My Modern House: Dominic and Rebecca Gaunt on designing, building and living in their contemporary family home in Winchester
Rebecca: “We first moved to Winchester from London in 2007 and renovated a flat in the city centre. When I became pregnant with our first child we started looking for the next project and the opportunity to design a contemporary family home.
“A lot of Winchester is made up of Victorian terraces and we viewed a lot of them, sketching plans for loft conversions and side returns. Then Dominic bought me to this lane with a row of 1950s bungalows and I instantly saw why he was so excited by it. At once, I let go of my fixation with period fireplaces and sash windows.”
Dominic: “The location is pretty unique in Winchester: a leafy street within walking distance of the centre with little architectural value; so far more scope for something new. The plots are larger here too.
“We bought next door, renovated and extended, then this place came up for sale, presenting us with a great opportunity to create a contemporary family home from scratch.
“When we moved in, we literally threw a lot of our stuff over the garden fence!”
Rebecca: “The plan of the bungalow on this site was a mirror image of the one next door, with all the living areas on the dark side of the house.
“Our changes to the layout would have been so extensive that we decided it would be far simpler to knock it down and start again.
“The bungalow hadn’t been touched since it was built and we spent a pretty chilly winter in there with our three-year-old son while we submitted plans and waited for planning permission to come through.
“During that time I fell pregnant with our second child, which put a bit of a deadline on completing the project. We moved into a rental for six months and back into the finished house two days before our daughter was born. Stress levels were high!”
Dominic: “We had a tight deadline, so it was all designed pretty quickly. It was great to have lived next door, so we could include what worked and improve on what didn’t.
“I was also keen to build as sustainably as possible. It’s a timber-framed house, incredibly well insulated and very airtight. We’ve also installed a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery unit and there are photovoltaic panels on the roof.”
Rebecca: “I loved the large open-plan, light and airy living space we’d created next door, so I knew I wanted to replicate that as a starting point.
“Dominic, as an architect by profession, was obviously the lead designer but it was a really collaborative process and it was nice to work together as a couple; we each bought our own ideas.”
Dominic: “It resulted in a house that’s really well suited to our lifestyle. Without doubt, our favourite place is the main kitchen/dining/living space. It’s great when the weather is good and we can open up the doors to use the indoor and outdoor as one. It’s a great space for entertaining.
“We’ve had 30 children here for a party with a bouncy castle and waterslide – it’s cool that we have the capacity to do that but I’m not sure I’d repeat it!”
Rebecca: “For me, one of the best things about the outside space is how private it feels, and the fact that we can only see trees. The garden room has a lovely effect of enclosing the space.”
Dominic: “The garden room was designed as a really flexible space; somewhere we can put up friends to stay, let the kids play. Plus I occasionally get to work from home and use it as an office, though not as much as I’d like.”
Rebecca: “I work freelance as a marketing consultant and look after the kids, so I’m at home a lot, which I am happy with; I love it here. I feel incredibly lucky to have this space to spend my days in. Even when it’s winter and it’s raining and we’re all at home, cabin fever isn’t really something I ever feel here.”
Dominic and Rebecca, how do you define modern living?
Rebecca: “Inhabiting a space that functions effortlessly, and that also has a positive impact on your wellbeing. The space, the light, the aesthetics in this house, they definitely have a feel-good effect on me.
“When we’ve been away, I’ll walk back into our main living space and it always hits me: the sense of space and light, and the calmness that it creates.”
If you were to move, what would be the first thing you’d take with you?
Dominic: “In terms of prized possessions I wouldn’t say I’m particularly wedded to anything. The things we have bought work for this place and this point in our lives. It’s good not to be too precious about things with young kids around.”
Is there a property on The Modern House’s website that has caught your eye?
Dominic: “Maresfield Gardens by Hermann Zweigenthal. We used to live in Hampstead so can appreciate the location, and the interiors look stunning and still so relevant to the way we design houses today. It’s amazing to think that it was designed and built in the 1930s yet it is still infinitely better than 99 per cent of the houses that get built today.