At the end of a dirt road on the northern edge of the village, looking east towards the sunrise over the north sea, and with heath and woodland to the rear, the setting of Thorpeness Beach House is spectacular. That this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is unquestionable; it feels set apart from the world, and is immediately relaxing.
Commissioned by multiple generations of the same family, the house was designed to maximise the potential of its setting. Responding to the site’s orientation, views, and wider context, the design comprises two distinct single-storey blocks—expressed as heavy masonry elements—with a lightweight timber pavilion spanning above.
The limited material palette reflects the sandy tones and textures of the area. Pale buff brickwork at ground floor, oak cladding which will weather to a silvery grey, and brushed aluminium window frames which reflect the colours of the surroundings.
The massing of the house creates a clear divide between public and private. The bookend elements at ground floor contain bedrooms and utility spaces, and feature minimal, carefully orchestrated apertures. These maintain privacy for both inhabitants and neighbours, while the large central opening blurs the boundary between inside and out. At first floor, a living room and balcony make the most of the sea views, along with a further series of bedrooms. Internal axes establish strong connections with the woodland to the rear, and across the road to the sea beyond.
“We are thrilled with the house. It celebrates all aspects of the site and surroundings, encapsulating the very essence of an English seaside retreat. It provides a calm escape, where we can wake up to the sound of the waves and watch the sun rise over the east coast, but it can equally be a lively place, which comfortably accommodates everyone in the family; a place where family and friends can congregate after a day on the beach.”
"This being the studio’s first ground-up new house, it embodies a lot of ideas [that IF_DO have] explored over the years, but hadn’t yet had the chance to apply to a residential design. The project came to them in 2017, just as they had won the Dulwich Pavilion competition – arguably the project that thrust them into the architectural spotlight – and there are undeniably common threads running between the two designs. ‘Formally, the house’s concept sketch is sort of a version of the Dulwich Pavilion one... but contextuality is very important here, as with every project of ours. The ideas explored, of openness, the relationship between indoors and outdoors, and the built and natural setting, work incredibly well here because of the landscape and the 1960s projects around it, all of which it hopefully echoes.’ And echo it, it definitely does, making this humble beach house the newest evolution in the century-long architectural tale that is Thorpeness."