn robot (there’s your garden upkeep sorted) , East Devon fields and valleys beyond. Bedrooms with en-suites (but proper doors separating, so separate rooms really, which is so much more correct!) running off the main room. Proper front door and hallway separated by a door and wall from the living space, utility room, boiler, storage, laundry maid and extra lav running off the hallway – great for when you bring the dogs in and you don’t want to bring the outside in.

    So many good ideas that we are thinking about building something similar for our next place. 10 foot high ceilings and lots of wall lights rather than spots everywhere. Skylight in the kitchen area and good lighting under cupboards, inside glass-fronted wall units. Not so much glass that you feel you’re living in a fishbowl, and the glass walls were east and north facing so you don’t swelter and bake. They used venetian blinds rather than curtains, but I think I’d opt for curtains (again, more manageable where you haven’t surrounded yourself so excessively by windows). They also had put a recessed fireplace in a wall to ceiling chimney thingy – I like the idea here of using it to break up the living and dining/kitchen area. They (holiday place) had also created a nook above the fireplace for the telly. In my own place, I will have a separate snug room for telly watching.

    I’m not sure I’m yet ready for permanent bungalow, more open-plan living. But I think it will be a good option for our, ahem, third act.

  • Leslie-Anne 18th June 2021 at 4:48 pm

    This house seems very cosy and private and I like that. I also really like the fireplace.

  • Elle 18th June 2021 at 11:20 am

    Love a bungalow or ‘single storey’ house and this one is gorgeous! Thank you Kate

  • Mela 18th June 2021 at 10:16 am

    This place feels very familiar to me – I’m Australian so it’s pretty much what you see everywhere! But there’s a reason – because it works! Looks good! When I post here I realise I must really love exclamation marks! Apologies! I could live here easy-peasy – though I do love (prefer?) a place with character. Probably because it’s so lacking back in Oz!* Old buildings – pah! *my opinion!

    • Mela 18th June 2021 at 10:18 am

      Also this overhang – while practical when it pours with rain – in Oz it’s also to stop the blinding sun from overheating the house. Here it would do the opposite wouldn’t it? Block that much-needed sunshine… when it’s out anyway !

  • Bridget Whelan 18th June 2021 at 10:08 am

    Oh no! If you were facing the sea – or any stretch of water – then perhaps, or in the Peak district or the South Downs where nature offers beauty and a constant source of interest, but this is sunk into a suburban garden, so on top of everything else some of your sky is stolen…
    And this is a house that’s all about work. You look out at the weeds that need to be uprooted, the grass cut, and when you’re in the garden you look back at the forgotten coffee cup, the white wall that’s started to yellow, the window that needs wiping down. There’s no escape from it.
    And let’s be honest. This is an ugly house. No one’s heart sang as they turned a corner and saw it…

    • Mela 18th June 2021 at 10:17 am

      Ha!

  • Enid Thompson 18th June 2021 at 9:55 am

    From the viewpoint of an 80-odd year old, very suitable for elderly residents. Once you have decanted all the sentimental family belongings and do not need to find space for hobby equipment/outdoor gear/books galore/etc. Your mention of the noted architect suggests this single storey home perhaps designed for adapting to limited mobility/visual restriction in older-age. I feel the lightness and brightness would then be welcome. Fortunately I haven’t reached that point where I can discard the personal and characterful extras that define one’s life story, and form the backdrop to ongoing activity, whether it be files of research into family history, maps and reference material, or just wellies and weatherproof clothing for a fickle climate in the northern reaches of the UK. I did resort to curtains to shut out the dark days of long winters and they do puddle on the floor, sensibly dark and un-shiny, when the outside is often brought inside from unpaved surfaces in a bucolic setting. Homes depend upon their setting and their suitability for current walks of life. Good to see how this can be resolved without losing comforting style.

  • Jane Dale 18th June 2021 at 8:48 am

    With respect, as a garden lover……plants by the fire?

    • KittyT 18th June 2021 at 11:01 am

      It’s for the summer!

      • Jane Dale 19th June 2021 at 9:11 am

        Point taken! Just too literal I guess LOL

  • Val 18th June 2021 at 8:10 am

    Curtains and bifold doors – absolutely – when you live in your son’s garden! Privacy from family, teenagers and neighbours…works perfectly. Pics to follow!

  • Lesley Keir 18th June 2021 at 7:34 am

    The fireplace idea in this property is a knock-out. So simple; so clever. Also love the shelves above the sofa with lots of “propped” artwork. Genius idea. You can easily change your artwork and mix and match. I do, hoevr, think they could have made more of the curtains.

  • Lenore Taylor 18th June 2021 at 7:20 am

    I’m in. It is purrfect, all but the puddled curtains. I never understood them. I want to pick them up and put them away. Cheers from Canada!

  • Pam 18th June 2021 at 7:20 am

    It’s in Bucks, not Berks! Near to Turn End which has the most amazing garden to visit.

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