Lucy Bullivant visits an elegant house in Surrey in which the diagonal geometries provoke idiosyncratic incidents.
Deodar sits on The Ridge, a private road of detached neo-Georgian houses, its back garden adjoining Woodcote Park golf course, which itself adjoins Epsom Downs Racecourse. In this context it is refreshing that Epsom & Ewell planners were receptive to the idea of a modern house, even countering local objections by suggesting ‘that this was potentially a listed building of the future’. Understandably reclusive, Eldridge Smerin’s carefully articulated structure breaks with a number of orthodoxies, with some unusual set pieces in its play of triangular geometries. While hardly a ‘mannerist of modernism’ in the Koolhaasian sense, the practice here produces one of its most idiosyncratic creations.
Nick Eldridge and Piers Smerin’s working method is to each develop a concept and let the client choose. Here they went for Eldridge’s angled plan over Smerin’s atrium form. As built, the house remains true to the original concept, but with the V-shaped angle expanded to allow for a larger courtyard garden space between the house and pool pavilion.
The house is oriented south-east to optimise sunlight and views of the landscape, breaking the tradition on The Ridge of houses running parallel to the road with back gardens open to the east. As a result the initial view from the road, across the front driveway, is of the vertically accentuated ‘gable’ end of the principal block. Rather than a closed entrance facade, the entry way, on the main axis of the drive, leads with great simplicity between the house and the pool pavilion to the glazed entrance on the south-east side. The house incorporates an open-plan double-height ground floor with a mezzanine ‘media room’ overlooking the dining area and entrance hall. Staircases at each end of the house, one in maple, the other in concrete, access the first-floor bedrooms, with their views of the golf and race course and, from the master bedroom at the north-east end, the distant Canary Wharf. Angled to the house is a pool pavilion, a linear element set into the ground that overlooks a lower landscaped courtyard.
The concrete structure of the house and pool is mostly exposed and fair-faced. Columns along the east facade of the house are triangular in section to minimise their impact against the floor-to-ceiling glazing, a great deal more elegant than a square or circular column (the latter appears in the pool pavilion). The eye-catching maple staircase, reinterpreting Arts & Crafts work with its slatted balustrade support structure, screens the ground floor living area from the glazed entrance facade. Both this and the guest cloakroom were designed by Eldridge to rhyme with the plan form of the house and pavilion. Similarly, the roof of the guest cloakroom repeats the triangular geometry in its panelling, which then reappears in the lacquered wall panelling set flush in the plasterwork above the mezzanine landing to the first floor. These panels allow the wall surface to be cut precisely to the profile of the stair.
The architects introduce spatial diversity in which to anchor these consistent motifs that in turn refer back to the plan. The family can access the first-floor bedrooms from either the maple stair or the concrete stair (the linear house needed two for fire regulations), which sits within its own concrete-walled enclosure. A glass-walled stair to the lower-ground floor continues the triangular language, creating a small room beneath it that contrasts with the compact sequence of rooms (bedrooms, a study, utility rooms and a gym), all with floor-to-ceiling glazing that gives a dynamic impression from the corridor of alternate strips of enclosure and landscape. The gallery running along the north-west side of the house, which has a solid wall facing a neighbouring property, is daylit from vertical windows to the west and three slot windows to the north west.
Taking full advantage of its greenfield context and vantage points, the house is visually porous. Daylight streams in from a rooftop clerestorey window, creating a section that responds to the triangular geometry of the plan. It also opens up two bathrooms with glass roofs projecting out into the gallery, which has a sloping roof to accommodate solar thermal roof panels. Seven 80-metre-deep boreholes are located to the east of the main building, and a sedum roof to the pool pavilion provides thermal insulation and visual interest from the bedrooms.
The tranquil garden space has also been designed by Eldridge Smerin after it was invited to propose a solution for the lower courtyard, competing with a landscape design contractor. The slope from the lower courtyard to the ground-floor garden level, hidden from the golf course, is the main visual focus from the poolhouse and the sequence of lower-ground-floor rooms. The architects take advantage of this by giving the pool wide opening glass doors.
The slope has a stepped profile, with terraces wrought by stacking 126 triangular Belau timber planters. These also serve as steps between the two levels while the children have a slide down to the grass below.
The patronage of domestic architecture rarely allows for an evolution in house forms, but Deodar’s integration of low-energy technology, craftsmanship and functionality would be exceptional in any location. That this family-oriented house has come to fruition in a part of the Surrey countryside where hermetic stately piles are the norm gives insight into how architecture might achieve a formally unique, multi-angled connectivity with nature.
Architect : Eldridge Smerin Architects; design team: Nick Eldridge, Piers Smerin, Amalia Skoufoglou, George Dawes, Nico Giuriato, Daisy Roth; structural engineer: TALL Consulting Structural Engineers; services engineer: Studio Nine Environmental Engineering Consultants; qs: AB Associates; main contractor: Robin Ellis; landscape constractor: John Gale.
Selected suppliers and subcontractors
Structural glazing: Fineline Aluminium, Compass Glass; joinery: Joe Mellows, 3D Joinery, Edmonds; flooring: London Polished Concrete, Arden Hodges; kitchen: Nicholas Anthony; bathrooms: West One Bathrooms, Allgood; fireplaces: Marble Hill; stone paving: Miccoli & Son.
AT218 May 2011 p40