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Seacombe, East Portlemouth

This place takes your breath away. We've only been here a few days, and we're already planning our second visit. The building is an RIBA regional award winner, with the most incredible ocean view. The design is contemporary (and very clever) but without being pretentious... It takes full advantage of the natural light and surrounding views. I have zero criticisms here, this place is perfect... Massive credit to the architect and the owners. - Guest

New dwelling – Seacombe is a series of revelations. The house’s modern design creates an atmosphere of light and space. Huge windows and glazed balconies give stunning sea views.

The site was contentious being in an AONB and surrounded by National Trust land so, in order to reduce the impact of a two-storey replacement to the existing bungalow, it was repositioning further back on the site and the ground floor was excavated into the bank. From the north and west, it appears as if the building is of only one storey. The building is further obscured from the north by the garage. The boundary bank continues over the grass roof of the garage so the house only come into view from the track near the entrance gate.

It is only once you have entered the building (on the first floor) that the extent of the dwelling becomes apparent. The first floor provides three bedrooms (two ensuite) and a communal bathroom, which take full advantage of the elevated south facing view. The two main bedrooms both have balconies which provide sheltered external areas as well as helping to reduce the apparent weight of the first floor. The ground floor, recessed from the first, opens up to the existing but enlarged split-level garden area. A cinema is accessed through a bookcase door. The plan allows flexible living areas.

The materials are in sympathy with the site. The ground floor is embedded in the bank and is therefore solid rendered masonry, whereas the first floor is timber-framed with untreated cedar cladding, giving a lighter feel. The large glazed areas are largely restricted to the south facing façade. Zinc has been chosen for the roof as it allows a low pitch, is durable and weathers to an inconspicuous matt grey.

The dwelling has many sustainable environmental credentials:

  • The walling stone employed was excavated from site.
  • Ground source heating is employed for the underfloor heating.
  • A ventilation heat exchange is incorporated to provide clean warm air throughout the dwelling.
  • The oversailing roof provides solar shading in summer yet still allows beneficial solar gain in winter.
  • The ground floor is largely underground so provides a regulating all year round temperature.
  • The timber first floor and roof are heavily insulated – well beyond that required by building regulations.
  • The garage roof is planted with indigenous plants.
  • The foul and storm water drainage is treated on site.

The procurement was through direct labour and specialist sub-contractors.

The dwelling won a number of awards: RIBA Arnold Sayers Housing Award 2009; RIBA Town and Country Design Award 2009 – Sustainability Award; and the Overall Winner of 2008 Daily Telegraph and Homebuilding + Renovation Awards 2008.