The Sun Houses: Inside a modernist dream home

Designed by architect Amyas Connell in 1935 as part of a series known as the Sun Houses, this Grade II-listed building is an archetypal example of British early modernism.

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The house sits on the lower slopes of the High & Over estate. High & Over house, perched on the top of the hill, was the first house designed by Connell, followed by a run of four houses in the same modernist design, which together became known as the Sun Houses. The architect was a pioneer of this distinct style, as an early follower of Le Corbusier, and High & Over, completed in 1931, is widely considered the first and finest modernist house in Britain.

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One of the five Sun Houses is currently on the market with The Modern House, an estate agency specialising in exceptional properties from period houses to architect’s own homes. Highover Park, as an historic piece of British architecture, is no exception. On the Sun Houses’ completion in 1935, a new aesthetic had been introduced to Britain, a modern monochrome language of flat planes, glass and geometric windows. In the rural suburbs of Old Amersham, these structures were forerunners of a design revolution.

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Although the interiors of Highover Park have been modified, many of the original features have been maintained. A key element of the house’s plan is the fully glazed central staircase. The double-height space of the first floor landing is flooded with light from tall windows. The staircase leads to a roof-top sun terrace, where the distinctive cantilevered hood of the building’s roof provides shade over this external spot.

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The main living space is also part of the original 1930s build, but has been transformed in later decades into an expansive open-plan area. The current décor draws on a modernist aesthetic: white walls, large modern artworks and distinctive design pieces. Yet mixed with this scheme are rustic, country features, creating a homely, comfortable space. Floor to ceiling glass windows overlook the landscaped garden, and flood the open interiors with sun.

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An extension added in the 1970s houses the kitchen, a white-washed space with a grey marble counter and pale green glass details. In keeping with the original design, the kitchen features a wall of glass windows overlooking the garden, bringing in the sunlight, emphasising the crisp, modern whiteness of the interiors.

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The exterior of the house, including its flat roofs and windows, has been meticulously restored. The building’s new additions and extensions are sensitive to Connell’s work of art, creating liveable modern interiors that do justice to his original futuristic design, which appears as unique and new today as when it was first built.

[All images courtesy of The Modern House.]

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Annabel Sheen

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