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The pursuit of balance

Words by Rosie Cattrell

Harnessing a passion for Cornwall’s beautiful landscape, rich culture and the energy of the Atlantic coast.

When the phrase ‘new build’ is brought up in conversation, my mind wanders to little white boxes on a hill, bright and garish against the natural beauty of countryside and coast. But when we’re surrounded by such an astonishing setting, why not incorporate these wild Cornish elements into the design of a dream dwelling that works with the natural shape of the land? At Watershedd, the ever-changing landscape directly informs the team’s entire architectural design process, for a breathtakingly unique result every time.

Established in 2018, Watershedd was born from a love of the Cornish lifestyle, and I can only imagine the excited evenings of animated conversation between founders Adam Casey, Poppy Trevillion and Marzouk Al-Bader as they planned a future for this fascinating company. “From the outset we knew that we were going to focus our attention on Cornwall as we felt there was a real demand for high-end design-led architects there, but we didn’t know how long it would take to get the brand recognised and established in Cornwall,” explains Adam, Founder and RIBA Registered Architect.

“Between our busy schedules we managed to meet up during lunches or after work to discuss the ambition for the business and whether it was the right time to be starting Watershedd. After many weeks discussing how it could all work we decided to register the company and really focus on the business. We knew it would take a lot of time and investment to enter a new market that we were not known or established in, and it did indeed turn out to be a full-time job to get the business off the ground.”

The team had recognised something in Cornwall that so far had been overlooked, and noticed a shining opportunity for a team of skilled architects and designers to take hold of, as Adam elaborates: “We saw that there was a lot of interest in high-quality, contemporary holiday homes in Cornwall but that there was a fairly limited supply of luxury houses available. We also saw that there was a lot of potential with the plots of land available and an opportunity to really make a statement with our design and architecture. It was clear to us that if we were given the opportunity to work on some of these houses in Cornwall that we could make a real impact on the design and quality of the homes being built.”

With a vision of introducing a fresh approach to architecture and interior design in Cornwall, one which is design-led with an emphasis on providing a first-class service, Watershedd is certainly making waves in the Duchy. “Cornwall is a beautiful place, where many people have very happy memories.

We didn’t want our architecture or design to interrupt this natural beauty, but to work with it. Quite often people think of contemporary architecture as white rendered boxes, or curved buildings, but these really stand out against the landscape and feel out of place. We wanted to use natural, local materials where possible, with an emphasis on blending the designs with the landscape to respect the Cornish heritage. We have found that the use of a darker material pallet can really help to blend the building with the local Cornish landscape.”

A complementary aesthetic alongside a functionality that suits a life in Cornwall is a top priority for the Watershedd team, as Adam continues to explain: “We wanted to embody the beach lifestyle into our homes and consider how people use these houses by the coast. It is important to create open-plan living spaces where the whole family can come together and enjoy spending time together. A lot of our clients either surf, cold water swim or enjoy long coastal walks, so we also feel that it is important to provide spaces for these activities.”

“Design should be beautiful but also practical and functional for the way we live. In its detail and use of materials, our architecture reflects nature and the rugged landscape. We aim to use sustainable, local materials, whether it is sustainably sourced timber cladding or locally sourced Cornish stone which can be re-used time and time again. It’s very satisfying to be able to re-use stone from the original house or garden to re-invent the new property.”

Working closely with each individual client, Watershedd has an undeniable talent in first creating a detailed vision that may have been difficult to imagine without a team of experts, and then bringing it into reality as a tangible, beautiful home. “It can be incredibly stressful and time-consuming building or refurbishing your own home without the right team and advice behind you. We wanted to take the stress out of construction and allow our clients to really focus on the design and ultimately enjoy their new home.”

“One of the very first things we do on a project is to visit the site and take in the surroundings. The context and landscape inform our design process from the outset. Every site is different and comes with its own set of challenges, which is exciting to us. There is nothing better than visiting a new site, listening to a new client and formulating a brief and an outline design based on our discussions.”

There is a truly unique lifestyle and culture in Cornwall which attracts people for a whole host of reasons; amazing restaurants, beautiful scenery and some of the best surfing in the UK help to create a really special place. It is no wonder that most of Watershedd’s clients want to be able to spend as much time as possible there. “Whatever it is that draws our clients to Cornwall, we try to design this into the properties we create; family spaces, surfboard rooms, home cinemas – those small luxuries which make a house truly unique.

The spaces we create express our shared love of the sea and coastal lifestyle. Cornwall is a place for creating lasting memories and there is a sense of nostalgia from past holidays and experiences. We try to create architecture which caters to these nostalgic moments whilst also providing a space for new memories to be made.”

“There is no other feeling quite like handing over the keys at the end of a build to realise the months, even years of planning, designing and building have finally come to reality,” admits Adam. “Between us we have designed and built many houses, however in 2020 we completed our first build (Dynargh) which we undertook for ourselves as developers. This was a very unusual process for us as we had no client to design for or to bounce ideas off of. Whilst the design freedom and flexibility of being your own client was liberating, it also left us considering almost every possible client who may eventually own the house once it was complete. We had to imagine a whole host of different scenarios and settle on a design which we felt would work for our target market.”

Sensitively designed in an embrace of the natural contours of the land, Dynargh is home to a Cornish magic that is held within the very walls of locally sourced stone and black timber. It is easy to understand why the property sold before it was even complete, but like every other property in Watershedd’s beautifully unique portfolio there is an enchanting sense of synchronicity between the property and its astonishing surroundings, for a bespoke dream home perfectly embedded in the wilds of Cornwall.

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