DRIVING along a winding country lane in Lower Drift, Penzance, you’re suddenly met by vistas straight out of a James Bond film. Drift Dam, a 1961 megastructure that was built to flood the Drift valley and supply water to West Cornwall, is dramatically mirrored by the rolling countryside of Cornwall, just before Lands End.
And if Blofeld is interested in angling, 1960s modernist architecture and tranquil views, his perfect lair is nestled beside the reservoir. The secluded retreat, named Nevada, is cut into the hillside like a modernist American lakeside house.
Until recently, the property housed the water bailiff and was put on the market when the dam was automated. In March 2016, architects Mark Camillin, 53, and Liam Denny, 45, of Camillin Denny Design (camillindenny.com) purchased the property with a view to remodelling and refurbishing it as a holiday home.
They were drawn to its modern design and clever layout — the entrance halfway between two floors gives a scissor-like access to the lower and upper floors.
‘After months of looking at thatched cottages and quaint houses in Devon and Dorset, we hadn’t found anything that inspired us,’ Mark says. ‘We wanted a challenge, something that would be more than a rustic barn with a woodburner.
‘We were stunned when we saw the house,’ continues Liam. ‘Even in its slightly run-down condition and painted bright blue, it looked impressive — the monopitch roof had instant appeal to an architect’s eye. The base of the building was formed of massive granite blocks, the upper portion was painted white and had a sort of look-out balcony hanging out over the lake.’
While there was a clarity of design, the duo felt something wasn’t quite right about it externally. The monopitch roof overhung the building like the brim of a hat and made it look unbalanced. This was removed, creating a cleaner design, and the garage on the ground floor was converted into a master bedroom suite. The small rooms on the top floor became one large, open-plan living space and a much larger roof terrace was created on the reservoir side to maximise the viewing space.
However, the most striking element of the property came about through necessity. ‘We knew that we wanted to keep the granite base to the building as it is so striking and grounded and we started to sketch the upper level looking at it with timber cladding — maybe cedar shingles, like a Californian beach house,’ says Liam. ‘Then we realised how exposed the house is; sitting on the toe of England, the south-westerly wind would blow in the autumn and winter and timber cladding may not look so good when it is constantly wet. We started to consider zinc, then quickly realised that copper might look beautiful next to Cornish granite.’
When the copper went on the building it was bright gold — ‘like a blingy coat,’ says Mark — prompting them to suddenly think they had made the house too garish and show-offy for the natural setting.
But within a week, the shiny gold had turned a more modest shade of brown, tarnished looking and with an interesting patina starting to develop. After a few months, the copper has blended into the landscape beautifully.
Like the exterior modernist aesthetic, the interior nods towards the 1960s. The pair were keen to give it a feel of the era without it becoming ‘a nasty pastiche’. That said, a print of The Chinese Girl painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff features, along with other influences from the 1960s. These include Danish-style copper light fittings, birch-faced plywood walls, an Avalon teak sideboard, a G-plan desk, leather armchairs and a copper chimney flue for the woodburner. A Pluto Starburst clock and a record player with 1960s 45s to play are the finishing touches.
And if you fancy working on that long planned novel, this would be an ideal place. ‘Something about the house reminded me of the scene in Stephen King’s film Misery, where Paul is sat in the bedroom of Annie Wilkes’ house typing the revised sequel to Misery Chastain’s death,’ says Mark. ‘Maybe not in the ‘thriller’ sense of the story, more about a writer sat in a window typing on an old typewriter. Hence we sourced a 1960s model for the desk in the master bedroom!’
■ Check out more stunning properties at the Somerset Homebuilding & Renovating Show (November 18-19), homebuildingshow.co.uk