Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

House Saved by the Light Brigade; How a Four-Word Brief Led to an Innovative Makeover

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

House Saved by the Light Brigade; How a Four-Word Brief Led to an Innovative Makeover

Article excerpt

Byline: FAY SWEET

FIRST-time visitors to the chaletbungalow-style home of Trefor Thomas have a surprise in store.

Cross the modest threshold, and the place explodes wide open, all glass and light, with views through the hallway, down into the open-plan living space and beyond, into the steep valley and fantastic wooded landscape.

Situated just outside Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the impressive house ranges over three floors, with the entrance on the middle level. It was bought by Thomas, creative director of an advertising agency, when he returned to the UK hungry for a quieter lifestyle after working abroad in big cities for some time.

However, while the location answered his longing for a rural idyll, the Thirties property left plenty of room for improvement.

"It was a complete wreck; full of little rooms and very dark," recalls Mr Thomas.

To crack open the spaces and forge links between the house and its beautiful setting, he called in young architectural practice Foster Lomas. Mr Thomas's request to the architect consisted of only four words: "Unpredictable, entertaining, texture, light." The budget was to be [pounds sterling]130,000. The architect's response came as two options: the first was a well-mannered remodelling and refurbishment, which came within budget. The second was an adventurous and daring transformation that exceeded the budget by about [pounds sterling]70,000. "I was being given a taste of my own medicine," says Mr Thomas, wryly. "I had to go for the second option."

The clever scheme has scooped out the interior and inserted into the new, open-plan spaces several large, sculptural features.

There is, for example, a bespoke oak kitchen, which is constructed as a single, 18-foot-long island block; an intriguing, maple-wrapped cube at the entrance contains a lavatory and library shelving, and has stairs leading to the main living room below.

"The idea hinges on the quality of space and light," says architect Will Foster. "The most dramatic change has been to remove half the floor at entrance level. While this reduces the floor area of the house, it improves the overall quality of space by enabling us to make the double-height living room. …

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