An expression of restrained elegance, Hopkins Architects’ interpretation of a Norfolk barn has no wastage. The luxury here lies in the craftsmanship
Hopkins Architects must be one of the few architectural practices in the country that can boast a building that is instantly recognisable to most Brits, in the shape of the Pringle-tastic Olympic velodrome. Of course, the firm, founded by Sir Michael Hopkins and his wife Patty in 1976, have done plenty else besides, most of it very highly acclaimed – but it doesn’t do one-off houses. At least, not in the last three decades. So this modern interpretation of a Norfolk barn, like all of Living Architecture’s properties, represents a huge coup.
Presenting an almost-obscured facade from one side, with high flint walls (inspired by local barns and churches) and a thin band of horizontal windows, from the other side the house opens up to embrace the view. The flint walls wrap around to create two sheltered courtyards (named ‘morning’ and ‘evening’, presumably so you can catch some rays at both times of the day). The interiors are in part faithful to the idea of a barn, with a large central open-plan space spanned by fabulous exposed timber roof trusses. A simple balustrade runs around at first-floor height, and the same vertical timber batons enclose a spiral staircase at one end.
The furniture is plain but cosy – naturally it’s all quite ‘architecty’, in leather, timber, wool and tubular steel, presumably to give more priority to the craftsmanship of the building itself. Concealed lighting, washing light into the eaves and down the lightly textured walls, serves the same purpose, steering your eye towards the house’s envelope rather than its contents. Fear not though, because there’s also room for a bit of frivolity – bright colour, for example, on the cherry red double bed, or the blue Eiffel-legged Eames chairs in the kitchen. And I love the courtyard outside the kitchen, encased in those beautiful flint walls but connected to the landscape beyond.
If architecture has the power to shape our moods (and there’s no ‘if’ about it as far as I’m concerned), then everything about The Long House is about soothing away cares rather than over-stimulating the senses.
Nearby: Cockthorpe is bang in the middle of the north Norfolk coast, so there’s walking and wildlife at Stiffkey and Blakeney Point, including seal-spotting; traditional fishing towns such as Wells Next The Sea (famous for its colourful beach huts), Cromer (famous for its tasty crab) and Sheringham (pick up the impossibly quaint North Norfolk Railway from here). Gorgeous country houses, like Houghton Hall and Felbrigg. The city lights of Norwich are an hour’s drive (the castle here has one of the best regional art collections in the country, one of my favourites, and there are also lots of good vintage/junk shops).
Photos by Living Architecture & Charles Hosea