A Seaside Sanctuary

PUBLISHED: 15:27 03 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

Truro

Truro

In this April issue we explore a sunny and sustainable family home in Perranuthnoe. With timber walls, a multitude of windows, a balcony at its centre and a pointed natural slate roof in the shape of a ship's bow, Carn Perran has a distinctive des...

Rebecca Matthews explores a sunny and sustainable family home in Perranuthnoe. With timber walls, a multitude of windows, a balcony at its centre and a pointed natural slate roof in the shape of a ship's bow, Carn Perran has a distinctive design. The finest natural materials ensure this award-winning example of contemporary architecture sits comfortably within the coastal location from which it takes its inspiration

On the outskirts of the west Cornwall village of Perranuthnoe, a short distance along a winding lane and past a cluster of cottages, is a remarkable property that cannot fail to catch your eye. With timber walls, a multitude of windows, a balcony at its centre and a pointed natural slate roof in the shape of a ship's bow, Carn Perran has a distinctive design. The finest natural materials ensure this award-winning example of contemporary architecture sits comfortably within the coastal location from which it takes its inspiration.

Scientist and water engineer David Grey and his wife, Jane, spent many years searching for the ideal plot of land on which to build their dream home. Currently based abroad because of the nature of David's work, it was the couple's plan to create an idyllic setting in Jane's home county where they could spend their impending retirement. Then they found this sheltered south-facing spot in the charming village of Perranuthnoe, with sea views to the east, the small number of village dwellings and the country church to the south, and a sliver of Mount's Bay through the trees to the west.

Having spent many years researching ecological and sustainable building techniques during his travels across the world, David had developed a clear vision of the property he wished to build. The couple enlisted Barrie Briscoe of Arco Studios, Penzance, to design their home. The project was clearly a labour of love for Barrie, and he readily accepted David and Jane's suggestion that he and his wife, interior designer Petra Elkan, should take up residence at Carn Perran while David sees out his work commitments overseas.

"This is the first property I have designed which I've actually lived in," Barrie comments, and he seems to be enjoying every moment of life in Carn Perran. "The house uses natural materials in a contemporary way," he adds. Foremost it is a light, airy and atmospheric home.

After taking approximately a year to build, the house was officially completed last September, although Barry and Petra are still adding some finishing touches. "It's an ongoing process," comments Barry. "I'm planning to have a porch built at the entrance and there are some furnishings still to be made." Meanwhile, Petra has commissioned some grey-and-blue-toned sofa covers for the living area which will complement the slate flooring. Despite its recent completion, the property has already received a Special Commendation in the Cornish Buildings Group 2006 Award.

The same stone and slate paving is used in both the house and the garden. A stone wall encloses a two-tiered garden and a rectangular pond is framed with slate. A sycamore tree and apple trees add dimension to this sheltered suntrap. From outside, the property has a nautical feel with its pointed bow-like roof and pine walls, which are heat-treated to ensure maintenance is kept to a minimum.

On stepping inside, what is initially striking is the abundance of glass. The house is bathed in natural sunlight from the panels that run along the central staircase and its numerous windows with panoramic views of the coast, and the top floor has an open-plan living space. A balcony sits between the kitchen and the lounge area, creating an outdoor room. "This will be the perfect spot for barbecues in the summer," says Petra. The balcony creates a sheltered veranda below, perfectly positioned for shade from the midday sun during the warmer months.

The colour scheme is light and neutral, the white-washed timber of the walls complement the ash wood furnishings and finishes, which have been treated with a clear varnish to maintain their light colour. The ceilings are high and a series of skylights invites in more sunshine that filters down to the lower floors. The slate flooring is warmed by underfloor heating, a rug of deep reds and bright yellows lends a vivid contrast to the floor's natural grey tones. An ash table that can seat up to 14 overlooks views of the garden and the sea - a better setting for a dinner party would be hard to find. The kitchen area looks out onto Perranuthnoe's coastline and is ideally positioned to check out the surf. "David wanted a homemade feel to the kitchen units," explains Barry. A mosaic of soft- and navy-blue ceramic tiles complements the pale ash wood of these rustic units.

Barrie's artistic contribution doesn't end at the building design: he designed a stained-glass window, which adds a bold splash of colour to the whitewashed walls, while the paintings, many of which are vibrant expressions of landscape, are also Barrie's handiwork.

The size of the property is deceptive as you wind your way along the lower floors. A study, utility room, cloakroom and garage are tucked away along the halls of Carn Perran, in addition to the four bedrooms, three of which have en-suite bathrooms.

The light neutral tones of the open-plan space continue on the lower levels. The lower ground floor was designed with David and Jane's adult daughters in mind. Cut into the rock beneath the house, this floor exudes an apartment-like feel, with two bedrooms and a separate entrance that opens onto the lower tier of the garden, enabling their daughters and guests to have their own access.

In the master bedroom, the curved west-facing side of the room is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows which overlook the garden, enhancing the room's airiness. It is simply furnished and decorated. The en-suite bathroom is modern and cleverly designed to maximise the space available, with an open shower tucked into the wall.

This spacious and sunny home employs a range of ecologically sound features. The house is designed to absorb natural heat and retain and release it as necessary. The lower walls are built of high-density insulation block, and the upper floor is timber-framed with three times the level of insulation of an ordinary house. A duct removes the hot, damp air from the upper level, utility room and bathrooms and transfers the heat to fresh, dry air from outside, which is circulated in the bedrooms: the air changes every two hours during normal operation.

The hot water for washing and heating is provided by a ground-source heat pump serviced by a borehole under the garage. Every sustainable feature has been considered to make this an energy-efficient property. From the heating system, the level of insulation and airtightness right down to the low-energy light bulbs, these factors serve to cut the average energy bill by approximately two-thirds.

With its blend of beachside chic and laid-back ambience, Carn Perran is a secluded and beautifully peaceful spot to sit back and watch the day slip by - clear proof, if ever I saw it, that a sustainable building can be remarkably stylish.

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