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Ebb and flow: Marsh Hill by Mole Architects

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AJ Specification case study: Mole Architects has designed a house in Suffolk with a main space as lofty as the view is wide. Photography by David Butler


Overlooking the River Alde in Suffolk, Marsh Hill sits just above the flood plain, looking south across the flats. To spend time in the house is to become aware of the ebb and flow of the river, from the silvered expanse of the incoming sea to the exposure of mud at low tide. 

The house confronts the view full-on, with no intermediate landscape to soften nature’s blow. The elongated plan and soaring roof speak to this expanse, suggesting directional flow or a flight path upriver. 

Cut bricks, a foot by six inches, anchor the floor to the ground, polished smooth but earthy. The white-painted brickwork re-appears inside. Along with the clay floor, this gives the house a solidity, countering the wind and weather. Painted rafters expose the twist of the roof; the main space as lofty as the view is wide. A sunken kitchen floats on a terrazzo floor, broad windows are positioned at elbow-level opposite a dining table with built-in benches. 

Elsewhere, in more private rooms, patterned tiles interrupt the broad sweeps of white and give an intensity to these low-ceilinged, darker, internal spaces. Further inside, the house offers refuge and warmth, with smaller recesses lined in stained oak for beds or window seats.

Meredith Bowles, director, Mole Architects

Marsh hill kitchen

Marsh hill kitchen

Project data

Start on site August 2014
Completion September 2015
Gross internal floor area 250m2 (plus 25m2 basement)
Form of contract JCT IFC
Construction cost £821,000
Construction cost per m2 £2,985
Architect Mole Architects
Interior designer Interior Couture 
Client Ben Baglio and Richard Wilson
Structural engineer Smith and Wallwork
Quantity surveyor 3GCC
Landscape design Todd Longstaffe Gowan
Lighting design Michael Grubb Studio
Main contractor Willow Builders
CAD software used Vectorworks
Annual CO2 emissions (based on SAP DER worsheet) 3,863kg/m2

Marsh hill bathroom

Marsh hill bathroom

Finishes strategy

The house is a continuous contrast of large, open, lofty spaces and smaller enclosed ones. The extensive use of refined timber panelling is designed to contrast with the coarseness of the bricks, used internally on walls and floors. The entry room and cloakroom have an appropriate intimacy, with low ceilings and the oak stained a grey driftwood brown. The panelling extends to create a screen that separates the hallway from the lobby with floor-to-ceiling glazing alongside an exposed brick pier and solid door. The door folds into a pocket, with a recess for the handle that doubles to take small ceramic pieces.

We worked with Elaine Williams of Interior Couture to produce a rich palette of materials that were set against the more muted tones of the architecture. In the cloakroom, Bert and May encaustic concrete tiled flooring in a geometric mid-century pattern provides animation and intensity. For hardware and other metallic finishes, rubbed bronzes and matt black finishes on brass were used, which will patinate over time.  

To complement the angularity of the bathroom and cloakroom spaces, Elaine used a square WC – Duravit Vero wall-mounted toilet, 540mm white – and rectangular Duravit Vero undermounted vanity basin, fitted sleekly into the wall cabinetry. The taps – Samuel Heath Xenon in matt black chrome – have a low, modern profile. 

Meredith Bowles, director, Mole Architects

Marsh hill sink

Marsh hill sink

Interior design

The starting points for the interior design were the dramatic coastal locale, the client’s brief for a Scandinavian country aesthetic to complement their mid-century furnishings, and the natural materials already proposed by the architects, such as the terracotta floor pamments and open white-washed rafters.

The general palette was in natural coastal tones of sky-blue/greys, stone, flint, blues and storm colours, enlivened occasionally by mid-century patterns and texture.

So, for example, for flooring we used grey/driftwood toned wood and, in the bathrooms, encaustic concrete-tiled flooring of brighter geometric tiles. We created bespoke terrazzo flooring for the kitchen using local materials such as flint in varying sizes to create an organic, ‘beach’ feel.

In bedrooms we used grey/brown wooden wall cladding and, as a kitchen splashback, raised field tiles, another mid-century stalwart. For hardware, sanitary ware and other metallic finishes, we used rubbed bronzes and matt black finishes on brass, or hot-rolled steel, which will patinate over time. The kitchen wall cabinetry was designed to blend into the walls, with the bespoke island as the standout feature, topped in brushed steel granite, giving a matt, natural finish.

Elaine Williams, Interior Couture

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