Less Ordinary Escapes: A guide to the best designer retreats in Britain
It’s been a tough month already. You thought that giving up booze and cigarettes, becoming vegan, swapping Tinder for TactioHealth, and investing in an overpriced gym membership, would make January feel all fantastical…well, same here.
Although we might not be able to shift your January blues, we can help to bring some much-needed cheer into your new year. Forget the detox and your lofty resolutions, and put booking a weekend break on your 2019 checklist. From Dune House to MVRDV’s Balancing Barn, here are the most exciting less ordinary designer retreats that we’re adding to our little black book of travel. The best part? They’re all in the UK. We’ll just leave these here…  
Balancing Barn
What better way to catapult us into our edit than with the most photogenic retreat of 2019: MVRDV’s Balancing Barn, Suffolk. Whether it’s the Future Towers in India, the M-Cube in China, or this see-it-to-believe-it barn, everything MVRDV touches turns into architectural gold — and raises all manners of interesting questions from its onlooker. Right now, we want to know: just how is this remarkable silver-tiled structure dramatically balancing over a ridge? Why is there a child’s swing suspended at the far end of the 15-metre-long cantilever? And, can we take a photo with it? As we glance at the 138 acres of Suffolk Wildlife Trust land through its skylight windows, and glass flooring, all of our questions rapidly disappear. #wishyouwerehere
 
Peter Zumthor Secular Retreat
Peter Zumthor’s Secular Retreat didn’t exactly put south Devon on the map; but it has definitely got it noticed on the worldwide architecture scene, and strengthened its reputation as a place of breath-taking beauty. The panoramic view of its dream-like setting, the Devonian hills, is just one of the myriad reasons why booking one of the five bedrooms is incredibly difficult. All of the dates for 2019 are sold out. Just like the bucolic landscape that surrounds it, there’s also something stunning and dramatic about the villa: the rammed white concrete roof, industrial limestone floor, bespoke armchairs and floor-to-ceiling windows give it an unexpected sci-fi feel. Who said that countryside stays couldn’t be futuristic — it’s 2019, after all. 
 
Dune House

You don't necessarily have to be an architect to 'get' Dune House, an experimental gem of a holiday home sitting snug between Suffolk’s dunes and idyllic coastline. Inside, the closer we look, the more we become obsessed: there’s a first-floor library space, an open plan kitchen and an open fire — even the smallest ‘hidden’ room has its charm. However, outside is where Jarmund/Vigsnæs, the architects behind this stunning creation, seemingly want their guests to get inspired — which could explain the large upper apertures and 360-degree ground floor windows. Oh, and did we mention that all of the five in-room baths have eye-popping views of the beach? Soak-and-see, pure heaven.
 
Long House
At first sight, the towering fortress-like walls, timber roof, and surrounding wild ponies, make Long House look like a barn you would typically find in the Norfolk landscape. Minus the clerestory windows, obviously. Architects Sir Michael and Lady Patty Hopkins have taken inspo from the moated medieval manor house that once stood in its place. Even the materials, note the flint on the walls, are a nod to the ancient churches of East Anglia. But why did the Hopkins name her ‘Long House’? And, why was she crowned Living Architecture’s largest and most spacious house to date? Well, it could be her off-the-scale grand central hall, spiral staircase, galleried balconies, two courtyards, ability to sleep ten guests, and the generous size of her grounds. Just saying.  
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Words by Adam Fletcher 
 

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