Of its time
Laura Cartledge meets the man designing property our generation can be proud of and discovers a home proving it.
We need to be braver – that is the view of award-winning designer Jamie Bannon and the message he hopes his latest project radiates.
“I am a big believer in making things look of their time,” he explains. “The Victorians didn’t build houses in the Georgian style – they went ‘we will build it in the Victorian style’.
“I think we are less progressive than most,” admits Jamie, “despite having some of the leading designers in the world.
“We do run the risk of our generation being looked back on and people saying ‘what did you do’?”
Jamie, whose previous work includes a barn conversion that won a Sussex Heritage Award, can at least answer confidently.
In a time when, he believes, building is too dictated by numbers and targets, he’s on a mission.
“If I can do bespoke projects and make that little difference I will,” Jamie states, adding that his portfolio so far is dominated by ‘the design led and the quirky’.
The Quarry House, near Uckfield, certainly meets this brief and has proved a real labour of love due, in part, to its location within the Ashdown Forest protection zone.
“You have to be persistent, if you are passionate about something, but I do have to say the planning officer has been really good,” he says.
“The site was retained from the sale of a house in about 2004. It looked like it had development potential so we went though planning – after three applications it finally got to where we are today.”
The proposed development extends to more than 2,800 sq ft and is intended to complement, but not blend into, the fairly magical setting of a former quarry site and bluebell wood.
“In the conversations with the architect, who I work with all the time because he looks at the site and listens, we spoke about the woodland above and how it was important to have access to that,” recalls Jamie. “We have a draw bridge from the balcony so it encourages that connection.
“There’s lots of glass because it has an imposing quarry back wall and it was key to see that,” he adds. “But while most of the stuff I have done has been oak previously, this is steel and concrete.
“It is a bit more sleek, but it needed to be practical at the same time because if you haven’t got that what is the point?”
While this sounds like quite a balancing act, the resulting design seems to manage it effortlessly.
“I think it is vital to encourage new design but at the same time there has to be a nod to, or reflection of, where it sits,” explains Jamie. “It needs to work visually, rather than jarring for the sake of it.
“This will stick out because it is a house on a site that doesn’t have one, but I believe over time it will soften.”
Confessing he is ‘proud of it’, Jamie admits if he had the time he would see it built.
“It could, it should, be pretty stunning when it is built and the opportunity is there,” he reasons. “All the hard work has been done, in comparison to the planning the building should be straight forward.”
Jamie believes television programmes, such as Grand Designs and George Clarke, have done a ‘great job’ endorsing design-led projects and encouraging people to take on such projects.
However, he states there is work to be done to prevent it being elitist.
“Design doesn’t have to be expensive; you’d be amazed the difference changing a light bulb can make to a space,” he enthuses. “Design is about being selective, about what works in the space. It is fine to use things from Ikea or B&Q but don’t use everything from there. For me it is about keeping it simple.
“It is about having that vision and sticking with it – you can have purple windows and resin floors if it is right in the setting.”
As for his own creations, Jamie insists it is not about creating a legacy for himself but a beautiful design for others to enjoy.
“The biggest compliment is people coming in and seeing it as a very special place to live. Somewhere that they want to come back to and show off because they are proud of it – you can’t beat that,” he smiles.
“After all, whatever you do, you just want to do the best job you can.”
Permission for: Three/four-bedroom family house measuring more than 2,800 sq ft with accommodation arranged over two floors.
Design features: First-floor living room to maximise natural light, a carefully selected palette of materials dominated by glass, concrete and timber, a focus on sustainability.
Location: A former sandstone quarry site and bluebell wood on a quiet road surrounded by fields on the outskirts of Uckfield.
Connections: Uckfield provides a mainline station running services to London Bridge in approximately 80 minutes. Near to Lewes which offers a notable range of independent shops, restaurants and cultural activities.
Price: £475,000 freehold (land only)
Design by: Atkins Blair Ings Richardson Architects in collaboration with Jamie Bannon.
For details of the full planning permission, visit the Wealden District Council planning website (Ref: WD/2015/2819.
To find out more about the development contact The Modern House, on 020 3795 5920 or via www.themodernhouse.com
September 22, 2016 Interiors and Property