THE ULTIMATE BEACH HOUSE
PUBLISHED: 18:03 09 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:38 30 August 2017
Sennen Cove offers a slice of unspoilt Cornwall - and Gwel an Treth offers the perfect view
Jonathan Abdilla admits he was looking for something special when he bought a house in Cornwall – but at first he hadn’t intended to build it himself…
The first thing that strikes you when walking in to Gwel an Treth in Sennen Cove is the light. The second is the view. An uninterrupted panoramic of the famous cove in West Cornwall stretching across the beach at Sennen Cove, Gwenver and right down to Cape Cornwall draws you from the front door all the way through to the living area where a wall of window awaits.
Sitting on a 45 per cent gradient, the reverse layout makes the most of the views with the front door opening into the top floor and an open plan living space that rises to double height, complete with clever hidden storage (behind one sits a bar area with doors that disappear). The wood veneer on each door in this wall of hidden storage and the cupboards of the minimalist but beautifully designed kitchen are grain-matched offering a first clue to the incredibly high standards of the design. The house was designed by Truro-based Lawrence Associates and the interior by Costa Rican architect Jaime Rouillon.
The kitchen and a kitchen island lead to a contemporary take on a bay window – which the planners had insisted on to help link its design to the surrounding houses.
I hadn’t intended to build my own house,’ Jonathan admits. But I had a clear idea of what I was looking for and I couldn’t find it. The planning process took four years and two planning attempts. We were very constrained and at the time this wasn’t what I wanted.’
But he admits he now has a stunning house - one that he didn’t think he would ever afford to own. The first floor is about 75 per cent windows, Jonathan tells me, as we stand side by side looking out on to the view. I sit here every evening and I don’t want to move. I just sit here and read the paper. The light is incredible – the golden hour lasts for about four hours.’
Tearing my eyes away from the turquoise and navy waters washing their way onto the golden beach below, there are plenty of delights inside to be found. As you enter the house, a stunning wooden spiral staircase links the two floors and reflects the incredibly high production values of throughout the house, much of which has been created by Exeter’s Touch Design Group ().
I didn’t do anything with the interiors, I had an idea of an open plan layout,’ he says as he managed the build himself. We wanted an opulent take on a beach house. We wanted to keep it quite austere. I didn’t want glitzy; I wanted something very nice but relatively discreet, until you come in, it doesn’t shout too much. Everything is unique,’ he says. Or you won’t find it very easily.’
While everything seems to have been sourced from around the world, or created bespoke, there are touches of Cornwall everywhere – not just through the windows. Many of the paintings are by Barrie Cook, from the Lizard.
Following the curve of the bespoke stairs to the floor below the staircase offers up a secret space – one that younger visitors can often be found camped out in. Jonathan admits it is the second staircase that was put in as the first didn’t work – the attention to detail has paid off as the circular balustrade appears sculptural from the top floor.
The pieces of furniture have been carefully chosen and many have been sourced from around the world – as well as from classic designers. The large dining table surrounded by white Eames Eiffel chairs carries its own story as all good furniture should. The wood for this and the coffee table comes from the Guanacaste tree native to Costa Rica – where Jonathan currently work;. The tree is protected but after one fell naturally, he offered to buy the wood. There are a few other touches of Costa Rica - where he sourced his interior architect Jaime Rouillon., including vibrant textiles.
Downstairs the large hallway opens into four bedrooms – three facing out onto a terrace making the most of the views. The master suite has it all. The dressing area has the same grain matched wood, the master bathroom a stunning walnut vanity unit.
Back in the bedroom, the large bed faces the French windows and two soft white leather Eames recliner chairs sit at the perfect angle for watching the sun set over the water. Tan leather butterfly chairs serve a similar purpose in the adjoining bedroom which shares the view and its own access to the lower terrace.
The house is far from stark – there is a richness to the interiors – which Jonathan credits his girlfriend Ashley for creating. There is a smattering of colour throughout the house in pattered textiles; a bedroom designed with children in mind is dusted with primary colours – from the red and yellow poufs to the yellow painted vice that holds up the bedside table and the child-sized Eames rocker in red.
Jonathan admits his one desire for the interior was lots of wood, but the underheated stone floor avoids any log cabin effect. Instead the wooden doors sit in perfectly plastered white walls that are missing the skirting boards and door architraves that usually hide a multitude of joints – provide a further understated hint to the quality of the build.
The finished house is a long way from the simply constructed two-bedroom house which sat at the top of a wild and unlandscaped patch of land that Jonathan bought in 2006 for £450,000. The house was used by himself and family for many years, but he always saw the potential for development.
I never thought I would be able to afford it,’ he says of the house that he now owns. Originally trained as a chartered surveyor, Jonathan started his own business providing bird repellent solutions to companies which was incredible successful and he has branched out into development. Suddenly he could afford to rebuild the simple house.
The first order of business was to move the house further down the slope. He created a house that is near invisible from the street - freeing up the view for the houses behind it.
As always when self-building there are always surprises around the corner – the most memorable for Jonathan was the blue granite that proved almost impossible to break thorough – and delayed the building for some time. It is like iron,’ he explains. And there are also many retaining walls it needed teams of stonemasons. In the end the build took two-and-a-half years – but the house boasts 87 per cent on the eco-scale rating system and alongside foot-thick insulation and incredibly high specifications throughout the build – it means he can light the whole house for less electricity than it takes to boil a kettle.
On the terraces glass panels provide safety without interfering with the views. And the garden continues the giant steps down the sharp gradient, offering impeccable lawns perfect for sun lounging.
Some two-and-a-half years and £1.5million later and Jonathan has in incredible home - which was recently valued at almost £3 million.
It’s such a tranquil house; it’s meditative in a way – it’s just an incredibly relaxed setting.’
Gwel an Treth is available for rent when Jonathan is not living there through