Cornwall | Modernism By The Sea


ecomodernstudios has had a bit of a break this year thanks to a certain little bundle (seen on the giant puff below!). It’s good to be back though and to share this beautiful escape we had with family at Praa Sands in Cornwall recently in a few snapshots.


The house was designed by Alex Michaelis and is the Cornish Escape of this architect who is responsible for designing the interiors for Battersea Power Station amongst other high profile¬†projects. It’s a two storey house with a grass roof tucked in against the naturally sloping site so its hardly visible from the road (read: track) and just 30m from a small cliff onto the beach!


The open plan downstairs consists of essentially one huge room facing the sea. Enormously light with glazing both sides and off it are practical little offshoots – a playroom to the back which leads onto the bunk room for kids with a hot tub just outside. At the front of the house there’s a utility room and shower which has an external door to it so its perfect when you come in from tumbling around in the surf ¬†(yes we did despite it being November… Catching waves followed by a shower overlooking the beach and then straight in the hot-tub is a ridiculous luxury I won’t forget in a hurry).

IMG_9056Upstairs via a sinewy staircase and soft plastered walls it consists of three modest double bedrooms and ensuites – all with roll top baths overlooking the sea (and to my initial horror – no curtains or blinds in the bathrooms!). The connection to the sea and sky is mesmerising though and was soothing and energising in equal measure. I figured the surfers had enough to worry about with the swirls without peeping into our bathroom…


By the entrance the upstairs overhangs the downstairs to create a sheltered veranda which (naturally) houses a pingpong table! Sounds a bit crazy but actually when you’re waiting for people to get ready you can sneak in a game or two so it’s just another playful element bought into daily life in an imaginative (and totally attainable) way. The architect uses the veranda for sheltering when doing BBQs in the inevitable British weather and for drying out wetsuits etc to extend the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. It’s such an achingly well-designed house for holidaying in. The light, simplicity and sheer ability to let the building do the talking rather than beautifully styled ‘stuff’ was a good reminder that paring things back and keeping to a few select finishes really makes the space work in a non pretentious way. You can just focus on that view, on living life simply.


Since returning from the holiday I immediately googled the architect more and I love his ambition with projects which are both commercial and charitable to help root his feet on the ground and not get ‘lost’ as to what design is really about (it’s no surprise he’s a fan of Le Corbusier). There’s a short video interview on Nowness which we found really interesting and hope you might too. His West London home includes fireman poles and slides on every staircase… as a nation I think we can get too caught up in the resale potential rather than making the best little creative and nurturing nest for ourselves… This holiday home won’t last forever, at some point the cliff will probably collapse and the house will be lost, and instead of fighting that the architect has embraced it to make a playful experimental holiday home which soaks up the whole reason for the building being there – the connection with the outdoors – the sea, the sky, the birds, the surfers, the dog walkers… And damn, for those 30-40 years there’s going to be a lot of living and memory making. A lesson in living for the moment if ever there was one.

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