The great outdoors within four walls

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THE ARCHITECTS Heidi Locher and Richard Paxton like to listen to music lying back under the eaves - in their case a ground-floor steel RSJ 8m overhead that supports the alterations they made to turn the core of their house into an atrium: 20m overhead is the glass ceiling.

Beaming light into an area like this was inspired by the Sixties work of Cesar Manrique. They play a tape by Musica de Los Elementos, composed to celebrate Manrique's work, piano trills overlaid with bird calls. "A bit naff," says Richard, but he admits it recalls being thrilled by the buildings.

Their home, their first urban building, was built in the backyards of a nest of buildings. At the front they built - "and sold" - flats in a four-storey block, capped with a penthouse, above their ground-floor architectural practice. Deep in the space behind is their own home. They skilfully inserted the house in the middle ground and, not so simply, glazed over the space.

Their home begins with twin channels of white pebbles filled with water into which a near-life-size, cast-iron bull delicately steps. It lies just inside the front door, with a wooden-decked bridge leading into the atrium. Across the glazed, roofed courtyard is the block designed for the parents' bedroom and bathroom.

Domesticity and family life are celebrated here, even if the barbecue in the dining-area is suspended from two steel columns. Under the skylight is a triple-height brick wall planted with jasmine that, like the barbecue, thrives from the roof being able to be slid back to open the house to sun and air.

Le Corbusier, who was a bit of a sun-worshipper, would have approved of all this celebration of nature. And Mies van der Rohe, who believed that "God was in the details", could not fault the detailing of all this steel and glass, as seamlessly executed as an origami cut.

The house is on the market for pounds 1.5m.

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