Green and pleasant

PUBLISHED: 11:33 22 September 2015 | UPDATED: 11:33 22 September 2015




An architrect designed eco home tucked away between the A12 and the coast is a delightful find. Words and pictures: Tony Hall


Contrary to popular opinion, Suffolk is far from being flat. Large sections have gently rolling hills, and it is on one of these that award winning architect James Gorst has designed an interesting eco home for one of his clients.

From the outside the property resembles a cross between a barn and an agricultural building, blending into its rural surroundings.

Many years ago the owners used to rent holiday cottages around the Holkham area on the North Norfolk coast. Eventually, they decided to find one for themselves. The problem they faced, was most cottages were dark with small rooms and cost a fortune to renovate and enlarge.

As they were based in central London, they decided to extend their search into Suffolk, which is closer. They viewed several before a call came from a local estate agent saying they had received instructions on a pretty cottage, which might be of interest.


Built around 1921 the cottage was in the most delightful setting, two miles up a lane from the A12, but close to Walberswick and Southwold. The building was sweet, the location fantastic. But the cottage had a lot of asbestos in it and was built on brick pillars with no foundations. The answer seemed to be to replace the structure with a new building.

The family wishlist then became a reality – a large main living/dining room and kitchen, three bedrooms, family bathroom, cloakroom and en suite to the master bedroom. Most important was plenty of light, big windows to capture the countryside views, and an eco sustainable building that would fit into the landscape.

They turned to James, whose practice is in London, but who has a home in Framlingham. With his knowledge of the area, he would understand the rural setting and the challenges that might be involved.


Location, location

The original cottage ran parallel to the lane, but James sensibly suggested turning the new build through 90 degrees, taking full advantage of the sloping site.

“I designed this property so the building is aligned counter to the slope. By raising the living areas, it provides fantastic views over the surrounding fields and down to the water meadows. At the other end, the master bedroom is cut into the hillside, giving low views through the meadow grasses. In the middle of the house, it opens on to a paved and shaded area for al-fresco dining.”

The owners purchased the original cottage in 2006 and the new build, which took a year, was carried out by local builders Sprake and Tyrrell.

The owners – who are very protective of their privacy and prefer to remain anonymous – are delighted.

“What James has achieved is that feeling of bringing the outside in, so that the experience of living in the space feels as if you are a part of the countryside.

“Something everyone comments on is just how quiet and still it is here, considering the main road is just two miles away. Being a lane, we get very little traffic, other than a few farm tractors and the hill takes away any extraneous sounds. This means the surrounding land is a haven for wildlife. Guests and family alike often get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee, then rather than retreating back to their bedrooms, they perch on a window seat, or come out onto the patio with binoculars and just watch the countryside wake up with the dawn chorus.”

The main living areas have been specially designed, with lots of room for family and friends to gather. No matter where you sit, there is a window in your line of vision with those great views.

Self sufficient

The house has underfloor heating powered by ground source heat pumps, and is self sufficient thanks to having its own well supplying drinkable water. The large floor tiles were salvaged by Websters Reclaim at Walberswick from the Public Records Office in London. They have been used throughout the main areas, while the bedrooms have coir matting floors.

The kitchen’s centre island was designed by James, and the walls in the open plan living area are clad in oak veneer panels. All the bedrooms are very private, despite each having a big picture window.

One of the joys for the family when they’re living here is going to the market in Halesworth and to local shops to buy good food for meals. The grandchildren love the town’s toy shop.

The family loves to cook, buying local produce from Clarkes butchers, making a barbecue in the garden and entertaining friends.

For eating out, The Crown in Southwold is a firm favourite – good in winter, reading the newspapers and sitting by the fire with a drink. Two other favourites are The Sole Bay Fish Company on Southwold Harbour, where you can buy fresh fish and eat in the restaurant, and The Anchor in Walberswick for Friday curry night.

With the beach only 10 minutes drive away, they enjoy going for walks there, followed by Sunday brunch at the cafe at Darsham Nurseries.

But when they have all been their separate ways for a while, they love reuniting at Glen View. The peace, tranquility and pace of life is a great joy every time.

“We spend a lot of time just pottering in the garden and relaxing, feeling so at home with this fabulous location, great countryside and so many excellent facilities close by. We are all delighted to have our own place in Suffolk and it gives great pleasure to come and stay.”

You can also enjoy a holiday at Glen View, Thorington through Heritage Hideaways

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