Former sanatorium conversion in East Sussex

With meticulous attention to detail, British designer Terence Woodgate has transformed a former sanatorium in East Sussex into a modern minimalist family home.

By Hannah Fenton | 3 May 2017

With meticulous attention to detail, British designer Terence Woodgate has transformed a former sanatorium in East Sussex into a modern minimalist family home.

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Arriving at industrial designer Terence Woodgate’s home in the beautiful East Sussex countryside, the first thing you notice is how white and symmetrical the house is – how modernist it is – compared with its leafy surroundings. Once you enter via the central, oversized wooden door the vertical line of the floor tiles leads your eye through to the open-plan kitchen, where you’re hit with a picture-perfect view of a rolling hillside. It’s this juxtaposition between rural and contemporary that makes this former school sanatorium special. It’s a tribute to meticulousness, a designer’s haven.

When Terence and wife Paula, a marketing professional, purchased the property around 20 years ago, it was a red-brick, single-storey building with a small kitchen in the centre and bedrooms leading off either side with a bathroom at each end. It had been half-heartedly turned into a house prior to the Woodgates moving in, but it was makeshift; plasterboard had been hastily installed to separate the rooms and the ceiling height had been dropped below the windows to keep the heat in. The building had a hipped roof and all the living accommodation was on the first floor. ‘I initially asked our architect friend Sally Mackereth if it had potential – she was immediately excited about it and had a vision, whereas I was unsure at the time,’ recalls Terence.

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The couple bought the property in 1995 after deciding to relocate from Islington, London to provide a large family home for their two young boys and set up an office for Terence. They immediately set to work on a major refurbishment; one of the most important changes was creating a large kitchen area off the back to accommodate the family and Terence’s work. ‘I spend most of my time in the kitchen,’ says Terence. ‘I love working at the dining table and looking out at that view; it’s so changeable and atmospheric.’

When they bought the house, everything was gutted; there was a mere reference of a French window, which they decided to mimic along the length of the building. To create more space, Paula and Terence also expanded the hipped roof into a pitched roof with gables so they could comfortably put in a second floor with more headroom. ‘It went reasonably smoothly,’ says Terence, ‘but we made all the classic mistakes; everything naturally ran over budget and over time. We were trying to do it on a limited spend and that was always going to make it difficult. For example, it would have made sense to renew the roof at the same time, but we didn’t have the money then.’