Building a legacy

Laura Cartledge meets the architect duo who have teamed up to create beautiful homes.

Designing buildings is an exact art.
The process requires meticulous planning and consultations which take time.
However architects Trevor Pullen and James Wells are proof that an element of going with your gut instincts can be good.
And James’ award-winning beach house at Pagham showcases this perfectly.
James Wells and Trevor Pullen“It was a chance discovery, we went for a walk one day and found a damp, sad-looking bungalow – well it was more of a shed really – and it had a for sale sign,” he recalls.
“I said ‘if we call up on Monday and it is less than so much we will by it’, and it was.
“It was a bit of a whim really.”
However the glass pavilion that now stands there, taking its inspiration from
‘the idea of a picnic on the beach under a large sunshade’, ended up being a lot more than that.
In fact, the appeal of the seaside lifestyle and great schools locally soon saw it become James’ family home for 12 years.
This moved the Wells away from London, before they moved to a bigger build in Bignor and let the beach house out as a holiday retreat.
“This was an escape and when the kids came along we started spending more time here,” says James. “We just sit here in the evening looking out to sea with a glass of something like we are at the cinema.”
He says it would be a ‘dull and relaxing’ film, but these are two words you certainly wouldn’t use to describe the duo’s profession.
Presentation SheetWhich is just as well, as Trevor admits ‘part of the beauty of it all is the different challenges and all the differing houses’.
Having both gained a reputation for great quality builds, and sharing a passion for residential projects, teaming up to become Pullen and Wells Architects could be deemed a no-brainer.
“We just thought this could work, let’s do it,” admits Trevor, “We didn’t deliberate over months and months.”
Now boasting offices in London and Chichester’s South Street, the partnership, in their own words, simply sees them ‘create beautiful homes’.
“I think our clients largely fall into three categories. We have the people who are looking for a second 346 - 34rhome,” James reveals.
“They might have a house in central or west London and want a weekend place.
“Then we have quite a strong number of families whose kids are growing up and they want the good schools and the lifestyle.
“Then there are people who are retiring, the kids have left home, who are looking for a bit of sunshine.”
This work is keeping them busy, so much so neither are sure where the time has gone since linking up in February.
However the Geminis admit their astrologically determined ‘butterfly nature’ will still mean flitting to and from other bigger projects.
So how does Sussex compare to working in the capital?
“The advantage of being down here is people are doing things for fun,”
replies James.
“And I remember with the beach house going into the planning office and they told us they favour creativity in these areas.”
Both reveal they think the setting has a lot to do with it, with clients wanting to celebrate the beautiful surroundings.
“All the properties have to sit comfortably within their setting, the surroundings are very important to the house,” says Trevor.
“Whereas the task with London ones is to create a nice internal space as the views can be nothing special,” James adds.
Wherever the work is based, something that doesn’t change is their approach which blends the old and the new.
“Some people say we can’t get the traditional skills any more but that is absolutely nonsense, if you look hard enough you can get amazing things
done – beautiful stonework and carpentry,” James enthuses.
“I think there is very much a move to return to character. While everything that
is stripped back, minimalist and modern has to be honest.”
Speaking of the latter, Trevor insists: “Less is more is a cliche that is always used but it is true.”
This stripped-back nature also comes into the initial design process with the pair proud of the fact they still ‘do a level of hand drawing’.
“It was very important to both of us to have drawing boards in our office,” states Trevor, “but we do 3D and CAD, too.
“It is a good fusion and we pair the two in our buildings which can be traditional then packed with technology.”
Thanks to the bricks and mortar situations these high-tech features find themselves in, the result is the pair can be proud of building the business a legacy.
“We are producing things that will be here long after we are,” agrees James. “Things you can stand back from and be proud.”

To find out more about Pullen & Wells Architects, 41-42 Southgate Place, Chichester, call 01243 859510 or visit