Our Little Corner of Sussex That's Forever New England; 1.individual:the Lowered Kitchen Ceiling Makes It Cosy,while the Hall Lantern Had a Seat to Itself on the Plane from Marrakesh 2.OUT OF THE BOX: The Complex Deck House,featured on Television's Grand Designs 3. EAST MEETS WEST: Outside,the Grey Timber Walls,right,belie a Sumptuous Interior with Exotic Influences

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), November 4, 2007 | Go to article overview

Our Little Corner of Sussex That's Forever New England; 1.individual:the Lowered Kitchen Ceiling Makes It Cosy,while the Hall Lantern Had a Seat to Itself on the Plane from Marrakesh 2.OUT OF THE BOX: The Complex Deck House,featured on Television's Grand Designs 3. EAST MEETS WEST: Outside,the Grey Timber Walls,right,belie a Sumptuous Interior with Exotic Influences


Byline: FRED REDWOOD

This couple's kit house arrived in crates from the US ... and it becameso individual that it starred on TV Anyone who thinks that kit houses aresoulless, standard-issue, off-the-peg constructions should take a trip toPulborough in West Sussex to visit the home built by Will and Jane Mulder.

There, on a third of an acre hillside plot, the young couple have made The DeckHouse, a highly individual, split-level family home, heavy with Easterninfluences and draped in bohemian mystery.

The Deck House has featured on television's Grand Designs and Will, 36, stilltalks with relish about the building project.

'When Jane and I moved here from London in 1999, we had a shared vision of thehome we wanted,' says Will, a website designer. 'We both loved the wood-frontedNew England look. Jane had seen these while working in the States and I hadbeen brought up with them in New Zealand. So we found Deck House, an Americancompany which would build one in kit form to our exact specifications.' Thepair had their own ideas for the interior of their dream home and they were farremoved from the barnlike, open-plan look often associated with kit houses. 'Wewanted to use height at multiple levels and create lots of interestingcorners,' says Will. 'We imagined a house full of little rooms and surprises -full of light, yet with a sense of cosiness.' The plot for the house, which theMulders bought in 1997, cost [pounds sterling]100,000 and The Deck House itself (including anextension added in 2005) cost [pounds sterling]180,000 to build. Planning permission took twoyears to be agreed and construction started in mid-September, 1999, three weeksafter the couple were married.

The house, which covers 2,550sq ft, arrived in two 40ft containers from Boston,Massachusetts, and Jane performed the opening ceremony, snipping the ropes onthe giant crates and breathing in the lovely sweet scent of the cedar-woodpanels.

Now, it must be said, the house appears unremarkable from the outside, with itsbluey-grey clapboard frontage half-concealed among trees and hedges. Yet thatvery 'ordinariness' accentuates the surprise to come.

When you have gone through the front door to an elevated porch, you findyourself in the most amazing sitting room. Measuring a full 30ft to the top ofthe vaulted ceiling, there is an ecclesiastical air to this room. Light floodsthrough tall arched windows; there is a handmade oak lounging area forming onecorner and in the middle of the wall is a Gaudi-inspired sculptured fireplacelooking like some rough pagan altar.

The walls are in russets and reds, a piano fits neatly into an alcove andeverywhere there are plants and books, leather furniture, drapes and heavyfurnishings. But how did the Mulders manage to create such a complex design,complete with four bed rooms, from a kit house constructed on the other side ofthe Atlantic? 'It was extremely easy,' says Jane, 38.

'The Americans have a can-do approach and our architect, Doug Govan, didn'tmind in the least us emailing amendments to our plans on a weekly basis.

Constructing the house was like putting up a stage set. None of the interiorwalls were load-bearing, so we could movethe position of them, tweakthings and jiggle bits around, as we wanted.' Jane also admits that there weresome distinctly worrying times during the project, which took about six monthsto complete. For example, it was thought when building was just under way, thatthey would have to dig far deeper foundations for the house. That would havemeant finding an extra [pounds sterling]20,000 they simply did not have in the bank. Luckily,it was a false alarm but the scare coloured her view on self-build.

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Our Little Corner of Sussex That's Forever New England; 1.individual:the Lowered Kitchen Ceiling Makes It Cosy,while the Hall Lantern Had a Seat to Itself on the Plane from Marrakesh 2.OUT OF THE BOX: The Complex Deck House,featured on Television's Grand Designs 3. EAST MEETS WEST: Outside,the Grey Timber Walls,right,belie a Sumptuous Interior with Exotic Influences
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