One in a Million
PUBLISHED: 11:44 02 August 2007 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 February 2013
Danny and Sam Watts have made their modern and welcoming home in West Bergholt something quite unique. Kate Hadley reports
DANNY and Sam Watts have christened their fascinating contemporary house in the village of West Bergholt, ONE.
This is certainly an unusual name for a house in an extremely rural village, or anywhere else for that matter. But for Danny and Sam it was a name carefully chosen. Property developer Danny explains: 'ONE, because it's the first house I've built and because it's the first house in our road. And ONE, because that's the name of the London hotel, One Aldwych, where I asked Sam to marry me. Or does that make me out to be too romantic?'
ONE is an unusual family house, the first truly contemporary new building in very traditional West Bergholt. So excellent was this trailblazing design that it sailed through planning permission, deemed to be an exciting visual complement to the surrounding countryside.
In summer, sunlight glimmers off the stainless steel roof and copper gutters. This is highlighted by the western red cedar wall cladding, stained to avoid weathering to its natural silvery grey, which would not set off the stainless steel and copper so well. The 45-degree angles to the building are extraordinary, both inside and out.
But practically speaking, and for sheer fun, perhaps the most spectacular idea is Danny's concept of what he calls a 'transparent house'. Along the back of the building, the ten-metre glass-panelled kitchen wall concertinas back completely to create a semi al fresco, inside-outside kitchen, leading directly onto a huge entertaining deck. Similarly the glass- panelled wall to the sun room, by a waterfall which streams spectacularly from the roof down the side of the house, opens back to create an inside-outside loggia to the main sitting room.
Danny dreamed about this house for seven years. Then he teamed up with Graham Roe of Stanley Bragg Partnership. Together they worked on the plans until the house became a reality.
It's a collection of deftly realised ideas. For the kitchen, created by Young Designer of The Year Carissa Snelling at Nicholas Anthony, Sam and Danny chose delphinium blue glass both as a work surface and for the cupboards. In inside-outside mode, the blue reflects the sky, contrasting with vanilla high gloss on other cupboard doors and the granite worktops. What makes this even more attractive is the LED lighting over the blue glass table, programmed with mix and match red, blue and green. On the day I visited, the lighting mood was magenta, perfect with early spring sunlight.
Similar mood lighting has been installed all over the house and you can alter it to fit the occasion and season in any room from touch screen panels on the walls, which also control CCTV cameras, intercom, surround sound and the waterfall.
'Yes it is a house full of toys,' says Danny, 31, who is a natural enthusiast for electronic brilliance. 'We always wanted a comfortable home. We were dead set against minimalism. The lights, the music, everything on these panels make it just that.'
It's true that changeable coloured lighting adds witty charm to each room and really everybody should have an intercom - it saves all that calling up the stairs. Especially if you have children as they do, with Maisie now aged four. Soon there will be another baby and a lot more work about the house, so the intercom will certainly come into its own. Sam, 30, is a make-up artist when she has time and is expecting the new arrival this month.
In the living room, Danny has installed a media wall with TV, speakers and a projector screen. Opposite, there is a very large corner sofa from Jayrest, designed for the room and for the life that Danny and Sam live. Parties of children and adults could all find themselves a comfortable space on this live-on sofa. In shades of aqua it can accommodate a DVD evening with friends, or simply provide comfort for members of the family who want to lie down and watch a movie. In contrast, and to lighten the tone of the room with its black American walnut floor, and spiral staircase to the second floor, there is a jolly little Purves and Purves red sofa under the window.
Colour pulls the house together as well as the unusual lighting, the architectural design and black American walnut flooring throughout. The house has underfloor heating which makes it comfortable without the visual clutter of radiators. Aqua blues are a constant theme, along with subtle Chinese reds, ancient colour combinations taken from antique porcelains, which always work. ©
In the bathrooms upstairs there are aqua mosaics. The same colour also adds softness to the unusual circular cloakroom on the ground floor. In the master bedroom there is another electronic device at the foot of the bed. Press a button and a television emerges from the table at the foot of the bed. Press it again and the television sinks from view and it becomes a table, again, with a secret. The table is red and the favourite colour scheme is reinforced by a turquoise porcelain vase sitting on top.
'I had to sort the television out in this way,' explains Danny. 'I was always afraid that in the middle of the night, I'd kick the television onto the floor.'
This is not the only piece of wizardry in the bedroom. There is a row of windows, at least 16ft high just below the ceiling. Only a spider could get up there to open the windows or pull down the blinds, but of course there's another set of electronics to effect this. Heaven knows what will happen when
Maisie gets old enough to have curious clever schoolfriends round, who will, no doubt, discover to their delight, that this is a house of the wizard button.
For the present, Maisie is still content with her dream of a little princess's bedroom with its small girl's four-poster bed, attractive butterfly-printed blinds and gauzy butterfly-strewn curtains.
They only moved in last May, so this will really be the first full summer spent in their finished home. The seven oak trees, which tower round the house, will counterbalance its angles and curves with their massively powerful shapes. The stainless steel roof will glitter against the green. There will be friends round for a barbecue, the kitchen and sun room will be open to the garden, the waterfall will refresh the sun room and the house will blow peoples' minds.
'Even my dad says it's a success and he's built many homes, so that's a real complement,' says Danny. 'I enjoyed building it so much that I've already started designing another one, with more unusual ideas.'