Alternative realities

3 June 2013
Ben Pentreath

I don’t often find myself writing about work. Partly, I suppose, because this blog is about things that inspire me, and just on its own terms, that’s a slightly different angle; partly, perhaps, because if you wanted to find out what we’re up to, I’ve always been of the view that it’s a few clicks over to the architecture pages where I am sure a few readers have had a browse from time to time.

But for a long while now, we’ve been working on a project in South Wales: a small group of houses, one of which we’re also decorating and furnishing. On Thursday and Friday, we moved in the furniture and the finish line is almost in sight. Ive got to admit: it’s one of the strangest projects I could possibly work on, and from time to time I need to pinch myself to make sure it’s real.

The site is on the edge of a vast decayed wasteland, near Port Talbot, called Llandarcy, and we’re embarked on a strange case of creating a new reality out of something that was once part of the industrial heartland of South Wales. For seventy years, between 1918 and 1998, here was a massive oil refinery, set up by Churchill shortly after the Great War. The land was chosen because of the proximity to Swansea Docks, where crude oil could be imported by sea from the Middle East and the refinery operated by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company – the forerunner of BP.

At its peak, in the 1970s, Llandarcy was one of the major employers in South Wales, with over 2600 workers on the site. This is what it looked like then. Majestic.

I couldn’t help but love these book illustrations from a 1953 guide celebrating the completion of the refinery (which I found and are written about on an interesting little blog that you can find here)

The optimism of the sparkling stainless steel piping is tangible. Something we could use a little more of these days?

By the mid 1990s, the refinery was redundant. And you can only  imagine the pollution that had flowed from 80 years of heavy industrial use – most of it produced in an era where environmental standards were non-existent.

A bold scheme was slowly put into place to reconstruct Llandarcy: to clean the toxic soil, and create a new brownfield development of mixed-use, houses, shops, offices and small-scale, clean factories, based in part upon the principles set out at the Prince of Wales’s new town of Poundbury, on the edge of Dorchester.

We’ve been involved on and off for about 5 years now, since 2008, when I first was asked, with my great friend Ben Bolgar from the Prince’s Foundation, to plan this small group of houses. They were commissioned by BP to act as a demonstration of the sort of quality they wanted to achieve on the site. Together, we selected one of the most special parts of the site – simultaneously one of the most beautiful, but equally, the most polluted parts of Llandarcy. It took a long while to get the project off the ground, in those difficult days when the banks were collapsing and development juddered to a halt. But they slowly got underway. Our client then commissioned me to work on the interiors and furnish one of the houses – again, to place a marker in the sand of what it means to create a house that, just, feels… right. “I don’t know a thing” said David. “Do whatever you think best. I know I’ll love it”.

So we set out and started slowly buying bits of antiques here and there as the houses slowly started construction. The budget was sensible but not crazy… A question of spending wisely (by and large) rather than going mad. As we all know, old and unloved bits of furniture in regional auctions sell for a song. And with limited resource we put everything together over a long period of time. I’ve got to admit – having plenty of time is the biggest single thing you can ask for in making a house.

On Friday we moved everything in. So here’s a few photographs. I’d be fascinated to know what you think.

The site sits in the middle of a vast industrial wasteland.

You see what I mean about weird.

The eight houses are built on the edge of a Site of Special Scientific Interest that, when I first saw it, was drenched in heavy crude oil. Today, that land is cleaned, the wetlands are restored and humming with wildlife, and I couldn’t really imagine a more beautiful setting to be building new homes.

The houses are approached from the south and you first see a stone-built visitor centre that has the red corrugated iron roof. I love corrugated buildings. I think this material should be used a lot more. It’s plain, honest, cheap, highly effective, and looks fantastic.

There’s something strange about these houses. In the middle of all this chaos, the strangest lunar-scape I’ve ever seen, they already seem settled. Although they were finished just a few weeks ago.

A terrace of small houses are incredibly simply constructed.  Tiny touches, like knocking off the corner of the blocks to form curved reveals, can make all the difference.  The entire site is built of solid terracotta block walls – a very sustainable material; the houses feel solid and quite special within and without.

The little terrace is the counterpart to the three larger houses that you’ve already seen in the photographs above. Planting beds are planned in front of these houses (I promise).  One of the things that I like most of all: the windows between ground and first floor were all drawn lining up. No offence to Welsh builders… but… this is not what we got! Thank goodness. The houses have a freshness, a reality, by being just that little bit wrong. You can’t plan this sort of thing, and you can only be grateful when it happens.


Here are a few photographs inside.

Local Blue Pennant stone flags on the floor. From about 13 miles up the road, and a very beautiful stone indeed. We used it to make a fireplace as well, and it is the stone that forms the bastion wall outside, as well as the stone window surrounds.

Welsh slate in the kitchen.

Slightly surreal. 10 chairs wait silently for the refectory table, that is being made in new oak by my friend Greg Hewett. The Arts and Crafts chairs are beautifully handmade by Lawrence Neal, who should be a subject for this blog alone.  They are completely and perfectly satisfying.

Prince of Wales investiture chairs flank a handsome old dresser.  Chandelier by The English House; rug by Roger Oates; curtain fabric by Robert Kime (all curtains beautifully made by Tinsmiths).  More mochaware on its way…

The oriel room.

The sitting room

A glimpse into the study which, I decided, needs (like my kitchen in Dorset) a wishbone chair to pep up the volume a bit. Sharp eyed readers will recognise the geological map, now on loan from the Old Parsonage. It fits rather beautifully here!

The main bedroom

And guest bedroom (pictures still to be hung). Block printed curtains by Soane Britain (one of the mad but worth it moments).

In the attic

landings and stairs.

It’s a curious thing. Four days ago, this house was completely empty. Within 24 hours, all the furniture was brought in and set. Now, I’ve got to say, with a little bit of imagination (and one or two lamps, and a few more bits and pieces) it really does feel lived in. Perhaps, it has to me admitted, some of my prejudices are not far under the surface. You won’t find a TV but you will find a lot of old books, and plenty of hunsletware.

But what I find strange is this. Five years ago, this site was heavily polluted industrial wasteland. Twenty years ago, it looked like this – a conglomeration of massive gas storage tanks:

It feels quite odd to be creating such an alternative universe. I can’t say our houses feel like the last answer to the question, ‘what is it to build new houses today?’. Maybe they are one answer. Well, perhaps the architects amongst the readers will be grinding their teeth at that suggestion… and so I’m not even quite sure of that.

Twenty years from now, the rest of Coed Darcy will be constructed and these houses will be completed joined to the first phases now being constructed. Streets will lead down to them where currently giant tracks cut through the landscape. Shops and cafes will be a short walk up the road. The neighbours will be coming over for a cup of tea.  Now – they sit completely alone and isolated, in the middle, literally, of nowhere.  Yet they have a sense of place, of inevitability, and of timelessness, that I must say surprised me.

I’d be very interested to know your views. Positive or negative, or somewhere in between.

And if you’re an artist or poet or writer, fascinated in the post-oil, post-industrial age, and think you could enjoy living (for free) in the middle of nowhere in South Wales for a few years, please get in touch. I’m not sure, but it just might be that something could happen.

79 comments on this post

ken wongsays:

Dear Ben,
I am new to your blog but it is truly a breath of fresh air, taking in so many diverse inspirations. I look forward to each new one as well as reading previous postings. I do hope to visit your shop when I am next in London. But for now I wonder if you have any advice for a novice who is planning his first trip to Italy. Have you any advice of where to head to first & places to stay. I’d really appreciate your insights.
Cheers & regards, Ken from Singapore

I’m late to the game here and guess maybe TOO late, but can I add my voice to those asking which natural floor covering you have used please?


Well done Ben. Keep up the good work! Come and teach my students again some time.

Susannah Aclandsays:

Who would have thought that such a polluted wasteland could be transformed into an area of such beauty with houses that fit so sympathetically into their surroundings. A fascinating and inspirational read – thank you!

As an interior designer, I found this post especially interesting and I love the personality of the work you have done here…I came back to this post to revisit after reading “Ugly Buildings” and I am totally on board with your points both here and there….and I think your work and your mindset is terrific! I hope that I can take you up someday on that suggestion of sharing a pint!


I’m just catching up, it’s been a busy week. I always love your blogs but this one blew me away. As a lad we lived on the Gower and looked across to Port Talbot. At night when lit up it looked like a city and I used to pretend it was New York ( how sad is that?). The new development is so you, I can’t wait to visit. Do you know when it will be open? Well done as ever. Ben

Cor Lummey! I’m not sure what I think…I love the ambition…I hope the rest of the development is as beautifully executed. I want to see little urchins kicking balls and riding bikes. I love the different coloured window trims. Your interior is a triumph…those block printed fabrics…the colours…wonderful furniture…heaven! Congratulations to all involved.


Like the effect, austere and simple like a Ravilious interior. But I know Llandarcy (I used to go to meetings on the business park) and can’t help thinking anyone who would choose to live in one of those houses would feel besieged!

Neal Daviessays:

Inspired and inspiring as ever! You reminded me just how much I loved the Snowdon designed Investiture chairs . Found one on Ebay this week and am just waiting to collect it . A bit of nostalgia for an ex-pat. Welshman living in Somerset!

Rebecca Portsmouthsays:

How UTTERLY inspiring – they look as if they have been there forever and I want to move in immediately. Usually when I see of a new build, I just want to look away. As for corrugated iron, growing up in Australia, we had on our house roof and shed roof, where we lived for about six months before moving into the house. It is practical, although noisy when it rains. They’re proper homes, not houses.

A fine Project, and pleasant essay in the Picturesque, with quite beautiful and eminently livable interiors!

Two questions / bits of professional criticism: Not having the advantage of a site plan to scrutinize, and going only on the photos presented We areleft with the impression of a ‘public realm’ or ‘public space(s)’ that appears disembodied and having more than a whiff of automobile-oriented, ‘modernist’ suburban planning.

Beautiful! They do indeed look settled. What a tremendous job you’ve all done of being site-sensitive and really making something that makes sense in the context. Amazing job of reclaiming a polluted site and making it a positive and liveable location. Kudos to you and to the Prince of Wales foundation for being forward thinking. The decorating is lovely, too.


They’re fabulous, one tiny quibble-since you asked- don’t put your light switches in the middle of the wall. Switches are much less obtrusive if lined up with door handles about 3 feet off the floor.
Congrats on the houses


The house is beautiful and looks as though all it needs is a family to set down roots and leave it’s own imprint ..I adore it- if i didn’t live in the US i’d be first in line to sign up.
‘Well done’ seems totally inadequate as praise can fill in the blanks as you wish.It’s all positive,


This is all amazing. I love it so much I can’t stop going back to it. It’s really made me think alot too. We had natural flooring in our old house and I loved it but we have old oak strip floors now. What natural flooring did you use, if I may ask? It’s hard to see from the photos. Ours was seagrass but it’s quite tough on bare feet and if you kneel on it you get up and you have this wierd pattern all over your legs! I feel so much more inspired to get on with some of my house jobs after having seen all this. Thankyou.


I have looked at these images a number of times now. Softening the edges on the doors and windows does make all the difference – amazing the effect such a small thing can have. The kitchen is wonderful, my favorite part of the house.

I don’t see streets; is the parking lot to be used for homeowners and guests/visitors?

While I would like to see bold paint colors… Color is such a personal thing, and you did the right thing by keeping the walls understated, so that the environment would be suitable as a show house and/or temporary housing. Painting rooms a deep blue or bright green might shift attention to the color of the interiors, when at this stage focus should be on the site, the development, the overall project. (And some of the curtains’ fabrics make a bold statement!) The interiors feel calm, studied, sophisticated while still casual. They are really wonderful.


Hi Ben, I’m very taken by the long, thin rug in the sitting room. Where’s it from? Would love to own it/something similar. Mark

Charlotte Ksays:

I would love too see floorplan of that kitchen. It looks similar to mine and I’d like to know where the refrigerator and cooker go.

Nick Morgansays:

Thanks a lot Ben! My wife has seen these pictures and now wants to completely re-think the look of our house! Aside from that these look utterly lovely, and shows what thoughtfulness and beautiful design can achieve. If I have any criticism (or rather reservations) it is how these would look once they come up against the clutter of a real family. As the dad of three children I can imagine how quickly these peaceful, ordered spaces would deteriorate to look like our place! can I also ask about where the rugs come from particularly the one in the guest bedroom?


The structures are very New England looking. I’m wondering about the mechanics. Are there enough radiators in those large airy rooms? And why not use the flat ones and paint them the wall colors? Or radiant floor heat would be fantastic. Great floor coverings and color schemes. Never heard of terracotta blocks – great idea.


Outstanding. It doesn’t even seem that odd to me, but then I’m American and used to the stark look of new housing developments. Once it gets dirty and chipped, with gardens, it will be fine. You asked for criticism, and here’s my only quibble. Even though I love your taste, I sometimes find it a bit too masculine. Somehow. (Don’t ask me to define that!) Still, it’s really, really good. I wish you would come out with plans we could order from your shop. America needs a great plan service– as you know, builders here will not hire an architect if they can help it.


Very beautiful and sincere work. It reminds me of Wales from over thirty years ago. It just need a couple of cottages with cement covered roofs. A vernacuar element that has also disappeared, though Cadw has listed a number of corrigated iron sheds thankfully. I would love to have some time painting the area as landscapes and lost buildings are something that I’m working on at the moment in France.


Fake historicism. You said you wanted a negative comment. The photos look beautiful, but they are just that, photos. You have filled this house with well worn furniture, but the house is brand new. Without the patina of age, the house may well look odd in reality. I’m the first to agree that modernity has given us some awful examples of residential architecture. Surely though, we can do better than just recreating the past? At the risk of contradicting myself, I love looking at these pictures, but I wonder if the house lives up to the hype in the flesh.


A beautiful project – the interiors make me feel peaceful just looking at them – and the use of some of my favourite designers’ products make it even more appealing. The rooms have a Shaker-like feel of sanctuary, serenity and tranquility which I love. I’d be very interested to learn more about the project, please! Emma


The colours!!!!! Just marvellous. Need some lovely old Welsh quilts to bring a bit of local history to the project. Serene, gentle, thought provoking!! Lovely project all round.

Brenda Morgan-Kleinsays:

Superb and completely lacking in pretension and over the top ostentation which so blights interior design. We live in a terrace of traditional cottages in Scotland with similar harling – a traditional finish in Scotland also. However we don’t have curved reveals as here. I agree they make an enormous difference and I’m tempted to start chipping at mine. The decoration would have made William Morris proud. I’d be interested to know exactly what colours you used.


Possibly the most fascinating and inspiring BP post ever! WOW.
You made a comment that you would like some constructive negative feedback, haha. Well, I was determined to be helpful but I’ve scanned through each picture about ten (um, actually more like thirty) times and am struggling to come up with something ANYTHING that I don’t like! Blimey, Ben, you might just have achieved perfection! Beautiful houses, beautifully built, beautifully decorated. The interiors DO already have a lived-in quality in stark contrast to the usual show-home rubbish. I LOVE the red investiture chairs (did a google search to get a closer look at one and was delighted by the wood grain singing out under the red stain)…are they easy to come by, I wonder?
The only thing this settlement is crying out for at the moment is some plants…a few pots outside the front doors, a bit of ivy growing up a wall, a vegetable patch or two… personal touches that of course will come over time.
And I suppose there is a part of me that feels sad that all the industrial history seems to have been completely eradicated…it would have been rather fun to have left a chimney or two in the landscape as a reminder of the site’s heritage (though no doubt completely impractical).

Gilly Portersays:

Utterly beautiful! Currently looking to relocate from Essex to Cornwall but you may have just persuaded me to consider Wales!

Liza Vandermeersays:

Heavenly! Unfortunately, I’m not an artist and there is very little chance that I could move from Canada to Wales, but I’d love to live in one of these houses. I am a life-long environmental obsessive, and I think this type of re-greening of former industrial wastelands is incredibly exciting and inspiring. I’m an even bigger Ben Pentreath fan than i was before. Well done.

Robert Rowandsays:

Any chance of a floor plan? Makes it easier to understand the photos. Agree with you about corrugated iron…wonderful material. I like the kelim rugs on top of the grass matting.


Stunning! I’d move in straightaway. Well done!

No I’m not a painter or a poet but if you want a potter I’d be there.
We are looking to return to Wales as my family live just outside Carmarthen. We drive through Port Talbot on our way west and the industrial landscape is strangley beautiful especially at night when the lights reflect in the water.
Wales has an interesting pottery heritage with potteries from Buckley to Ewenny and Nantgarw and Llanelli potteries. I’m sure the landscape it’s self will be very inspirational.
It will be very interesting to see how this project develops.

I love the interiors and would enjoy the village. Where would one shop for groceries? Are they for rent, for sale or just for tourists to see?

Deirdre McSharrysays:

As everyone has said , very inspiring. Every council in the land should be sent a copy of this blog. You must be pleased, Deirdre


Hi, I second most of what has been said – the houses look very pretty and your photos (as ever) are really good. In fact, I saw the sketches for this scheme at the Three Classicists Show at the RI(p)BA at it was one of my favourite exhibits – I also really like the way they have been decorated and furnished.
That said, however, there is something disconcerting about a group of new houses built in advance of there being any need for them. I think this sense of oddness is increased because they look so timeless and natural in there setting. It just seems so odd to have a little housing estate in the middle of nowhere – it’s neither a village nor a farm. Normally, it is very clear why houses are built where they are, because that is where the employment is – or was, in the case of deserted villages. At the moment this seems like a brand new deserted village with no raison d’etre. Maybe it will become a little sect of aesthetes sniffing each others accessories and finding solace from the ugly world beyond.
Keep up the good work and shine on!


The transformation of a previously polluted wasteland into a delightful place to live and enjoy the SSSI – amazing. Absolutely loving the interiors – please, where did you find the lovely kilims (they look so great against the seagrass)?


I was saying to a family member this weekend that it took me 22 years to escape Norfolk and it takes 22 months of begging to get me back there for something. I do like going in the end if only to see how things change. Yesterday’s return trip listening to R4 in the car was interesting. I was listening to the Queen’s service feeling very British with the rousing music, the pomp, the ceremony and watching the beautiful countryside roll by. Then I began to notice the new housing estates that have popped up since I left the county. All very same-same with, I imagine, hoards of synthetic fleece wearing tenants. On Sunday a friend and I had gone off on a cross-county arts thing visiting various studios to see what local craftsmen (amateur and pro) were doing. Some people opened up their houses in consequence. One visit took us to an estate in a village to the north of Norwich that was all mock tudor (from the 80s I suppose), all different, but all depressingly the same. I was suprised to see Bentleys on some driveways. I can’t fathom why people would want to lead such a faux existence when they obviously have the money to go for the real thing.
As I crossed the Dartford Bridge and drove down through Kent there was a debate on the state of the British high street. Both of them got me to thinking of topics you’ve discussed recently. Norwich was dire. Waterstone’s has become a Jamie Oliver Italian joint, every other shop is a Boot’s or a WHS… or worse, a Poundland. All shops selling the same old tat…
I love what you’ve done in Wales. I love that you’ve respected the vernacular. I love that things have been allowed to be off keel. I love that the interior isn’t the latest episode of some TV decorating show (something that blights France at the moment). I love that it’s replaced such a site – what’s in the soil though?
You should be very proud of yourself. Do you think you could do the same for Norfolk? The only thing that would get me back there is a parsonage!

Just stunning. I would give my eyeteeth to live there … but alas, I’m American. Very well done.


@ Spencer “windows that are out of alignment” – that’d be another Scottish thing! Just goggle Charles Rennie Mackintosh (another genius) for examples like this one:

Ben – I can’t think of any criticisms except, the interiors look so inviting you’re going to have trouble encouraging visiting creatives to leave after their time is up?

Is there a list of your sources for the interiors, such as the seagrass floors, and those brilliant curtains, paint colours, and so on?

Cornelia harrietsays:

Its like a collectors dinky village toy, that has never been played with. Still in its box,especially the red and green corrugated iron roof like a big chunky tractor. With the freshness of white stone walls reflecting the light almost art deco, hiding behind those wee red curtains, welsh slate. Clean simple kitchen beautiful, needs some wash up liquid from the health food shop.


My only quibble (since you asked) would be the placement of the detached houses in relation to one another. It seems a bit random – or perhaps just seems that way in the photos. I would have expected a clearer building line in such a traditional development.
The interiors are beautiful.

Kate Rogerssays:

I love this place! I have been looking for somewhere just like this to stay three months a year to write. I am a teacher and could not live there full time yet, but I am VERY interested in living there each summer. It would be a lovely art colony where like minded souls could find inspiration and could work while being away from it all. Please contact me. I would be very interested in living there. Thank you.


Lovely, Ben, such a treat for me to have been a small part of something so beautiful. Congratulations to you, Ben B and David. I want to go antiquing with you some time!


How refreshing to see something inspirational being built , blending the best of both old and new , not like the appalling new builds I drove past on Sunday returning to London from Norfolk . A sense of space , rooms that connect and natural light , all ingredients for a happy , family home . Ps where do you source your super kilims ?


How big are the gardens?


Any thing wrong? Since you ask: 1) I Would not have put wood, tongue-in grove paneling in the kitchen. Looks great, but dust/grease magnet and a bugger to clean. 2) Dislike ‘space’ (is it a window?) above the bed in master bedroom.. rationale? 3) Is there a reason why power points are located, what looks like, a good 10 inches from the floor? Why not closer to the base molding…new building codes? I do still maintain that you are genius.


I wish imperfections, such as the windows that are out of alignment, would be embraced by more people. The use of honest materials that will deteriorate, get patched up and repaired, become care worn and aged is also a lovely thing to see in these houses. The interiors are fantastic as ever. If i could say anything was wrong, it would be that the facades, particularly on the wide view from beyond the lake look a bit too similar and symetrical, and the road kerbs appear a little too ‘planned’. I do hope that this place will become a real community with jobs and families and be a wonderful place to live, then you have created something really special.

Charles Smithsays:

Excellent interiors and exteriors. Being Welsh I remember the beating heart of this industrial scene well. Sadly because of such poor leadership, circumstance and lost vision the beat stopped. So thank you very much for putting some life back to a dead land. Diolch yn fawr i chi Ben!


I think they’re beautiful. I love the calm colours, fabrics and furniture. The black and white mountain print is fantastic. Inspiring stuff.


What an interesting story. I just love looking at these interiors; they are really serene and so satisfying to my eye. The last photo of the kitchen made me think of Vermeer, and then there is even a wonderful big green ball of string. Congratulations!


Put simply…how much?!


Okay okay everyone is very kind but I think I’d quite like to hear anything wrong?!?! 😉 May & Sophie are spot on. The houses do look a little Cromarty. When we did the detailed planning drawings they were drawn up by Wee Lachie Stewart, who was interning in my office, and whose family live way up near Tain… not so far from Cromarty! I think it’s in the DNA of those houses…


Ben, you are blinking genius.

Well done. Agreed that corrugated iron should be employed more often. The only things missing, of course, are the people. I think you’ve provided a wonderful canvas for them to paint their own uniqueness when they do arrive. The timelessness of the design will ensure that future generations will be able to add their voices to the place, as well.

Alison O'Briensays:

Such a sense of stillness and calm. The seemingly simple lines, colour palette, the movement of the paths.The solidity of the buildings and the way they seem to nestle together, for me, hints at the natural elements that the properties may have to endure, the wildness of nature outside opposed to the calm,warmth and safety of the interior. So thoughtful.Also the buildings seem to evoke a combination of happy memories or imagined spaces that I cannot quite pin down,I like the way in which you slowly purchased furniture and decor – not rushed, steady with a hint of serendipity.Be interesting to see how the community eventually evolves over time. Will you be posting info on the possibility of artist long term residency? As a photographer with a poet husband I/we would be very interested. Would certainly like to visit in the future. Wonderful project, good wishes. Alison


This could be the New Welsh! Did you use many local craftspeople on the project (aside from the builders?)

Very pleased to see the Welsh Blue Pennant on this wonderful project, a real stalwart of Great British Stones, not sure if you are aware but it has a higher compression rating than some granites, a real toughie! Its extensive use throughout Regency Bath is a testament to its durability, would be interested to know where these local flags came from.


Looks like they’ve been there for years. Fantastic job! You say that this blog is about what inspires you but for your readers, this blog is inspiration. So please do talk about your projects like this from time to time. Yes, we can go look at the project links but its much more interesting to hear you talk about them with the details and history in the manner you do in your blog.

Miranda alexandersays:

Fabulous!!! Why, why, why is it that all new modern developments are SO hideous when we could have this? What is wrong with all the other architects? Lucky Welsh people to have such a wonderful place to live.


I can’t think of a similar project — from the reclamation and conservation aspect (of the furnishings as well as the land), to the care and attention of construction, and the aesthetic involved. Simply remarkable. And remarkably simple and beautiful in execution.

Joanna Plantsays:

Good effort BP!

Luke Moloneysays:

Ben, it’s just wonderful to see this – really good work, as always. You should be very proud of it!
All the best, Luke


This is such a beautiful project. It reminded me of St Fagans near Cardiff. I am sure you will have been there but if not then you must! Some of the beautiful old buildings of Wales that have been marked for demolition have been rescued and rebuilt on this lovely site and it is free to wander around and enter a medieval cottage or a miners terrace – wonderful. I have just finished reading about William Smith and was delighted to see his map on the wall, all his colours fitting in wonderfully with yours. Living in rural Monmouthshire I am about to renew our barn and am very tempted by your colours. Like my old toy farm set. Thank heavens for designers and architects like you!


Wow. They are stunning! I would love to live in a house like that, beautiful.

Sophie Ruckersays:

What an inspiring and beautiful regeneration of an industrial wasteland (and yes, the houses also reminded me of Scottish coastland vernacular architecture). I love the solidity of the houses and the interior is glorious: lovely muted colour palette and the mahogany/ dark wood furniture and Welsh slate give the interior great definition. Where did you source the seagrass for the floors… Perfect! A visual feast, thank you so much.

Linda Gearysays:

Beautiful and very inspirational. I love the windows and doors from the outside and the hallway, stairs and landings. Why can’t all new houses be built like this. I can image a calm feeling coming over you as you step over the threshold. Thank you for sharing.


Just beautiful BP! the use of stone on the walls of the visitor centre, the flagstones and slate plus your eye for texture as well as colour bring everything together. It is so serene. Well done to the other BP for investing in an imaginative and far sighted project when they’ve had other pressing problems. For me, the Investiture chairs strike a wrong note stylistically although they are fitting for other reasons. Where do you find those beautiful Kilims?

My family come from this area, barbers and steel workers mostly. It’s great to see such a project in this part of Wales. The houses look really beautiful and great to see new homes designed and built with such creativity.

I must admit I haven’t read the post yet (I’ll do that after this). I always skim the pictures first and then go back and read the text but I am so taken by the blue pennant flags on the hallway floor and their relation to the green paintwork that I had to come and have a little swoon. I think that’s a very delicious relationship happening right there.


A wonderful achievement in every way! I too live in an isolated Welsh community – 40 mile round trip to the nearest dentist/supermarket/ironmongers – yes, we still have one of those who will wrap up three screws for you in a twist of brown paper – but I am sure the pleasant arrangement of the houses, as well as their lovely interiors, will foster the sense of community that is still strong in Wales. Despite the scattered population, there is so much self-created pleasure here: book groups, crafting groups, drama groups, choirs, food lovers doing ‘bring and share meals’ – the sorts of which will soon be flourishing in your reclaimed Paradise. Well done!

Margot von Muhlendahlsays:

Marvelous work, from the concept down to the last interior detail. Congratulations and all the best for the continuation of the project.

jane marshallsays:

it looks so ‘right’ ….hard to achieve in brand new houses let alone ones in the middle of no where, quite apart from the architecture the interiors look settled,love the mad but worth it moment. these interiors really show how a bit of unfashionable brown furniture makes a room look so unselfconscious, and ditto the above comment on the use of corrugated iron also widely used in contemporary architecture in australia


Poor Wales – it’s taken such a clobbering from London over the decades, as have Scotland and the North of England, of course (thanks a bundle, Mrs Thatcher, and others of your ilk).

The external architecture looks very much like that found in the little fishing villages up and down the east coast of Scotland, such as Crail, or Cromarty, or Findhorn, for instance, which is a bit surprising, but most pleasing!

The interiors look very settled, and just right, like a bear’s porage: neither too big nor too small, nor too grand, nor too simplified.

I hope you’re proud of what you’ve achieved here, Ben, and I really REALLY hope Coed Darcy flourishes.


Ben, you should be so proud to be part of this wonderful project. Reclaiming a waste land and creating a community. That’s as good as it gets. The homes look like a village already, and inside and out they look like they have been there forever. You do good work. Not surprising — but thanks!

Dorothy Lindsaysays:

It’s so wonderfully Welsh….. but with a Danish tilt (that red ochre!) – and a sense of Quaker simplicity and order.
It’s so satisfying to see the redemption of a bleak no-mans land to a place of such peace and potential.

I love it all….except maybe that stripey stair carpet….I think I understand, design-wise, why you’ve chosen it, but it
just sets my teeth on edge! Otherwise, the architectural proportions, the craftsmanship, the colours, the textures-
all perfect.
Were I able I would apply for a chance to live in that lovely space for a while and paint those big skies and wild spaces
like a shot.

Nicola Barriesays:

Dear Ben, i would love to live in one of your houses! This house already looks like ‘home’ – and reminds me very much of The Parsonage (which is a good thing). I agree that homes evolve over time: buying furniture or curtains etc as one has the money, or when they appear and can’t be ignored, or when making do – or when things happen by accident – as with the windows you described. In rural Australia, many of our out-buildings are corrugated iron (walls and roofs), as well as the roofs of farm houses. The sound of rain on a tin roof is magical. As for last week’s blog – the colours in the photos were mesmerising.

Best wishes


Jocelyn Fraemohssays:

I love those houses, they have such wonderful symmetry on the outside and the interiors are beautiful.

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