Back at the beginning of August, we escaped for three nights of peace and relaxation to the Life House – a simple, contemporary holiday home designed by the architect John Pawson for Living Architecture. It was unlike anywhere I had stayed before, a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, from which to rest, reinvigorate and restore, all in the stunning, picturesque setting of the Welsh countryside.
Set up to promote modern architecture, Living Architecture commissions some of the best architects to design houses in some of the most beautiful locations in Britain, a winning formula right? You might have seen Grayson Perry and FAT’s jolly A House for Essex, or the precariously cantilevered Balancing Barn in Suffolk by MVRDV, or wondered what that peculiar looking boat is doing perched on top of the Southbank Centre. They’re all available to rent, making the perfect getaway whether you have an interest in architecture and an appreciation for meticulous design, would like to experience what it’s like to live, eat and sleep in a space designed by a top architectural practice or whether you simply want a lovely, restful stay in beautiful surroundings.
John Pawson’s Life House is the latest in their portfolio. Set in a landscape of rolling hills, the mysterious dark building peeks out between the heather and blackened gorse. It’s an incredibly peaceful location, with nothing to disturb the silence except the gentle bleet of sheep.
Designed to promote wellbeing in body and mind, inside the house is designed around moments of relaxation and periods of contemplation. Inspired by Japanese design and the architecture of Benedictine monks, the series of rooms are harmoniously arranged along two long corridors, one clad in light Danish handmade brick, one in dark brick. The house may be minimalist in style, but it’s anything but cold and bare; soft Douglas fir wood joinery to the ceilings and walls give a sense of warmth, while natural textiles provide a bit of cosiness.
Each of the three bedrooms are designed to immerse visitors in specific activities – literature, music and bathing while looking out to the landscape. The library room has a selection of philosophical books curated by Living Architecture and John Pawson, while the music room incorporates a powerful music system and CD collection chosen by Caius Pawson, whose record label Young Turks has acts such as The XX, SBTRKT and Jamie XX.
The bathing bedroom was my favourite, with a bath looking out over the countryside. Just watching the grass blow in the breeze was enough to make you instantly relax and forget the troubles of the everyday. Then there was the huge beds and crisp white sheets to drift you off into a soundless sleep.
At first I thought a weekend in a house in the middle of nowhere, we’re bound to get bored with nothing to do. But after a while, we began to allow ourselves to do nothing (not something I usually do, I always feel I should be doing something useful…) and just go with whatever we felt like doing, whether it was reading a book, taking a nap or simply being. Plus there was also wifi, a Samsung Serif TV and netflix, if you wanted to do your retreat in comfort and style…
The desk in the library room looked out onto the hills, providing a peaceful, contemplative setting from which to read. If only my own desk looked out onto an equally picturesque setting.
The house, to me, seemed really designed to experience from the inside. From the outside, it’s dark shape beds itself into the landscape and seems harsh and uncompromisingly contemporary. But inside, it’s like a calm, cosy mountain cabin, hidden away from the world and the perfect viewpoint from which to watch the weather outside pass and change.
The Life House really was magical. It gave us a much-needed sense of calm in a busy world of deadlines, to-do lists, schedules and strategies. It let us step back and take a breath. There was a contemplation chamber for those into the more transformative qualities of meditation and reflection, but we didn’t need that; just give someone a breathtaking view, a quiet setting and a few creature comforts and it’s amazing what a few nights of rest can do to soothe the mind.
Find out more about reservations and booking Life House here.
All images: cate st hill