A Devon couple scaled new heights to get their dream coastal home on the county’s sought-after coastline, reveals CAROL BURNS.
It has been five years in the making, but Greys is a stunning house on the South West Coast Path, and has become the perfect home for architect Julie-Ann Clements and husband Richard.
The couple already lived in the Devon village of Lympstone, and were looking for a home with a great view when they spotted a dilapidated bungalow on the market.
“We didn’t really want to leave the village, but we couldn’t find anything that was within the price range that we wanted,” says Julie-Ann. “We had come to the conclusion that we were going to need to move out of Lympstone in order to make enough money to be able to move back.”
After a few disappointments, Julie-Ann and Richard were the first to see an uninspiring bungalow in need of modernising in their home village. “It was quite dilapidated: the roof sagged and it wasn’t great in shape,” she admits.
But the couple discovered it had a secret attraction: a rooftop view of the estuary of the River Exe. “Because we had lived in Lympstone for a long time, we knew where the house was and potentially what was just above the eye line of the roof,” explains Julie. And so they tested out their theory by climbing up onto the roof when no one was looking.
“We love living by the coast,” says Julie-Ann. “The sense of openness – it’s hard to put into words really! Perhaps it’s the expanse of sky. You just don’t get that anywhere else – unless you’re in the middle of Dartmoor, for example.
“We love to be by the water and the east Devon coast has so much to offer. From beautiful serene walks to more adrenaline-fuel exploits like kite surfing!
The potential of the view made the sale, but the house itself would have to go. The bungalow was dismantled and partially knocked down to create a new two-storey house with an extended ground floor that houses three bedrooms. On the first floor, the open-plan living space and the kitchen are encased in floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside a partial wraparound deck sits beneath an overhanging roof to maximise the indoor/outdoor feel of the house.
“We have a huge amount of glazing that really brings the outside indoors…making the landscape part of the interior was essential to the calming and relaxing environment we wanted to create” adds Julie-Ann.
“I really love the big living area because it’s so light, and every single angle that you look out is like a completely different scene. In one direction is the river, then you turn about 45 degrees and see the hills and then if you go another 45 degrees you are looking out towards Woodbury Commons.
“It’s quite extraordinary and actually, I say this to people all the time, we only knew that we had the view of the river but the fact that we’ve got these other great views as well is a real bonus.
“Rich wanted to be able to sit inside but feel like he was outside which is why we’ve got the roof overhang and it offers shade because it faces south.”
A classic interior where the windows dominate is interspersed with original artwork, mostly bought from local galleries by artists similarly inspired by the sea. The walls and floors are kept a neutral pale to create as much lightness as possible.
Outside the house shouts modern. The exterior of the house is created from render board that allows the movement of the timber frame behind it. Part of the exterior of the house is covered in porcelain tiles. “The sort of thing you might expect to see in the bathroom,” adds Julie-Ann.
Alongside the tiled exterior, the house has a bespoke staircase that combines steel and poured concrete. And it also has a roof hole. “People ask: ‘what’s that for?’ and I can say ‘because it’s cool’. The hole creates an amazing shadow line that changes throughout the day.”
Julie-Ann says they immediately knew how the house was going to look. “Being an architect obviously, you’ve got a bit more vision than the average person,” she says. “I could visualise how it was going to look like right from the get-go.”
The couple has made provisions for old age in their new-look house. This includes a lift shaft so that a lift can be added to access the top floor when the owners are less mobile. The doorways are wide and a self-contained guest annexe in the garden has been earmarked as a potential home for a professional caregiver.
“It is designed around being able to stay here forever so long as we’ve got the means to be able to pay for somebody to look after us,” says Julie-Ann. This element was inspired by an elderly couple in a nearby house, who has live-in care.
“People will visit and say, ‘it’s really modern, but it’s really calming and relaxing, but I didn’t think it would be’. Ultimately, it’s not about what a house looks like, it is what it feels like and how we experience it.
“Seeing the water every day is a real privilege,” concludes Juie-Anne. “The varied senses we get to enjoy are amazing, be that because of the weather or the seasons or the wildlife. It’s just so rich and interesting. We don’t need a TV – we just look out of the window, and it feeds your soul.”
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