People in glass houses...

Glass House Milan

Glass House Milan - Credit: Archant

I really admire home owners that go bold when it comes to a renovation or re-design. Especially those dealing with a traditional building. I think it’s rather brave to take on the likes of English Heritage when you fancy affixing a glass cube to the back of your Jacobean cottage for a bit of outside/inside living.

The Dune House

The Dune House - Credit: Archant

While I believe that architecture that cross-references the styles of opposing eras in one whole design is innovative, I also think sympathy is important - I wouldn’t suggest that it would be a good idea to install a Wimbledon-type retracting roof over the Arena di Verona in case a freak lightening storm strikes during the final scene of The Magic Flute.

This is perhaps why some choose to modernise their historic homes with a separate entity - an outhouse. When I hear the term ‘outhouse’ I often picture a stone-walled shack at the bottom of a garden with a load of coal in it. But the term is certainly representational of more that that in today’s exterior designs.

I was particularly impressed with the one David Pinkney had, when I visited Flowton Priory in Harpenden a month or so ago. Flowton was the subject of our feature in the 8th October issue of ‘Property’, with specific focus on the intricate historic detailing throughout it. And rather than bolt a glassy conservatory-esque structure to the Tudor beams, David has had a stand-alone outhouse built across the garden.

This structure has been cleverly placed - it sits directly across a gravel area, lined with box hedging, linked to the main house by a pathway which almost acts as a hallway to it. What’s more, David has had it designed to a contemporary glass model, but has mirrored it on the architectural design of Flowton Priory itself. It’s almost like it’s smaller, modern counterpart.

The modern conservatory has been designed to match the triangular design of the house

The modern conservatory has been designed to match the triangular design of the house - Credit: Archant

The effect here is that it’s not at all out of place sitting next to a 500 year old property of red bricked walls and high reaching gables.

Flowton offers a mix of contemporary and traditional living. But there are others who seek the full-time greenhouse effect.

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For example, in the woods outside Milan stands designer Carlo Santambrogio’s Glass Concept Home. It essentially looks like someone has plonked a giant ice-cube in a forest with its blue-tinged 7 millimeter glass surround. This sounds incredibly chilly and incredibly public. Nevertheless, the glass is designed to be heated in the winter and the trees that envelope the structure give it the privacy that a residence requires. Who needs solid walls?

This home is the epitome of contemporary architecture but with a magic injected into it like no other. It’s crystalline and sleek. If you’re going to live in a glass house, why not go all out?

The Dune House

The Dune House - Credit: Archant

Back on home turf in Suffolk, overlooking the ocean sits The Dune House - built half glass (the complete lower half) and with a 360 degree panoramic view across the dunes and the beach. Built by Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects, this design embodies modernity with the traditional virtues of warmth and comfort. Here, much like at Flowton Priory, the roofscape is plotted in-keeping with the local buildings, gables and seaside huts of the area, clad in a lightly tinted orange steel alloy and reflecting the changing colours of the sea and sky.

Back in Harpenden (which appears to be languidly pea-cocking as the architectural spearhead of Hertfordshire) is a home by Danish architect Jorn Utzon. The property, in West Common Way, is noted for its modern design, despite being Grade II listed. It’s multi-levelled and airy. There are teak mullions to the windows and the living space on the garden side-elevation is entirely glazed with intricate copper coving.

I’d like to live in a glass house, I’ve decided. There’s something thoroughly modern about it. But I can’t seem to shake the sneaking concern that I would be watched. I’m not alluding to having a fanbase likely to position themselves in the treetops outside with night vision goggles, but I think back to horror movies. ***Girl on phone*** “Why do you want to know my name?” ***Sinister voice*** “Because I want to know who I’m looking at!”

Perhaps bricks and mortar would be better therefore to those with an over-active imagination.