Red Bridge House: steel accents and a wraparound terrace draw a modern family home out of its woodland setting
Red Bridge House is a modern family home among the ancient woodlands of East Sussex. Initially conceived as a weekend retreat, the design - contained within a simple linear volume by British architect Piers Smerin - was so successful, the London-based owners soon made it their permanent residence.
The existing 1920s summer house was replaced by Smerin with a design that, per the clients’ brief, was practical to live in, easy to run and energy efficient. The family house should also relate well to its woodland setting and enhance the site’s natural qualities, like the southerly orientation and views. ’I always liken designing a bespoke house to having a suit tailored,’ says Smerin. ’A good tailor is always open to whatever a client wants but able to guide them toward what will work best.’
A striking veranda wraps around two sides of the house. ’[It makes] the living areas within feel significantly bigger,’ adds Smerin. ’Socially, it links the bedrooms above to the living spaces below. And architecturally the stainless-steel hanging rods that support the edge of the veranda give the space a slightly monumental quality.’
The façade’s generous timber-framed glass panels blur the lines between interior and exterior space, connecting the house to its setting, whether you are indoors or outdoors. Similarly, the cantilevered oak staircase (one of Smerin’s favourite elements) is made out of timber from the surrounding woods. It unites three levels of living spaces, from the swimming pool on the lower-ground floor up to the bedrooms.
A sedum-planted green roof references the woodland floor and has environmental benefits as well. It also helped the design fit within the constraints of the site and planning permission. The clients’ in-depth knowledge of sustainability and technology systems underlined their successful partnership with Smerin. The result, recently honoured with a RIBA South East prize and long-listed for the prestigious 2014 Manser Medal, is a worthy addition to the architect’s award-winning portfolio.