WORDS Annette Klinger PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes PHOTOS Dook
A beachfront property by Abon Studio boasts all the hallmarks one would expect of a luxury seaside hideaway, but with a twist: It’s comprised of two self-contained homes that can be unified into one sprawling residence.
As far as grand debuts go, architect James Mitchell’s first solo venture under the banner of his newly minted firm Abon Studio is a corker. Set against a backdrop of Llandudno’s beachfront, the show-stopping three-level residence’s façade is fragmented into rectilinear configurations of off-shutter concrete, timber and zinc cladding, artfully Tetris-ed around the negative space of a glazed rectangle that lets you see all the way through to the ocean.
“Some areas of the beach are surrounded by enormous boulders that position themselves as if they had been strategically placed there,” says James. “The large off-shutter concrete wall has a primary function of forming a privacy boundary from the neighbouring properties, but it’s also a representation of the boulders in its size and colour, with the windows around it representing the openings between them.”
This being Llandudno, James had to work consciously with his clients’ 446m2 site. “The most challenging process was fitting a three-level home with an extensive brief onto a compact site that was surrounded by other homes,” he explains. “The design needed to suit the clients but respect the neighbours in many aspects.”
One of the hardest parts was the fact that the clients wanted James to create two self-contained residences that offered complete privacy from one another, so that one of the homes could be rented out. But, when the time was right, they also wanted to be able to seamlessly integrate the two residences into one four-bedroom home, with minimal renovation necessary. This meant doubling up on entrances, kitchens, pools, garages, entertainment spaces and courtyards – quite a tall order for such a small parcel of land.
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After taking all the variables into account – the position of the sun, the sea view, the neighbours – the design solution that proved most elegant was to create a three-level residence. As there were height regulations to contend with, James had to excavate the site slightly to comfortably accommodate the different floors, but not so much that the lower level would be gloomy and lightless. To allow as much light in as possible, James pushed the soffit of the middle level slab up to its limit to create tall openings for sunlight to stream through.
Ultimately, the two residences – one occupying the two upper levels, the other the ground floor – are separated by a wall and a “secret” timber-clad door, so that when the owners finally decide to make the leap, all they’ll need to do is demolish the wall to unite the two disparate halves.
In terms of design flow, James set out to mimic the sensory journey that can be experienced on an amble from the site to the sea, with a very deliberate selection of materials and finishes. “There is a progression of natural materials, from walking under the canopy of trees to walking between the boulders, and surrounding yourself with fine white sand,” he says. “We managed to achieve this progression, from using a combination of off-shutter concrete, dark features, granite and wood in the double-volume entrance and main kitchen, to a lighter, more beachy feel in the living space moving to the ocean-facing side, with its combination of light greys, white features, granite and wood.”
The idea is that you can come home from a surf, put your surfboard down, take a shower and then go inside, which is exactly the kind of lifestyle the clients wanted, says James, who himself grew up surfing in Llandudno. Much like the surf, this home is poised to change at a moment’s notice – and that’s exactly the way its owners like it.