On the Suffolk Coast, a Family Builds a Seaside Home for the Ages

Hardy materials and beach-ready interiors make the residence a retreat worth holding on to for generations to come.
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In the seaside village of Thorpeness along the Suffolk Coast in England, the opportunity to buy doesn’t come around all too often. "Houses here seem to pass from generation to generation—it’s tough to get in," says Louisa Brown. "My husband, Ben, and I had been looking for a long time when one came up, so we put in an offer and bought it, but then we didn’t know what to do with it."

Over the years, the 1950s chalet bungalow they had in hand had been added on to and reorganized haphazardly, so to make the most of the seafront site they decided to start over. The Browns sought the expertise of London studio IF_DO, which estimated that by starting anew, the usable living space could easily be doubled. And, it would allow the couple to try something completely different.

"We live in a traditional Victorian farmhouse, so we wanted something contemporary and open plan, which was slightly out of our comfort zone," says Louisa. "We also wanted something my family could all use together, so my parents and us can be there, along with our three children."

The new home is nearly double the size of the bungalow—it stands at 3,440 square feet—but its long horizontal lines and neutral palette fold beautifully into the seaside setting. The ground level is built with pale buff brick, and the second level is clad in oak that will eventually fade to a light gray. The home faces east, looking out over the sand and toward the rising sun, while behind is a garden that abuts woodlands.

The Browns chose hardy, durable materials to withstand the salty air—and the wear and tear brought on by three growing children—but the house still feels airy thanks to a central open-plan living area enclosed by floor-t0-ceiling windows at the front and rear. Upon return from the beach, the family can head straight through to the patio and lawn at the back of the home.

"You can see straight through the house on the ground floor," says Al Scott, a director and cofounder at IF_DO. "That was a bold move because you might not want to live like that every day of your life, but as a response to the typology of a holiday home, it works."

On one side of the central living area are private accommodations for Louisa’s parents, while the other includes back-of-house circulation, storage, a utility room, kitchen, and seating area.

On the second floor are the primary suite and kids’ bedrooms, plus an additional family room where a balcony provides sea views and fresh air, which is what attracted the Browns to the area in the first place. "Hopefully as our children grow up," says Louisa, "the thinking is that they will be able to bring the next generation here."

Related Reading:

This Modernist Seaside Retreat in Cornwall Is One Couple’s Retirement Plan

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: IF_DO / @if_do

Builder/General Contractor: H.G. Frost

Structural Engineer: Frith:Blake

Landscape Design: LSDP

Interior Design: LVV Designs

Photographer: Nick Dearden / @buildingnarratives

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