This is the home of Mike Russum, an architect, and his partner Sally Cox. It has been longlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) House of the Year award, which is the subject of a four-part series on Channel 4; the winner will be announced in the final episode on Nov 28.
It's the sort of house that makes people stop and stare. "If I see someone standing outside looking, I invite them in and give them a tour," says Russum.
If I see someone standing outside looking, I invite them in and give them a tour"I like houses to be a series of unfolding surprises," says Russum. The first is Sally's study on the upper ground floor, with a glazed back wall that opens on to a full-width terrace overlooking the garden and trees beyond. Sally, a retired interior designer, creates designs for her wood sculptures here.
They had to dig into the hillside of the sloping plot to create their fourstorey home. Two en suite bedrooms are "below decks", on the lower ground floor, and the main bedroom is flooded with morning light from sliding doors that lead straight on to the garden.
A floating conservatory is suspended above the living space; it has a circular yellow floor and a curved blue structure that is part seating and part planter filled with tropical foliage. The glazing curves up into a dome ceiling, with views over gardens, trees and the city.
"It's like sitting in a tree canopy up here," says Russum. "It's a great place to come for a sundowner, and at night you can see the moon very clearly. This is a small house – 1,345 sq ft – but I wanted the main living space to be as grand as possible, so we devoted the two upper floors to open-plan living and made it double height."
"This is a great house for summer parties, everyone spreads out onto the terraces and up into the conservatory," says Russum. The final outdoor space is a balcony jutting out from the living space, suspended over the garden like the prow of a ship.
"We call that the Kate Winslet balcony," says Cox, "as in Titanic."