Marston wanted a home that felt a part of a beautiful area in rural Suffolk, a couple of miles from the coastal town of Southwold, and that fit in with the old farm buildings close-by. Marston also aimed for a house that felt as though it truly belonged to the family—carefully tailored to the way that she; her husband, Robert; and their two children, George, eight, and Eddie, six, wanted to live.
“I wanted it to feel timeless,” says Marston. “When you drive around Suffolk, you see these old longhouses that have been there for centuries, and in a way I wanted something similar, something that would not be about showing off—just a simple farmhouse. It’s a contextual approach, and I hope that it feels established yet obviously new.”
Marston sought a suitable site for many years. Initially, she and her husband thought they might come across a derelict period building or something in need of a conversion. Robert favored the countryside, while Lucy was leaning toward something by the sea. Eventually, they came across a row of three crumbling farm laborers’ cottages, plus two single-story Victorian barns—all part of a former working farm. Surrounded by farmland and offering easy access to the coast, the location ticked all the boxes. Ultimately, Marston decided not to convert the cottages, but to replace them with a new house they would dub Long Farm.
“I took some time out to bring up the children but I wanted to keep building,” says Marston, who worked alongside two partners before setting up her own solo practice in Suffolk. “Long Farm worked really well for me because I could do everything at my own pace, without working to anyone else’s deadlines, and fit everything in around the children. I really enjoyed it—I was still part of the adult world, but on my own terms.”
Marston began by converting the two low-slung brick barns, which the family initially used while the main house was being built and that now provide extra space for visitors. This also gave her time to think about the orientation of the new building, the pattern of spaces within it, and the views that she wanted to frame and enhance.
The building has a brick-coated timber frame and high levels of insulation, with radiant-heat flooring, an air-source heat pump, and wood-burning stoves lending extra warmth. The house—like traditional Suffolk long- houses—is just one room deep, with an open kitchen-dining-family room at one end and a more intimate sitting room at the other, complete with an inglenook fireplace. Between the two are a reading room and playroom. These four spaces can be accessed by a hallway at one side of the building or a sequence of sliding doors toward the other that can be open or closed, providing a great deal of flexibility as to how the house can be used.
“Robert didn’t want to live in one massive open-plan space, and having lived in the barns for a while, I agreed with him,” says Marston. “When you have a family, open-plan living is not always so great, and there was balance to be struck between social areas and space for Robert and me to work. That’s why we developed this plan to have rooms that would connect, but would each have their own clear identity.”
Marston placed her study on the ground floor at the front of the house, close to the front entrance. Robert, a writer, has a workspace at the top of the house—an aerie in the attic. In between, at mid-level, sit four bed- rooms, with the boys’ bedrooms at the center, connected by pocket doors.
There are many bespoke elements throughout, including the staircase, and a level of craft and detailing that echoes Shaker design put through a contemporary filter. Color brings added character and warmth—earthy, natural hues on the ground floor and lighter, skyline tones for the upper levels. The house achieves the aim of being a contemporary home full of depth, thought, and character, as well as being molded to the needs of the family.
“What I enjoy most is the relationship with the landscape,” says Marston. “Because of the size of the windows and the careful way they are placed, you really do feel connected to the outdoors on all levels. But at the same time you also feel protected and enclosed, so you have the best of both.”
Whilst traipsing through the woods in search of Piers Taylor's 18th-century gamekeeper's cottage, writer and frequent Dwell contributor Dominic Bradbury found himself wishing that he had packed breadcrumbs in addition to the de rigueur tools of reportage. "I remember being very struck by the journey, and wondering whether I was taking the right path. It's all rather Hansel and Gretel, but suddenly, through the trees, you're rewarded with this rather brave, new, and contemporary house."
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