Houzz Tour: An Angled Addition Opens Up a 1980s House

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How far would you go to get your dream home? Mark Sewell and Eunice Locher were so eager to see their vision realized that they lived in an office shed in the yard for months — with their clothes in a tent — while their awkwardly shaped and dark 1980s house in England was transformed into the bright and serene space it is today.

Contemporary by Penton Architects


Photos by Bruce Hemming

House at a Glance

Who lives here: Mark Sewell, chief information officer at a recruitment company, and Eunice Locher, ceramist and founder of The Clay Studio
Location: Forest Row, East Sussex, England
Size: Five bedrooms, three bathrooms
Architect: Adam Penton of Penton Architects
Before Photo
Traditional by Penton Architects

Before: Sewell and Locher didn’t love the gloomy original house but were drawn to its southwesterly lot. So when they called in architect Adam Penton, they asked for lots of light and a more sociable and connected space since they have a large family that visits often. 

Otherwise, their specifications were loose, Penton says. “They told us everything they hated about the house, which was most of it. There was something very awkward about the L shape. The bulk of the family space was right in the corner of the L, and the low overhanging roof meant it was dark.”


Contemporary Exterior by Penton Architects

After: The solution was to build out and soften the L shape. “We added a 45-degree angle across the corner of the house to help connect the two ends [of the L],” Penton says. Because of planning constraints, “we couldn’t take the roof off this section, but by creating the extension on the corner, we were able to introduce a higher ceiling,” he says. This raised section is visible in the first photo. 

“The addition also refocused the house, so the living space now looks across to a lovely tree in the far corner, giving a longer view,” he says. “And it meant we could push back the service areas around the periphery.”

Penton also demolished the garage (on the left in the previous photo) and in its place built a two-story addition. It’s covered in Siberian larch that was treated with a system from Sioo Wood Protection. The timber still weathers naturally, but it ages more evenly,” he says. It also won’t be susceptible to the uneven staining that could have occurred because of the overhanging roof.

The picture window, which forms a balcony outside the master suite, is clad in blue-gray zinc from Rheinzink.
by Penton Architects

The ground-floor plan shows the remodeled house with the built-out corner forming a somewhat triangular-shaped great room.
Before Photo
Contemporary by Penton Architects

Before: The L shape of the original house didn’t maximize light or views to the yard.
Contemporary Dining Room by Penton Architects

Now the dining area, in the triangular addition, is a sunny space from which Sewell and Locher can enjoy the landscape.

Porcelain tiles, warmed by underfloor heating, are easy to keep clean. Exterior-quality versions of these tiles run out onto the patio for an indoor-outdoor connection. 
Contemporary Dining Room by Penton Architects

Sewell and Locher wanted the house to have an uncluttered feeling, and they furnished it only with pieces they love. They commissioned a solid oak dining table long enough to seat plenty of guests. They surrounded it with colorful midcentury Eames Eiffel chairs.

The American walnut shelves behind the table are the perfect display space for ceramics by Locher and others. “The couple have a fantastic art collection, with many of the pieces made by friends,” Penton says. The cabinets below house dishes and glassware.

 
Contemporary Kitchen by Penton Architects
The kitchen, with its streamlined dark gray cabinets and wooden breakfast bar, is in the original house but open to the addition. 

The pocket door in the right-hand corner leads to a utility room.
Before Photo
Contemporary by Penton Architects

Before: The dark brick fireplace in the former living room didn’t help the low light levels.
Contemporary Living Room by Penton Architects

The new living room, now on the ground floor of the two-story addition, is a fresh, bright, uncluttered space with a wood-burning stove (not pictured) for chillier days. 

Penton added sliding glass doors for maximum views and light, and quick access to the patio. They’re outfitted with pleated shades that fold up tightly.

The engineered oak floorboards, with underfloor heating, add a softer note than the tiles in the main living space.
Contemporary Living Room by Penton Architects

The windows in the house are triple-paned, and Penton also reinsulated and soundproofed the walls throughout. The house is insulated well beyond what the regulations require, he says. 

The entrance hall is light and open. The huge closet takes care of coats and shoes to keep the space clutter-free. Behind the closet is a powder room.
Contemporary Hall by Penton Architects

The clean-lined staircase combines oak and glass. “It has a traditional feel but with a clean, contemporary look,” Penton says.

 
Contemporary Bedroom by Penton Architects

The second story of the larch-clad addition contains a master suite. The vaulted ceiling creates an airy feel. “For planning permission to be granted for two stories, we had to keep the roof relatively low,” Penton says. “The vaulted ceiling gives it height and character.” 

Instead of boxing in the walk-in closet behind the bed, “we added to the airy feel by keeping the wall open on three sides,” he says.
Contemporary by Penton Architects

“Mark and Eunice squeezed down on the width of the walk-in [closet], as they wanted as much space as possible in the sleeping zone, so it’s a tight galley area, but that’s all the space you need,” Penton says.
Contemporary by Penton Architects

“With a normal window in the side wall, you’d be looking straight at the neighbors,” Penton says, so he incorporated glass up high. “Some might not like this solution, as you can’t really block out the light,” he says, “but Mark and Eunice were very comfortable with it, and liked the idea they could see the trees and the evening sun through there.”
Contemporary Balcony by Penton Architects

The balcony is a little extra that adds to the idea the master suite is a haven away from the hubbub. “We built it as a box frame, so you can’t see sideways into the neighbors’ plot,” Penton says.
Contemporary Bathroom by Penton Architects

The master en suite was a difficult room to light since the exterior wall is directly above the entrance, so for privacy there’s only a small window (see next photo). This wall of glass blocks, which borrows light from the hallway, is a perfect solution that brings in soft light while offering total privacy. 

“It would have been a gloomy room without them,” Penton says. “The [blocks] really help to lift the bathroom — they glow and sparkle, and are quite a feature in the space.”
Contemporary Bathroom by Penton Architects

The window on the other side offers extra light plus ventilation.
by Penton Architects
The master suite on second floor is a quiet haven away from the main part of the home.
Contemporary Bathroom by Penton Architects

The family bathroom, which is in the elbow of the L, has a freestanding bathtub and a walk-in shower.
Before Photo
Contemporary by Penton Architects

Before: This photo shows the original front of the house with the garage.
Contemporary Exterior by Penton Architects

The new entrance is in the two-story addition, where the garage was originally. 

Penton built a carport to the side. “There are lots of trees around the house, so the cars would get covered in sap and debris without it,” he says. The carport also opens up the side of the house, adding more space for vehicles when Sewell and Locher have visitors.
Contemporary Exterior by Penton Architects

The project came in on time and on budget, which was about $480,000. Less than a year after work began, Sewell and Locher got to leave their backyard digs and move into their dream home.