In the British Countryside, a Well-Packaged Life
Andreas Meichsner for The New York Times
By CAROLINE EDNIE
Published: April 25, 2012
“IT’S really not a big house, but it feels infinite because you can look out over the garden and see up to three miles away,” Remy Blumenfeld said of his glass-walled home here. “It’s like being in the treetops and sleeping under the stars.”
Mr. Blumenfeld, 46, a television producer, has owned the modernist villa since 1999. Designed by the British architect Michael Manser for a member of Parliament in 1969, the home, known as Capel Manor, sits on 23 acres of rolling Kentish countryside.
So it’s no surprise that, although he has a house in London, Mr. Blumenfeld spends much of his time here, with his partner, Henryk Hetflaisz, 33, a photographer.
“It’s a place we want to share with the people that we care about or want to get to know better,” Mr. Blumenfeld said. “In London, getting to know people is usually over a business lunch or supper, but often you don’t really get to know people that way. You get to make friends by inviting them to stay over a weekend.”
The villa, however, had one major drawback: its size. “The house is too intimate,” Mr. Blumenfeld said, to share “with people that we barely know.”
The solution, he decided, was a guest pavilion, “something that echoed the original house, but that didn’t copy it.”
Ewan Cameron, the Scottish architect he hired to design it, created a simple structure split down the middle by two concrete walls that formed a narrow passageway; on either side are a bedroom and bathroom contained in identical glass boxes.
“The instinct was to create something light and sympathetic to the Michael Manser building,” said Mr. Cameron, who had been working in the Far East and “was in awe of the temples and gardens of Kyoto, Japan, and China’s Suzhou Gardens.”
“There’s a level of consideration to the garden design and architecture there that I’d never seen before, a subtlety and softness to the relationship as well as an incredibly rigorous attention to detail and material,” he said. “This was the inspiration behind the design of the overhanging canopy roof and the relationship between the external decks and gardens.”
The pavilion took eight months to build. And when it was completed in September, for about £245,000 (or just under $400,000), it was the catalyst for another project.
“We didn’t want to be the poor relations, while our guests were living in luxury,” Mr. Blumenfeld said. “We decided to effectively take our house apart and install up-to-date technology. We also added insulation, under-floor heating and a new zinc roof,” as well as a larger kitchen.
In the process, the interiors were redecorated to reflect how the two-bedroom house would have looked when it was built, in the early 1970s. Furnishings include modern classics like an Eero Saarinen Tulip table and chairs and a 1971 red chaise longue by Verner Panton.
As Mr. Blumenfeld said, “There is something simple and optimistic about the ’70s.”
And now that everything is done, he added, he has a place where work and life can mingle.
“It’s not about physical space,” he said. “Home is much more about the place you share with the people you love.”
He added: “In a way, the glass house with no walls could be seen a metaphor: A house is not about its walls, it’s about what you fill it with.”