A beautifully judged mixture of old (traditional Welsh Victorian farmhouse) and new (stark concrete-lined kitchen) right in the middle of greenest countryside
Bryncyn (‘bank cottage’ in English) is almost as interesting as its owner and designer, chartered surveyor Dorian Bowen. His passion for Welsh vernacular architecture has seen him restore several traditional buildings – nearby Bryn Eglur, also a holiday let, is much more traditional in style and contains much of his collection of rustic antique Welsh furniture. At Bryncyn, the Welsh dresser in the living room is virtually the only trace of that love of these older objects – here, things have taken a decidedly modern turn, with concrete, contemporary furniture and floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
The house looks like any other starkly whitewashed Victorian Welsh cottage from the front, but the inside tells a different story. The original ground floor has been opened up to create a larger living space with woodburning stove, and there are airy beamed bedrooms above. Every effort has been made to show off the gorgeous uneven textures of time-worn walls and doors, contrasted with the crisper lines of design classics, like the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair.
The surprise is in the former cowshed – now the kitchen – with cast-concrete walls that look like stacked timbers, angular modern white units and a wall made entirely of glass. The glass slides away to meet a concrete-clad terrace, further emphasising the merging of inside and out, and there’s a wide pool, the length of the house, that starts to make you think that you’ve edged onto the territory of Mexican modernist Luis Barragán, famous for his juxtaposition of concrete walls and sheets of water. Watching the stars from the cedar hot tub (with or without snow – there’s no Mexican sunshine here) seems to be guests’ favourite pastime, judging by the visitors’ comments. Oh and there’s no TV, so you really are home alone.
This house is so perfectly judged in its conversion – doing just enough to preserve its character, and introducing just enough modern elements to balance it. It’s so good, in fact, that it was featured in esteemed design bible The World of Interiors. Read about it (text only) here.
Nearby: The town of Newcastle Emlyn, six miles away, for all your provisions (plus a ruined castle); beaches around Cardigan Bay, around 20 minutes’ drive; dolphin-watching trips from New Quay, 30 minutes’ away; walking all around you, from the doorstep
Photos via Under the Thatch