Peter and Alison Dudgeon's glass house
PUBLISHED: 16:44 21 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:44 21 January 2014
Copyright: Martin Gardner
Glass and a creative use of space has transformed these Victorian servants' quarters - Emma Caulton marvels
“There aren’t many people who can downsize by moving next door,” smiles Alison Dudgeon. Admittedly Alison and her husband Peter’s previous home next door was a magnificent pile of a Victorian manor house built in 1856 by the Earl of Airlie when he was serving as Camp Commandant at Winchester’s Peninsular Barracks; while this, their ‘new’ home, had originally been the servants’ quarters. In the early 1950s the house was divided into two and a lovely old lady, fondly remembered by Alison, lived in this part on her own.
Alison explains: “Our home next door was huge, about 9,000 square feet. It was on a different scale to this - a big Victorian house with a fabulous staircase and impressive fireplaces.”
After their elderly neighbour died, Alison and Peter bought this part, too, but “sat on it” for a couple of years, as they weren’t ready to move, before deciding to do it up, downsize and retire.
Alison and Peter considered it “unliveable in” and thought in all likelihood that it hadn’t been touched for 60 years or more since the house had been divided. Here was a chance for them to create a home of their own, the sort of modern contemporary glass house Alison had always admired, and in striking contrast to the grand and ornate splendour of their former home next door.
Alison recalls: “It was nice to be able to do something completely different. We didn’t feel guilty ripping it apart as there was nothing of value to keep. It was so different to next door: there were no period features, no nice fireplaces…We didn’t take anything out; there was nothing here!”
Looking for an architect, and keen on the use of glass as a building material, Alison had been particularly taken by an elegant, architect-designed glass cube of a house in the Cotswolds that had featured in the Daily Telegraph a few years back. The fact that the architect, Andy Ramus of AR Design Studio, was based in Winchester seemed perfect happenstance. Alison laughs when she remembers that their original brief to Andy was a simple: “Help!”
The initial concept had been for a glass extension enclosing the courtyard to the rear of the house as a starting point. Andy has done this and much more.
As Alison and Peter show me around their light-filled home which cleverly combines classic and contemporary and plays with space and scale, Peter confesses: “This isn’t quite what we had in mind. Andy listens to what you want, but takes it to the next level” - quite literally in the Dudgeon’s case. Not only did he create a spectacular double-height, wow-factor entrance hall by removing a first floor bathroom (“I’d rather have this astonishing space than another bathroom,” comments Alison), but he dug down, creating a lower ground room that opened up the cellar.
Alison adds, “Andy was amazing! He had lots of great ideas.”
And he achieved all this from a relatively small, shallow (one-room-deep), gloomy and unexceptional series of sculleries, store rooms, kitchens and servants’ accommodation for the ‘big house’.
Although the house had been divided, it hadn’t been done well and the original layout did not have ‘flow’ with the entrance at one end. Andy reorientated the property, repositioning the front door in the centre of the house, creating the new double-height central hallway and giving the house symmetry and coherence.
The most spectacular features are those inspired by Alison’s love of glass: the new hallway with its simple sculptural glass staircase which seems to float, and the elegant piece of contemporary glass architecture enclosing the courtyard at the rear. This spacious, light-filled living space accommodates the open-plan kitchen, dining and family areas, and opens up the house to the garden by creating a seamless link between inside and out.
The quiet, clean minimalist lines of a bulthaup kitchen complement the space, while a magnificent tactile refectory table made from a fallen beech that had been rotting in the garden dominates the room.
Alison says: “Cooking out here is really fabulous particularly when it’s snowing.”
The garden feels an integral part of this space and Alison is in the process of turning it into a secret walled garden with paths curving away into abundant planting.
Perhaps the house’s most unexpected feature is the lower level informal lounge framed from above by a glass balcony; Peter and Alison themselves still appear to be surprised at this newly created space.
“This wasn’t here at all! This was earth!” exclaims Peter.
The cellars have been transformed: what was the original wine cellar with vaulted ceiling is now a bedroom lit naturally by a light well (another great idea from Andy), there’s a stylish shower room and a new wine cellar behind a glass wall as well as that lounge, used as a cosy television room, with light filtering down from the glass roofed living space above.
On the first floor are three more spacious double bedrooms each with an en-suite bathroom.
Meanwhile back at ground level further reception rooms include a study, dining room and ‘formal’ lounge which, even with its high ceilings, feels comfortable and inviting. I am surprised to discover that the furniture, an engaging mix of modern, retro and shabby chic which looks completely at ease in these clean, crisp, minimalist surroundings, has come from Alison and Peter’s previous more ornate home.
Alison explains: “I’m not an old furniture type of person. This is all from our old sitting room and laid out almost exactly as it was before”. There are big modular sofas, gorgeous French-style armchairs in a fashionable check, a glass and perspex coffee table, and a decorative sidetable. On the walls are bold, modern works of art while underfoot the unusual flooring of timber-style ceramic tiles was Peter’s choice. He recalls: “Alison wanted carpet. Andy wanted grey tiles. We compromised with these wood-effect porcelain tiles”. It was a clever choice: not only are the tiles ideal for underfloor heating (no radiators to clutter up the clean wall spaces), but they run from the sitting room across the living space and outside onto the cantilevered terrace, further confusing the boundary between outside and inside.
And this is, ultimately, a house that plays with boundaries, with light and space and levels. It feels lighthearted, a fun place to live… And I am rather envious.