A vision made real
This raised pavilion extension has transformed a beloved Victorian home, giving breathtaking views over the quarry rock garden to the Welsh coast. Words Nicola Wilkes. Photography Matt Cant
Eifion and Amanda Griffiths have lived in their home in Goodwich, overlooking Fishguard, Wales, since 1980. They considered moving once or twice but, ‘Simply put,’ says Eifion, ‘this is our home and we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else’. Which is why, in 2013, they decided to remodel and extend the house, turning it into a stunning, contemporary home.
Situated on a sloping site on the north of Goodwick Hill, a short walk from the seafront in Fishguard Bay, the three-storey Victorian semi-detached house was suffering from damp and decrepitude. The couple had already made some cosmetic changes to the layout of the house, including moving the main bedroom and bathroom to the ground floor at the back of the property, which leads to the rocky outcrop that is the sloping foot of the garden.; this was so that they could have their living room on the first floor, and take full advantage of the magnificent views of the bay.
However, Eifion, who trained as an architect, and Amanda, who runs the family’s textile company, Melin Tregwynt, were frustrated by the knowledge that the house offered them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something more, to turn their ordinary home into an extraordinary one. ‘It was simply a matter of finding the right architect and vision to push forward,’ says Amanda. ‘but it wasn’t the easy process we thought it would be.’
The couple’s firm ideas about the design and the materials they wanted to use were both a help and a hindrance, it seems, as was their concern for how any new building would interact with the existing house. Finding the design team that ‘felt right’ had become an ongoing project in itself. Until, that is, they began to discuss their ideas with Ralph Kent, of John Pardey Architects.
Here, at last, was the man Griffiths had been searching for. ‘We knew we wanted a building with clean, modern lines, using glass and concrete - simple, honest materials - and Ralph’s idea of having a small structure on the ground floor to provide a bathroom and dressing room for our bedroom, and on top of it, a glazed pavilion that spans the back of the existing house and connects with the garden was everything we had dreamed of,’ says Amanda.
To achieve a successful connection between the existing house and new extension, the original rear facade gables would need to be demolished. ‘The house is hewn into the hillside and set in a maritime environment’ says the project architect, ‘so we settled on a simple palette of durable materials that would weather and age gracefully.’
The building work also provided the ideal opportunity to renovate the main house, to deal with the damp and to modernise it throughout. As they had expected, it was a complex job and choosing the right construction company was essential to the success of the project as it had been to find the right architect.
John Pardey Architects had worked with Welsh specialist builder, Carreg Construction, on another project, and Eifion and Amanda were impressed by what they had seen of that. ‘We loved Carreg’s work and we felt certain that the firm was the right choice for the complex task,’ they say.
During the course of the build, the couple moved into a holiday cottage they owned. A year later, however, work on the Victorian house still had some months to go, having been delayed by the discovery of a seam of granite during the excavation period (the house stands on the site of a former quarry). Changes were made to the design of the external staircase and more funds had to be used, so Amanda and Eifion moved into rooms at Melin Tregwynt woollen mill, an experience tat, as an aside, Amanda does not recall with much fondness: ‘Every window of the house overlooked the factory - we couldn’t get away from work.’
The couple had no desire to escape the details involved in remodelling their home, however. Their commitment to quality was such that they went over budget, but as Amanda explains: ‘We were only going to do everything once so we chose things that would last, which, in turn, would reduce ongoing maintenance.’
Amanda adds: ‘Renovating an old house at the same time meant we also encountered problems that only became apparent once the work had started, so we adapted to the circumstances and in hindsight, the changes made the design even better.’
Inside the finished house an equally attentive eye to using the best soft furnishings and decorative accessories had led to the creation of a house that is as stylist to live in as it is to look at.
‘We love our house and use every single room. The way the first floor flows into the garden, and the ever-changing views of the sea and hills, are the very best thing in all weathers. The new kitchen and living room is used throughout the day whether we are working at home or just milling about the house, and in the evenings, the old living room is somewhere lovely to sit and watch the sky change,’ says Amanda.
‘Watching the winter storms come in over the bay while we’re snugly tucked up inside is lovely,’ she adds. ‘Or sitting out on the terrace, listening to music on summer nights, is incredible. The coolness in summer and warmth of the underfloor heating and good insulation in winter mades this a house for all seasons.’