Sea Lane House II
East Preston, West Sussex


Architect: Marcel Breuer

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“Bathed in light and sea air, strolling onto the balcony is like walking from the bridge of a modern liner onto the deck”

Sea Lane House is one of the most distinguished examples of 20th-century domestic architecture, renowned as the only house in Britain wholly designed by the great Bauhaus-trained architect and designer, Marcel Breuer, while working in collaboration with FRS Yorke. The Grade II-listed, six-bedroom modernist home overlooks East Preston’s stretch of West Sussex coastline in one direction and gentle countryside in the other. Streamlined and nautical, the house is largely unaltered from the original design. Many of its original features remain, and so subsequently the house needs some updating.

The Architect

Marcel Breuer (1902-1981) is widely recognised as one of the most important modern architects and designers of the 20th century. Born in Hungary, he was one of the most successful graduates of the famous Bauhaus in Germany, a radical school for the creative arts that is frequently cited as the birthplace of modernism. Breuer left Germany in the 1930s due to the rise of the Nazi Party, moving to London for two brief years during which he designed Sea House Lane. Breuer then moved to the United States, spending the rest of his life in the country and designing celebrated buildings like the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. For more information, see the History section.

The Tour

Sea Lane House was perhaps one of the most important achievements of Breuer’s fruitful stay in Britain between 1935 and 1937. It is the only surviving pre-war building in Europe by Breuer and is considered the best-preserved example of his early architectural work anywhere in the world.

An innovative and ingenious house, it is constructed of brick and reinforced concrete. The British architect FRS Yorke, one of the earliest English pioneers of the International Style, worked with Breuer while he designed Sea Lane House, describing it as “a seaside house for contemporary living … that owes … nothing to period mannerisms”. Outlining a key innovative feature – the accommodation built on columns that ensure sea views from the bedrooms – Yorke further noted that this “allows open space under the bedroom wing … [that] can be made into a lawn”.

Set off the beach access road, perched behind a low brick wall and hedging, the striking façades of this house are dominated by planes of white concrete and ribbons of metal framed windows. A rectangular grid of piloti marks the entrance, with a concrete soffit atop the large undercroft.

From here, there are two options of entry: a day-to-day entrance to the side of the garages leading to the ground-floor accommodation, or a second, more dramatic and public access ascending the concrete stair to the graceful curving sun terrace buttressed by column support. Perhaps the most exciting architectural feature of the house, this design shows a shift by Breuer away from the rigidity of early modernism towards a more expressive style.

Accommodation within the house includes a bedroom wing raised on the concrete piloti, a first-floor living room with an open fireplace, a dining room with access to a sun terrace and garden, and a ground-floor kitchen with a larder and utility room. Breuer and Yorke always intended there to be the possibility of one of the bedrooms being used as a second reception room or study. Other features that remain today include a large framed north-facing window with 72 glazed panels, a working dumb waiter and an internal bell system.

Outdoor Space

The house is surrounded by gardens (including a vegetable garden) on a corner plot straddling the prestigious Kingston Gorse and West Kingston Estates. There are two garages and driveways that provide further parking.

The Area

The house is set in a tranquil location around 50m from the sea on two private estates with no through traffic. Sea Lane is between the wonderful expanse of shingle at Climping and Ferring beaches. The local shops of East Preston are a 15-min walk away, as is the Grub and Gumption café, a perfect spot for a morning coffee or delicious brunch and Reema Restaurant, for tasty Indian food.

The village of Rustington, three miles away, offers a more extensive range of facilities. The enticing towns of Worthing, Arundel, Chichester and Brighton are also within short driving distance of the house. Worthing seafront is a lovely place for a stroll, followed by lunch at Tern, set within a terrific art deco building.  The town is also home to several fish shops, notably Gilbert & Bashford. The other three towns host regular farmers’ markets.

The seaside town of Littlehampton is also close. Its Beach Cafe, designed by Thomas Heatherwick affords terrifically tasty food, overlooking miles of beach. The Lamb, a gastro pub at Angmering, is also a great spot for lunch.

Angmering’s train station is only 2 miles away and runs services to London Victoria and London Bridge. London is approximately 60 miles away by car.

Council Tax Band: G

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.


Marcel Breuer

Sea Lane House was perhaps one of the two most important achievements of Breuer’s fruitful stay in Britain between 1935 and 1937, the other being his design for the Isokon Long Chair.

Born in Pécs, Hungary in 1902, Marcel Breuer briefly studied art in Vienna before joining the Bauhaus in the 1920s. First a student and then a teacher, he became head of the celebrated furniture workshop.

On leaving the Bauhaus, Breuer practised as an architect in Berlin before fleeing the Nazi regime and moving to London in 1935, where he stayed for two years. In 1939 he was invited by Walter Gropius (the founder of the Bauhaus and former teacher of Breuer) to work at Harvard University. At Harvard, Breuer taught pupils who went on to become some of America’s celebrated architects including Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph and I.M. Pei.

In America, Breuer initially worked in an architecture practice with Gropius before forming his own firm with offices in New York and Paris. Breuer produced numerous important buildings before his death in 1981 including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Sea Lane House

The house was originally commissioned for a plantation owner, James Macnabb, who is thought to have never occupied it (due, in part, to the outbreak of World War II in 1939). In 1943, it was bought by Richard Papelian, an engineer and celebrated figure within the automotive industry (he is perhaps best known for introducing windscreen wipers and car radios to Britain). Papelain fell in love with Sea Lane House thanks to what he called its “technical excellence’” and lived there until his death in 1986, taking careful care of it throughout his life. Papelian’s family still owns the house.

Sea Lane House is the only surviving pre-War building in Europe by Breuer. It is also considered the best-preserved example of Breuer’s early architectural work anywhere in the world.

N.B. An extensive and attractive archive of material relating to the history of the house will be made available to any buyer.

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