Chantry View, Guildford, Surrey - 3000sqft new built minimalist home

Suraj Vithlani acted as project architect at Elspeth Beard Architects. The project was executed by Chalk Hill Contemporary ltd. All photography by Ioana Marinescu The site occupies a picturesque hillside location in Guildford with panoramic views over the Wey valley and Guildford. The new building sits low and ‘dissolves’ into this magnificent setting. The form of the building strictly follows the functions within, the fenestration is a result of opening up the house to let light in and views out. Elevations came after. The building's influence is understated, and subliminal. Every space inside is visually connected to the beautiful outside. As one moves through the house, one is aware of seasons unfolding outside. Light floods the living spaces and flows through it as if the building is barely there. There is warmth, and stillness. The architecture is simple yet painstakingly uncompromising. The building remains comfortably cool in the summer with plenty of crossflows and in winter the glazing draws upon passive solar gains which provide for a balanced and a sustainable living.

When the current owners purchased the property it was in a dilapidated state and too small for their needs. There were also height restrictions resulting from covenants imposed by the adjoining house behind the existing dwelling. As well as requiring additional bedrooms the client wanted to achieve flexible and very open plan living spaces. It was important that the spaces were designed to be multi-functional and adaptable to family changes in age, occupancy and interests. Within these open spaces it was important to be able to have discrete areas that could be assigned distinct uses without affecting or interfering with the open nature of the house. There was also a strong emphasis on bringing the outside in, having an almost seamless transition between the internal and external spaces. This had to be achieved without the loss of privacy, without loss of wall space for their art collection and in anticipation of the building’s prospective use as a temporary exhibition space.

The site occupies a hillside location in Guildford with panoramic views over Guildford and the valley of the river Wey. Chantry View Road comprises a mix of traditional Surrey style houses and some Art Deco and Arts and Crafts houses. The new dwelling retains the original elevated living room ‘box’. This is set at a higher level to the rest of the house with the additional accommodation provided in the new bedroom wing which forms the new courtyard. A new study ‘pod’ partly buried into the hillside completes the courtyard enclosure. A glass hinge forms the transition between the living spaces and the bedroom wing.

All ceilings, doors, and glass openings are 2.8 metres high and virtually frameless. The floor level outside is the same as inside – all thresholds are without a step. There are no traditional architraves, skirtings, covings, or copings. Super-insulated self-repairing roof, structural glazing, zoned under-floor heating, central vacuum, a hard-wired digital data and audio-visual network and central & distributed lighting & ventilation (rooflight) controls are some of its hi-tech features that enable the demanding, flexible-living brief of the clients.

All walls are of blockwork construction with pigmented acrylic render. The glazing which was supplied by Fineline comprises slender aluminium framing which relies on the strength of the structural glass for overall stability. The roof structure is a traditional warm roof construction with timber joists spanning between steel beams. Flat roof lights help orientate and bring natural light and views into all parts of the building.

The project was completed in April 2006 with a final construction cost of £480,000.

Client’s Statement:

High performance glazing, insulation and building materials:

• Concrete slab & stone floors retain heat from sunlight minimizing demands on under floor heating.

• High ceilings flatten the building and open the occupier up to the moving sky with the added benefit of optimizing radiant heat from the floor.

• In summer the building was never warmer than outside and always felt cooler due to good cross-ventilation aided by technical materials for the internal blinds.

• Bedrooms remain cool in summer – north side of building - high ceilings, windows facing west for weaker evening sun only. In winter, bedrooms maintain a constant 18 degrees without additional heating.

• As I write, occupancy alone has put the kitchen temperature at a constant 21 degrees and the living room at about 19 degrees.

• I think the structure also allows for straightforward knock-throughs and partitioning if different spaces altogether are later required.

• The courtyard surrounded by the house & pod in the summer has a hacienda feel to it and is sheltered from the wind in winter.

• The front garden is a part of our house – the rear garden not lost but a part of a 360 degree view from the building.

• The house allows the family to be as separate or together as both halves would like.

• The height of the ceiling adds to the drama of the structure and the sense of occasion in the house, whether entertaining or not.

• Corridors are used to open up vistas rather than simply offer a direction of travel.

• There are 4 distinct sections: Live, Play, Sleep , Pod – all can be accessed discretely enabling a number of different activities to be conducted at the house all at the same time; my regular Wednesday favourite is Bella and friends having their Pilates class in the Live area, whilst a couple of their children Play and I work, conduct meetings, go out to lunch etc.

• The odd-ball geometric shape of the raised living room & balcony is a pleasure.

• The remote Pod is more or less perfectly sited & heighten as a gateway to a private courtyard whilst maintaining its own distinct identity and unique (on site) views.

Click image above to see the full set of detailed drawings.