The New House, Sussex

















Winner of 'The Sunday Times Best Country House since the War' Award 1989

The house is located on a magnificent site. It crowns the end of a ridge along which it is approached from the north. To the south the land falls away to a lake, on the west is the Victorian gothic orangery that is all that was remaining of the original house, and to the east another grassy ridge runs out into the deer park: 1200 head of deer, of species from several nations, roam semi-wild in an intensified natural ecology.

To command and lock into this stupendous setting in a manner fitting for a country house, the design spreads wings in the traditional H configuration. Extended wings create an entry court on the north and a sunny terrace on the south outside the main living rooms. These, like the terrace, enjoy a view down to the lake and obliquely to the old orangery on one side. This now houses conservatories on either side of a large outdoor room. But the most powerful connection to the conservatiories is the enfilade through them and across the dining and drawing rooms and library and out along the grassy ridge. In contrast, a minor axis connects the work rooms of kitchen and study on either side of the hall. This more private axis also gives access to service areas and guest rooms.

The plan sits on a square paved and gridded base whose diagonals cross in the centre of the living room-this is both a vestigial 'stylobate' and the tartan grid of modular Modernism. At the crossings of the grid are the columns, and where there is no column its absence is still marked on the floor. The column width, which at 3ft is the same as that of a door, is the basic modular measure of the grid.

The house was built for an industrialist- it has a steel frame, sheeted roofing, and makes extensive use of precast concrete, but it is finished in much richer materials and to far superior standards than usual. The exterior is clad in contrasting bands, or 'strata' of materials. At the base is an exposed pebble aggregate. Above this is a band that is acid-eteched to reveal a crushed limestone aggregate, and then most of the column is clad in "Blitzcrete®". Above, capitals of black concrete with black marble aggregate laquered to make them look permanently wet, fuse the cube with the sphere. Cast through them are holes that are sometimes overflows for the rainwater gutters and at other times house floodlights. Similar capitals cap chineys to fireplaces and flues.

Between the capitals is a cornice beam of green concrete incised with sloping grooves. Below this, walls are faced in travertine interupted by strata of red brick. Floors inside and out are paved in different colours of travertine, whilst outside grid lines are picked out in dark engineering bricks.

The polychromy of colours are a direct response to the english landscape of saturated greens and dense colours that glow in our cool, dim light with its shafts of brilliant sunlight.

The entrance hall, described in Country Life (17/7/86) as "surely one of the most succesful new rooms in Britain" is oval in form. Its walls are finished in polished stucco, with bands of burr elm veneer edged with aluminium. Its floor is travertine with in laid 'giant compass dials' made from marble elements reflecting the numbers of days in the year, the months in the year and the hours in the day. The doors are of avodiré wood covered in a trellis work created from different stained sycamore veneers: each door contains some 2,500 pieces.

Of the interiors, the Architectural Review (June 86) wrote:

"The interior will ravish any but the most reductive Modernist. It feels open, light and airy and only the richness of the colours and materials prevents the magnificent views from dominating the attention and eclipsing the interior. Detail and construction are immaculate, and colours, from the pink and yellow plywood ceilings, to the pinks, greens and greys of the walls, and the other shades and patterns of cabinet work, flooring and tiles are all precisely judged to be rich, lively and harmonious.

Though such a strong architectural frame is necessary to stand up to the setting, and the views it offers inside, it might be expected to dominate any but the most monument and robustly pompous furniture. This has not proved true. It is furnished mainly in the light and elegant pieces - many by Josef Frank - that the clients previously owned. After skilful arrangement the effect is of a flattering symbiosis between house and furnishing. But then a house like this is the joint creation of architect and discerning and determined client. Part of the triumph here is that the result seems an exact reflection of the tastes and concerns of both parties."


Cost £200 /sq.m.
1978 - 1986


Client: A wealthy industrialist.
Architects: John Outram Associates
Structural Engineer: Portland AssociatesMechanical and Electrical Engineer: Denis Johnson
Cost Consultant: Gardiner & Theobald
Landscape design Consultants: Anthony Du Gard Pasley
Main Contractors: Deacon (Contractors) Ltd


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