Brit architect’s homage to mid-century Californian homes, except that it’s right in the Cambridgeshire countryside – a perfectly proportioned paradise for two
The Ellis Miller that this house was named after is architect Jonathan Ellis Miller, who built this as his own home in the late 80s. And if you think that it looks like it was picked up from Palm Springs and plonked in the Cambridgeshire Fens, that’s because he was heavily influenced by the California Case Study houses – experimental mid-century modern homes by towering greats like Charles and Ray Eames and Richard Neutra. He was 25 at the time, his employer and mentor at the time telling him that you’re not a ‘proper’ architect until you’ve designed your own home.
Ellis Miller House certainly has the long-and-low profile, heavy reliance on glazing and simplicity of form that those classic California houses have. Made from a mixture of steel and glass, the single-storey building has three equal bays – one taken up by a carport, the other two the house itself – so it’s incredibly simple and elegant, with the thin profile of the steel giving a very light touch.
Inside there’s a large open-plan living space, divided by a free-standing fireplace, plus a double bedroom with en suite, and kitchen. Parquet flooring, Venetian blinds and classic furniture like Robin Day’s Forum sofa let you know that you’re definitely in restrained mid-century modern territory rather than 1980s excess.
This being Cambridgeshire not California, you can expect wide cloud-scudded skies, and a distant view of Ely cathedral across the Fens. At night the house turns into a gorgeous light-box, the illumination from within seeping out of the Venetian blinds into the outside air.
Nearby: Ely, four miles away, with its Norman cathedral, Oliver Cromwell’s house, shops and pubs; Cambridge, half an hour away; Anglesey Abbey, with its lovely year-round garden (its snowdrops are world-renowned); Wicken Fen nature reserve