Concrete circles and glass spirals

A house that includes a pool table, a swimming pool and a recording studio? Yes, it belongs to a rock star. But Vince Clarke's home has other imaginative features, too
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Imagine a circular creation in glass and concrete had landed in a woodland setting and it would not be far from the effect created by an extraordinary house built for a rock star in Surrey. When Vince Clarke of Erasure, and founding member of Depeche Mode and Yazoo, stipulated that his house should be round and see-through, he allowed the architect's imagination to soar. John Newton came up with a design that inventively combines hard materials with a soft, curved exterior that seems perfectly at one with the grassy, wooded landscape.

Stepping inside Ammonite is as intriguing as entering the Tardis. From the outside, it is impossible to picture how the interior is organised. Rather likes a snail shell, as its name suggests, it curls around a spiral staircase in glass. The living room has a magnificent sweep of window - curved, of course - with a fireplace that forms a central feature. The room appears to stretch into the garden, a habitat for foxes, rabbits, and the deer that graze in full view of the house.

Carol Martin, Clarke's sister and a regular visitor to Ammonite when her children were young, says her brother took a very organic approach to the gardens. "He wouldn't even get rid of the moles and he won't allow chemicals to be used anywhere."

But he loves gadgets, says Carol as she demonstrates how the dining-room windows can be changed from clear to opaque at the press of a button. The house was built 10 years ago, and fitted with temperature control, underfloor heating and a lighting and sound system operated from a keypad. "Toys for boys," she explains.

There are a few of these in the kitchen but the most striking feature is its shape and position. A curved run of marble that overlooks the swimming pool suggests space ships and futuristic films. One can sit at a table on a platform of glass that juts out above the pool. "I used to watch my children from here when they were small," recalls Carol. "We spent most of our time here because Vince loves cooking. We had some great family parties, playing music as loud as we wanted."

Newton's skill was to design a house that feels open yet each area is clearly defined by interlocking circles. All the walls are of concrete, but far from appearing stark, they carry the impression of wood and look like the bleached timbers of an old boat. Some of the hard floor surfaces have a warm, coppery shine. Upstairs in a guest bedroom, the bunk beds are also made of concrete, yet are softened by their rounded edges.

Most of the furniture was commissioned for the house, explains Carol. In the main bedroom, a bank of drawers and cupboards, some faced with a minutely patterned wood veneer, were designed to follow the line of the windows and walls. More light is thrown into the room from interior porthole windows, so when you get to the deep bathtub, it seems more like a small boat than a bath.

From the outside, Ammonite's distinctive shape seems to merge quite naturally with its surroundings. This can be explained by the use of empire stone, white with glass cut into it, and the remarkable domed copper roof, which is already turning a pleasing green. Yet there is humour to the building. From one angle it appears almost like a steamship, with a funnel and decks. Inside the cloakroom, a circular "everlasting floor" stops you in your tracks. "Just try it after a few drinks," Carol laughs ruefully.

Alongside the house, concrete "igloos" with domes of copper house the recording studio where Vince Clarke works. The walls are lined with recording equipment and keyboards and it was built deep into the ground. Air-conditioned and sound-proofed, it could be adapted to other uses.

This plot of land in Chertsey has a rock pedigree that stretches back to the Sixties. Behind the recording studio, an elegant garden storeroom has been built in place of a swimming pool that was once the notorious resting place of a car belonging to one of The Who.

Now it is Vince Clarke's turn to move on and he is selling the property for around £2.5m. "When I first saw it, it was nothing like I had imagined," says Carol. "I would never have thought that something built from concrete and glass could be so amazing. But it's always men who fall in love with it first."

Ammonite is being sold for £2.5m through Knight Frank: 020-7629 8171

Comments