Country Contemporary

by theartofbespoke in Interior designed homes

When New Forest based architect Magnus Ström designed a country house in Suffolk, there wasn’t a thatched roof or low-hanging beam in sight…

Picture a country retreat and you’ll likely imagine something old and rambling, with climbing roses and wisteria around the door. But when architect Magnus Ström was asked to design a Suffolk escape for some clients, he came up with something altogether different – a modern take on the ‘long cottage’, a traditional style of building local to Suffolk.

CGI renders by Peter Guthrie

‘When the client comes to sell the house then, yes, there may be a smaller market, but people who want this sort of thing are willing to spend a premium for an architect-designed contemporary house.’

‘My clients wanted to be a little closer to nature and design a retreat in the woods with open landscape, where they could cook and entertain,’ says Ström.

The couple had concrete ideas about what they did and didn’t want. ‘They gave me a brief about 20 pages long that detailed how they lived and what they like and dislike, and we worked from there,’ he says. Indeed, it was this flexibility that got him the job in the first place. ‘They interviewed something like 10 to 12 architects, some of whom are very big and trendy,’ he says. ‘But my approach is to build from the client’s brief and actually get into what they want in terms of a home, rather than simply offering them a designer house.’

And what these clients wanted was a house that made the most of some incredible views. They also wanted the new structure to nod to the home’s history – the original structure burnt down about eight years ago, and what’s left on the two-and-a-half hectare plot are the ruins of a foundation wall and a swimming pool. ‘The clients loved the romantic notion of the old building still having a presence,’ says Ström.

Finally, the designs are finished. It’s been a long process. ‘This is design version 24, I think,’ he says. ‘There have been so many variations to get to the right place. But I think that being an architect is like being a tailor – you have to keep altering until it fits the client like a glove.’

He’s now ready to go out to tender and plans to start building in six to eight weeks’ time. He anticipates the build taking between 10 and 12 months. The finished 3440-square-foot house will have four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a study and an enormous living/dining/kitchen area, perfect for entertaining. On the first floor will be a huge master with en-suite, while downstairs a sauna opens onto a terrace with a hot tub. It is, in other words, a dream country retreat.

So what advice would Ström have for anyone who wants to take on a similar project?

‘It’s important to find an architect you really like,’ he says. ‘Don’t just look for one who’s local. RIBA offers a client advisory service, which has a full list of architects. Look in magazines or on interiors websites for buildings you like – there’s so much information now available about who’s doing what, and the internet is absolutely vital. My clients found me because they searched for “contemporary house in the forest” on Google Images and a house of mine came up.’

It’s tempting to cut costs when it comes to the architect, but – unsurprisingly, perhaps – Ström believes this is a false economy. ‘Everyone assumes architects are really expensive, but I actually think it’s important to pay a decent fee,’ he says. ‘To spend an extra £5k-£10k on an architect is such a small drop in the water in terms of the project as a whole, but will allow the architect to give you a much better service. And while you might not be able to spot the difference in quality at the design stage, you can always tell once the building is finished.’

Clearly a project like this is going to involve substantial investment – Ström reckons that you can expect to spend between £2,000 and £3,500 per square metre, including the build cost and professional fees. But it’s often worth every penny. ‘Good design really does add value,’ he says. ‘When the client comes to sell the house then, yes, there may be a smaller market, but people who want this sort of thing are willing to spend a premium for an architect-designed contemporary house. It’s such an exclusive thing to have.’

If you have a project you would like to discuss with Magnus, you can see more of his work and contact him through the Ström Architects sourcebook page

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