My Home: Wayne Hemmingway reveals his stunning designs

Wayne Hemingway built a stunning house with his wife Gerardine. Now it inspires the designs they work on for other families
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The Independent Online

Wayne Hemingway, 45, co-founded the fashion label Red or Dead in the early 1980s with his wife Gerardine. After selling the company in 1998, they went on to set up HemingwayDesign, which specialises in affordable and social design - recent projects include Staiths South Bank, a mass-market housing project in Tyneside for George Wimpey Homes. The couple live in West Sussex with their four children

We decided to move house when our two oldest kids got to secondary-school age. We lived in an area of London where the standards in the state sector were falling steeply, but we did want to send our kids to state school. We had just sold Red or Dead, so were flush with money and this property came up on the South Coast - three-and-a-half acres of land in a fantastic spot very close to the sea. It's everything you could dream about.

Gerardine is a great fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and the homes he designed for his friends, set in mature woodlands, and she's always wanted to design a house surrounded with big trees.

We also have a home in Australia - we travel there a lot and love what they do in Melbourne, where the houses nestle in trees and there's a balcony up among them. So, when this spot came up, with a four-bedroom, Spanish-style bungalow on it, we bought it, with the faint hope that we might be able to knock it down and build something modern and glassy, and be able to live on the first floor, up among the trees.

Once we got planning permission, Gerardine started to design the house in conjunction with me and the kids. While it was being built, we lived at the bottom of the garden. Gerardine had never designed a home before, so she got an architect in to make sure it was structurally OK. But the architect didn't agree with our idea of living upstairs and sleeping downstairs, and came up with a lot of alternative ideas.

Our house was built the same way that a warehouse is built: a steel structure with big concrete slabs. Because of the size of the house and the fact that we wanted it to be open-plan, that was the cheapest and simplest way of doing it. Once the concrete on the first floor had set, we came up with the kids and stood there, among the trees, looking out towards the coast. Why would you want your bedroom to be there, when all you do there is sleep?

We've always been a communal family - we like spending time together. So we decided to ignore the architect and changed the positioning of all the walls and put the bedrooms downstairs and turned the whole of the upstairs (about 2,500sq foot) into an open-plan living room that is all glass down one side. We built a balcony among the trees and it's absolutely beautiful. It feels like my bit of Australia or Frank Lloyd Wright America.

We've never looked back. The whole house opens out on to the garden, where there's a tepee, dens the kids made, and football kick-around areas. Indoors, we all doing our own thing in the same room - no one goes to their room unless it's to sleep, or have a shower or whatever. We never watch telly - we listen to music or spend time outdoors.

We've combined space and family living with access to fresh air, and that's the ethic that we tried to bring to the Wimpey housing projects we've worked on. I've studied what's going on in housing and it's clear that a lack of outdoor space is having a big impact on anti-social behaviour. It's not just parents and education that are to blame when kids go out and cause havoc on a Friday night. A lot of it is because they've been cooped up like battery hens all week in a house with no outdoor space, or in housing developments that aren't designed for people to interact. So we try to make sure that people have to walk past someone else's house to park their car, for example. No one gets their own wheelie bin in our developments, but the Arts Council's report, Power of the Barbecue [analysing consumer responses to the Staiths South Bank development], shows that people like that because it forces them to talk to each other at the communal waste area. It's not social engineering, just giving people a chance to interact.

Getting our ideas into housing developments is an uphill struggle. Developers think our design ideas are strange, so while we do achieve them, it's still not on the scale that I think the public want. Estate agents can be very stupid - they think a house will only sell if it has a front room and a back room, and that they'll struggle to sell a house if it's a bit unusual. Well, maybe unusual should be the new way. Maybe it should be unusual to have all these separate poky rooms.

We go for simplicity - we don't like clutter. So, in our home, we built in storage wherever possible. We don't like kitchens that look like kitchens - it's all Formica and Corian units. We've got lovely Sub-Zero fridges and Wolf gear, but it's all hidden by sliding cupboards. And everything is wireless, even the speakers.

We love high ceilings. By living on the first floor, you can have a 20ft-high ceiling, right up to the eaves. To me, luxury isn't a Cappellini sofa or a Poggenpohl kitchen - it's having space.

For a free copy of the Arts Council's Power of the Barbecue report: http:// www.artscouncil.org.uk/publications/publications.php

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