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The Cornwall Coast: an architect-designed house on...

The Cornwall Coast: an architect-designed house on Praa Sands

Britain is at its best at this architect-designed home overlooking Cornwall’s Praa Sands

Words  Helen Baron

Praa Sands is the real deal: forty-five minutes by car from Britain’s westernmost point, Land’s End, and half that from its southernmost, the Lizard pensinsula. This isn’t close-at-hand Cornwall, for those who like to leave the M3 at Exeter and stray little further: this is The West in its oldest and most beguiling sense, with all the ancient, elemental allure that simple phrase can muster.
Although it’s a popular destination for holidaymakers, Praa Sands is by no means obvious. Neither as thronged as Newquay nor as bustling as picture-perfect St Ives, Praa is for those who like their Cornwall a little tucked away, a little windswept, a little wild. It’s the side of Cornwall those in the know cherish, because at their most untouched and untroubled, the rugged Cornish coastline and golden beaches can perform wonders. And when they do, Little Cottage has the best seat in the house.
The first thing to say is that the name is misleading. Little Cottage is neither little nor a cottage – it’s a modernist-inspired beachfront home built where a little cottage once stood. The site, a sandy slope a few metres above the eastern end of Praa Sands (the bit the tourists rarely reach), was chanced upon a few years back by celebrated London architect Alex Michaelis and his wife. They purchased the property despite facing all manner of problems (from the structural decay of the cottage itself to the rapid encroachment of the tide upon its overgrown garden) and transformed it into something that can be honestly described as paradisical.

pra sands kitchen
praa sands staircase

The house itself is a beauty – not overlarge but spacious and airy, with beautiful plaster-pale walls and huge windows overlooking the lawn, the beach and the Channel beyond. No joke, no hyperbole – these windows are the kind that can change your life. They turn each of the three first-floor bedrooms as well as the entire open-plan ground-floor lounge, dining and kitchen space into a living gallery of sky and sea. Even better, they’ve been designed with sight-lines in mind: I defy you not to be wonderstruck the first time you surmount the curving staircase (its design informed by seashells) and glimpse, through the concentric rectangles of corridor, bedroom doorway and window, the mingling blues of the horizon, dotted with the tiny, dark, wetsuited forms of surfers.
Other interior amenities include a large utility room and walk-through shower that gives out onto the garden – ideal for those fresh from the beach; a dorm-style room with bunk-beds for kids or young teens; en suite bathrooms to each bedroom; a cosy den with home entertainment system; high-tech kitchen conveniences (including boiling, filtered and sparkling water taps) and a wireless Sonos system that allows you to play your choice of music throughout the house. The decor itself is minimal with a beachy, surfy twist, and while there’s nothing in the way of clutter or confusion, there is a pleasing sense of the owners’ own active, unpretentious family life, visible in the boxes of Lego and model cars in the dorm room or in various homely decorative touches. On that note, here’s a tip: take a moment during your stay to go into the rear part of the garden, behind the house, so you can look in through the rear windows. Even here, you’ll find every visual detail has been considered.
Once you’re in the garden, you’ll want to stay there. The neat, broad lawn, frequented by white-tailed rabbits and hovering kestrels, is well provided-for with seating, a barbecue and a heavenly hot tub; there’s also a trampoline for those of a bouncy persuasion (our eighteen month-old loved it). But don’t feel that it’s all about getting active. For us, the location itself was the jewel in the crown: sitting on the lawn as the sun went down, the bare, undeveloped headland sweeping away to the east, we gratefully received a salutary lesson on the restorative and ruminative potential of the sea. Having been fortunate enough to travel the world and to stay in some truly lush and luxurious places, it was a surprise to find ourselves considering the pre-eminence of this sun-doused, windshook, wave-eaten spot so much closer to home.   

THE DAMAGE

Stays at Little Cottage start at £2,200 for 3 nights. The house can accommodate up to 11 people.

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