Life on the edge certainly has its advantages – great views, stunning light and a chance to switch off from the world. CHRISSY HARRIS rounds up some amazing coastal homes.
Eagle Rock, Morvern, Argyll
Perched high on a peninsular in the West Highlands of Scotland, Eagle Rock manages to hide in plain sight. The moss sedum roof and low-lying aspect allow this dramatic building to blend into the equally dramatic landscape.
The oak-framed house with 20-mile panoramic views from every room was designed by its owners, architect Roderick James and interior designer wife Amanda Markham. The couple wanted to create a family home in this remote part of the world without leaving too much of a footprint behind.
Eagle Rock is extremely energy efficient, thanks to its 450mm recycled newspaper insulation, 15kW ground mounted electricity panels, triple glazing and air source heat pump.
“It costs us nothing to run,” says Roderick, who spends as much time as he can in his home, which overlooks the Sound of Mull. “We love it here,” he adds. “There’s just this fantastic light that bounces off the water and glints on the ceiling.
“The view is continually changing and the wildlife you can see is incredible – golden eagles, sea eagles, pine marten, wildcats – it’s an extraordinary location.”
Eagle Rock was completed in 2015 and is part of a series of homes Roderick James Architects have designed and built in this area of Argyll. More than 20 unique properties – including a curvy, capsule-style home, called AirShip – have been created here since 2002.
Hawk House, near Hope Cove, Devon
Fi and Matt Velarde bought a house on a plot of land on the South Devon coast back in 2005 and decided to do a ‘Grand Designs’ on it. The couple were living in a Victorian mid-terrace up country and liked the idea of creating a spacious seaside home that was bathed in light all year round.
Fi and Matt, who have six children between them, three grandchildren and two more on the way, say Hawk House has become part of the fabric of family life, with endless summers and plenty of winter weekends spent together in their timber-framed Devon home.
“We’ve got family in Scotland, London and elsewhere and what’s so lovely is that the house is a great base for everybody,” says Fi, an artist. “The views, the open space, the quietness, it’s just amazing and I love watching the wildlife. We’ve got three deer that live nearby. There are badgers and hares, stoats, buzzards and all sorts of other birds.”
“The views are terrific,” says Matt, a landscape photographer. “And not just on a sunny day. Because we are facing the South West, you can see the storms come in tearing up the hill. It’s a bit like being in a lighthouse sometimes.”
To add to the all-weather appeal, the couple recently added a stylish outbuilding, complete with woodburning stove. “When it rains, we’re all sat in there,” says Matt. “It’s ideal”.
Fi and Matt are now busy putting the final touches to their latest project – a new contemporary art gallery, sculpture garden and boutique apartments in the nearby town of Kingsbridge. It’s been a full-on couple of years. Even more reason to make the most of being in their coastal home. velarde.co.uk
Tregosse, Tintagel, Cornwall
Buying agent Clare Coode had a tough brief. She was asked by a couple to find a three- to four-bedroomed house in Cornwall where they could spend time with their children and grandchildren. Ideally, the house would have sea views and not much else around in a spot that was close enough to the action in Rock and Polzeath, but not too near the hustle and bustle.
Clare, who works for Stacks Cornwall, found out about a house available privately with JB Estates that was just about to hit the market.
“The couple went to see it for the first time on December 23, 2021, and said yes on the same day,” says Clare who knew right away that this handsome house on the clifftops of Trebarwith Stand was an ideal fit. “It was just this lovely, comfortable, family home.”
Much work has gone into reviving and renovating Tregosse since it was bought. The house had been used as a holiday let by the previous owners and everything was lovely but slightly tired inside. Local interior designer Lucy Orr was drafted in to transform each of the rooms, bringing in soothing blues and soft earthy tones to match Tregosse’s air of calmness.
“The house has got this most amazing feeling of being just this lovely, warm and welcoming home,” says Clare. The owners have since told her that all the stresses of the nine-month renovation project melt away as soon as they arrive through the door. “That’s wonderful to know,” says Clare. “It means we hit the brief.”
Tregosse is available for select holiday bookings via Boutique Retreats. boutique-retreats.co.uk
Cefn Castell, Gwynedd, Wales
Life imitates art here in a striking, linear building that could hardly be more pleasing on the eye. The view’s not bad, either. Cefn Castell sits in a blissfully remote spot in North Wales, overlooking Cardigan Bay.
Owners Rob Hodgson and Kay Ralph wanted to maximise this special location in a house that would reflect their love of art and sculpture, particularly the work of Dutch-born painter Piet Mondrian.
“We put a lot of effort into trying to find an architect who got what we wanted to do,” says Rob, who struck lucky with Manchester-based Stephenson Studio. “The architect John Boardman completely got us” adds Rob, explaining that this was all new territory for the couple. In 2013, they spent more than a year trying to buy a nearby house, but the sale fell through. Then Kay came across a clifftop plot of land with a derelict 400-year-old cottage on site.
“We went to see it and thought, we could build a new house here instead,” says Rob. “It was completely random and wasn’t part of our plan at all until that day.”
The project to build Cefn Castell featured in Channel Four’s Grand Designs, attracting more widespread interest when it was finally completed in 2014. The house has also appeared in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity and has won some top regional architectural awards, including Building Control prize for best new house in Gwynedd and the Royal Society of Welsh Architects Award for best new build of the year. These days, however, Rob and Kay are just happy to sit back and take in the view.
“We were exhausted by the end of the build,” says Rob, describing the added pressure of filming schedules and production deadlines. “You get completely caught up in the mania of it. It took a couple of years for us to really enjoy it.” Cefn Castell is now available on Airbnb.
Thiseldo, Hayle Towans, Cornwall
The term a ‘labour of love’ doesn’t seem to cut it when it comes to describing what it took to restore a cliffside chalet above Hayle beach in Cornwall. Chelsie Hoxby is breezily taking me through the highlights of a project that would take most people years to recover from. Halfway through describing the challenges – the strictest of planning restrictions, finding out the original 1930s building was condemned, building on a sand dune, going considerably over budget, small children to look after and a round of covid – I realise I’ve got my head in my hands.
“It was blood, sweat and tears but we got so much out of it – it was totally worth it,” says Chelsie, who can now sit back and appreciate what it took to transform a ‘little old plastic cabin’ into a clean, modern beachside retreat. “We do sit there and feel proud of ourselves, especially after coming through such a difficult process.”
Thiseldo is a tribute to the chalet’s heritage when it started life in the 1920s as a disused train carriage. It was put on this idyllic spot in Riviere Towans holiday park after the original owners, quite rightly, decided, ‘this will do’. It’s thought the train carriage eventually developed into a cabin that stood here for decades but it had had fallen into deep disrepair by the time Chelsie and Gary came across it, just over two years ago. They were looking for a holiday home for their family that they hoped to share.
The couple drafted in Truro-based CSA Architects, who helped them to create a contemporary building with natural tones and dark shades lass that blended in with the surroundings. Because it’s on the edge of a holiday park, the chalet was subject to tightly controlled planning restrictions and building work was limited to just a few months of the year, between November and Easter.
“We ended up with decision fatigue,” says Chelsie, adding that they also felt the pressure to get this exactly right for the sake of the landscape and the chalet’s heritage. Timeless materials have been used, both inside and out to make sure Thiseldo is fit for future generations. “During demolition, we found newspapers dating back to 1938 in the walls,” adds Chelsie. “We framed them and hung them in the new chalet.”
Chelsie says she’s been in touch with the family of the building’s previous owners, as well as previous guests who are keen to come and stay in the new and much-improved Chalet Thiseldo.
The Penthouse, Gurnard, Isle of Wight
“All you see is sea,” says Liz Bryson, explaining the conversation-stopper of a view from their apartment in this village near Cowes on the Isle of Wight. “People walk in and just say, wow…”.
The Penthouse is the top spot in a luxurious development, built in 2014 and designed to maximise the outlook over the north-west coast of the island. Liz and Marcus, who are both from the Isle of Wight but live on the mainland, have been here from the beginning, buying their apartment from new to use as a holiday home to escape to whenever they could.
“You do just completely switch off there,” says Liz. ‘It’s so beautiful, almost theatrical. Gurnard is renowned for its amazing sunsets. The light and the water, it’s really special.”
The Penthouse came as a bit of a blank canvas and the couple have worked hard to make the apartment feel like a home from home. Liz and Marcus spend most of their time in the open-plan living area or wrap-around balcony, mostly gazing out to sea.
“Being in the big sitting room is great, whatever the time of year,” says Liz. “It’s at the centre of the whole apartment and is so light and bright.”
Rather reluctantly, Liz and Marcus have decided to sell The Penthouse because they aren’t able to come here as much as they’d like. The couple say the time is right to let someone else enjoy the view.
“We’ll miss it, of course we will,” says Liz. “But it’ll be good to know that someone else will be able to appreciate it as much as we have.” mccarthyandbooker.co.uk
Seabreeze, Camber, East Sussex
This is a beach house, but not as you know it. Seabreeze is a modern take on a seaside classic and designed to withstand everything our Great British coast can throw at it.
“It’s like a cocoon, once you’re inside,” says owner Sophie Stevens. “It’s so well insulated. The wind could be howling outside but as soon as you close the door, everything is completely still. Even the sound the door makes when it shuts is soft, like a vacuum seal!”
Sophie and her family had spent many happy holidays at Camber Sands before the chance came to buy their own slice of beachside heaven. They bought Seabreeze in 2017 and put up with the rain coming in through the windows etc for a while before deciding to have a rethink. Rob Pollard from RX Architects, based in Rye, managed to persuade them to start again.
“We realised we could actually build our dream house by the beach,” says Sophie. “So that’s what we did!”
RX Architects recognised that they would have to design a robust building to cope with the extreme weather conditions. They chose a simple shape, reminiscent of a child’s drawing of a house. And coloured it in pink (well, trowelled micro-fibre concrete with a pink pigment, actually).
Seabreeze won the South East Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Regional Award 2022 and is part of the coastal landscape at Camber. But to Sophie, it’s simply home. She occasionally works abroad but loves returning to the UK to stay in her beach house with her family.
“For me, it’s just a complete escape,” she says, adding that there’s no road access – you have to 4X4 it along the beach. “The air there, the peace, it’s the perfect place to blow the cobwebs away. You feel at one with nature and everything around you because you’re so close to the sea. We love it.”