Eco Dream Home

PUBLISHED: 17:21 03 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:51 20 February 2013

Eco Dream Home

Eco Dream Home

As you would expect from a property called 'The Observatory', this modern eco home has magnificent views of Minehead Bay and to the South Wales coast beyond.

As you would expect from a property called The Observatory, this modern eco home has magnificent views of Minehead Bay and to the South Wales coast beyond. Words and photos by Peter Booton.

The Observatory in Minehead is a superb, contemporary style property with excellent green credentials. And if that isnt enough to qualify it as a dream home for modern family living, it also boasts an elevated location within the prestigious North Hill conservation area, from which there are spectacular panoramic views of Minehead Bay and the not-so-distant South Wales coast.

The three-storey, six-bedroom property was built in 2007 for its present owner, who wanted a spacious contemporary house that would make the most of those fabulous views. It also had to be as environmentally friendly as possible by incorporating eco features that would minimise running costs. Another important factor was its location within easy walking distance of the town and all the amenities and facilities that Minehead has to offer.

London-based Paul Brooks Architects (PBA) were commissioned to design The Observatory. As specialists in creating designs for sensitive and challenging sites, their brief was to integrate the building into the topography of the site and make it appear as though it naturally fitted the site. In order to retain several existing mature trees, the property required careful positioning and to minimise visual impact a green roof system and timber cladding were specified. Because of the elevated position of the property extensive glazing was employed to make the house as light and airy as possible and, due to the sharply sloping character of the site, the house was designed over three floors.

The upper floor consists of a spacious open-plan living and dining area and a stylish, luxuriously appointed kitchen. The latter was designed by Discovery Channel presenter Mark Selwood who was commissioned by the owner to create a functional kitchen with a wow factor that would befit the style of the property. Marks practical and eye-catching design incorporates high gloss black cupboards with vibrant green detailing and polished black granite work surfaces. The curvaceous central island unit, which has an inset gas hob and retractable power points, embodies soft-close drawers with subtly patterned carbon-fibre handles that were sourced by Mark along with the extractor hood that resembles a lampshade.

A series of large, wooden-framed windows spanning the width of the upper floors front elevation invite tantalising glimpses of the sea while preparing meals. On the opposite side of the living and dining area, a wall of fully glazed fold-back doors open out onto a stone-paved terrace with a sunken seating area, which affords yet more of those entrancing views. Mark Selwood was busy here too: the design guru landscaped both the upper and lower gardens, which incorporate granite setts, slate paths and discreet lighting.

A wide, wooden tread staircase descends from the top level to the first floor containing the master bedroom suite, comprising a double bedroom, dressing room and en-suite bathroom with a walk-in shower, two further bedrooms, a family bathroom, storage space and an open-plan area alongside the staircase where a library or such could be sited, if required.

Since January 2011 The Observatory has been tenanted by Mark and Cassie Bonser and their four children aged between two and sixteen. Their two eldest sons have made the ground floor their own domain, for here there is a guest suite, family room/bedroom, media/TV room/study, a walk-in shower and a sauna as well as a large utility room containing a built-in American style fridge/freezer. A lift capable of carrying four adults, or a person in a wheelchair conveniently placed alongside a door into the double garage links this floor to the top floor. Mark says that they have found this feature particularly useful, especially for relaying heavy shopping to the kitchen, and also for lowering their wheelie bin to ground level on collection days!

This was the first time that the Bonsers had lived in an upside down house, and Cassie admits that it took a little getting used to initially, but now they are accustomed to the layout because it allows them to enjoy those superb seascapes from the upper floor while they are dining or relaxing. Mark adds, "The views are simply stunning at any time of the year. Even if youve had a bad day, looking out of the windows makes you feel a whole lot better."

Hailing previously from suburban Northwich, Cheshire, the Bonsers now love Somerset and living in Minehead, where they both work, and their children particularly like being so close to the beach. Mark has discovered to his delight that he can go sea-fishing and return with the days catch, which he can then cook on their barbecue while standing on the upper terrace looking out to sea!

As well as under-floor heating throughout the house, there is an energy-saving heat replacement system that draws damp air from the utility room and bathrooms, removes the moisture and then returns warm, dry air to the bedrooms. A very high standard of insulation greatly assists energy efficiency, too, and the Bonsers have found that a top-up of heat from the hole-in-the-wall gas fire in the top floor lounge is sufficient to keep the house comfortably warm even in very cold weather.

The Sarna Vert green roof system plays an essential part, too, in the buildings energy efficiency. The roof is planted with sedum, a type of living vegetation widely used in Germany and Switzerland, which absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen while also improving insulation and preventing the roof from acting as a large reflector of the suns rays. Rainwater harvesting adds further to the propertys already impressive green credentials.

The Observatory is now for sale and the Bonser family are moving on. Mark enthuses, "Its a unique, discreetly located property offering state-of-the-art living with stunning views. Who could ask for more?" 

The property is currently being marketed by Webbers Estate Agents. For more information, visit: or tel: 01643 706917 (Minehead office).

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