An exclusive holiday home rental owned by Lindsey and Rik Goodman, Looking Glass Lodge hovers seamlessly over a naturally-formed slope, offering spectacular views of its surrounding towering evergreen trees. As highly detailed inside as it is out, a stay at Looking Glass Lodge will afford you the opportunity to bathe in a natural environment, with a largely electrochromic glass facade, allowing you to take in the external views while protecting your privacy from the outside.
Here, Lindsey talks to i-Build’s Editor, Rebecca Kemp, about the hidden woodland gem and learns more about how she and Rik got the build up and running.
RK: What inspired you to embark on your own project?
LG: The project was led by the location, surrounding trees and the environment. We were lucky enough to have the perfect site, and so we really felt we had to do justice to the surrounding landscape. We did look briefly into ready-made solutions but really wanted to be more involved and play a part in the build’s story.
RK: What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?
LG: The environment around the lodge was always the inspiration for the project, both in the design of the exterior and interior of the lodge. We felt it needed to have a presence but also to sit effortlessly with the natural clearing chosen for its location.
RK: How did you approach finalising your design brief?
LG: We’re not sure that the design brief was ever completely finalised! It definitely felt quite fluid, especially with regard to the interior.
RK: Did your project need to cater for any special requirements?
LG: As the location is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it created its own requirements. We opted to use screw piles and elevate the lodge to avoid damage to the woodland floor and tree roots and prevent disruption to wildlife as the ground footprint of the lodge is minimal. We used electrochromic tintable glass throughout so that light spill would be eliminated after dark, which could disrupt wildlife, particularly bats. We also really wanted the lodge to have a cosy, intimate feel, even though it is quite a contemporary design.
RK: How and why did you choose this plot?
LG: We are lucky enough to live in a peaceful spot on the edge of Mallydams Nature Reserve, near Hastings, which Rik’s parents established for the RSPCA in the 1960s.
In 2018, we started to think how wonderful it would be if we could share this beautiful location by building a unique lodge for guests to completely relax and immerse themselves in the woodland.
RK: How long did it take to gain planning permission?
LG: Planning permission took just over two years to obtain. Due to our location, we had to commission many surveys and environmental reports to ensure we were protecting and enhancing the woodland.
RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?
LG: Where do we start? Pretty much every aspect of the build proved to be challenging in one way or another! The logistics of getting all the materials up to the site, which is on a sloping hillside clearing in a wood proved to be a daily challenge. For example, lifting 12 2.4 x 1.8m glass panels up onto the scaffolding was quite a traumatic experience. We had a great team of local craftspeople who would swap jobs at a moment’s notice to get the job done.
RK: Did you project manage the build yourself?
LG: Yes, not only did we project manage the build, but we also carried out a substantial amount of the work ourselves to save money. In fact, most of the more unpleasant jobs on site were carried out by ourselves! Many hours were spent knee-deep in trenches.
RK: Did you work with an architect at any point in the process?
LG: Yes, we worked very closely with Michael Kendrick Architects through the planning process and the build itself. Mike provided a great deal of information and assistance throughout the process.
RK: How did you approach material and product specification?
LG: This constantly changed throughout the build, mainly due to COVID. We had to adapt and change with the neverending changes in the availability and costs of materials.
RK: Did you install any renewable systems?
LG: The electrochromic glazing does help regulate the temperature throughout the year. The location of the site made the use of renewable systems very difficult. Solar was ruled out immediately by being on a north-facing, tree-covered hill and ground source would impact the trees and wildlife. We have set up the lodge to be able to incorporate renewable sources in the future.
RK: How long did the project take?
LG: In total, the project took four years to complete. The majority of this was gaining planning permission and finalising the technical aspects of the build. The actual build itself only took about six months, which was pretty much the time that we’d planned for. It was the planning side of things that we hadn’t anticipated taking so long.
RK: Did you remain within the original budget?
LG: We exceeded the original budget quite substantially. The glazing was the single item that really stood out as being a lot more expensive than we’d anticipated as it had to provide less than 1% light transmittance after dark to prevent light spill into the woods. However, pretty much every other material also increased in price dramatically throughout the build due to COVID.
The finished home
RK: What are the interior and exterior finished spaces like?
LG: The lodge is a one-bedroom, open-plan space with a 15 x 2.4m glazed wall running the entire length of the building, enabling you to feel like you are truly amongst the trees and nature. It contains a fully-equipped, centrally-located kitchen and cosy living area with a floating fireplace, handmade by Firemaker up on the Scottish Borders. A stone bath is located in the bedroom area with a view out into the woodland. The exterior is clad in Western Red Cedar battens allowing the lodge to sit unobtrusively amongst the trees elevated on eight raked steel legs.
RK: How does the property respond to its surrounding landscape?
LG: Right from the beginning, this had been a significant consideration. We didn’t want to remove any trees, so the dimensions of the lodge have been driven by this. Its elevated nature gives it a very light footprint.
RK: What does the local community think of the new property?
LG: We’ve had a great response from the local community. Being part of the local business community was something we wanted to embrace. The Hastings, Rye and Saint Leonards community have been incredibly supportive, and we’ve made a conscious effort to use local craftspeople and feature many locally-produced products for the build.
RK: Is the final property everything that you hoped it would be?
LG: The lodge really has exceeded our expectations. Considering all the changes and complications throughout the build, each one has added and improved the feel of the lodge.
RK: What’s your favourite thing about the new build?
LG: The concept of being within the trees and feeling the relaxation of the surroundings.
RK: What was your vision for the exterior/landscaping?
LG: Our main aim was for nothing to be impacted by the lodge and to keep the natural feel of the woodland. Elevating the lodge prevented damaging any of the root structures and allowed fauna and flora to flourish beneath.
RK: How did you decide which plants to use and how to place them? LG: All the plants are as they were before the lodge was built and will be able to flourish again in the spring. The plan is to use some of the profits from the business to enhance the woodland and surrounding areas in the future.
RK: Did you work with a landscaping professional?
LG: We worked with an arboriculturist to ensure that all the plants and trees were protected and also a local gardener to ensure we were introducing all the right types of woodland plants.
RK: Is there anything that you would have done differently?
LG: To have not stressed so much about the things you have no control over, as it all comes together in the end.
RK: Would you do the whole thing again?
LG: Yes, but we feel one is enough! We need a rest.
RK: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to self-build?
LG: Take your time with the details at the start, and never ever assume anything.