Former Pet Shop Boys’ manager Tom Watkins selling Sussex Grand Design

The Big White House, as  featured on Grand Designs and designed by former Pet Shop Boys’ manager Tom Watkins – is on the marketbig white 1

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The Big White House, as it’s known, appeared on the fourth series of the programme (2004). It’s a Bauhaus inspired cube created for former Pet Shop Boys manager Tom Watkins and his partner Darron and is set in an idyllic location on the Sussex coast.

Watkins, who used to work for Terence Conran, designed the house to share with their two large dogs and art collection but had to knock down a bungalow to clear the site – something the neighbours weren’t best pleased about, especially when they saw the scale of what was replacing it.

The pair persevered and ended up with a striking, if slightly raw looking, glass and concrete cube. In an interview for The Independent in 2005, Tom Watkins gave some insights into the thinking behind the design of the house:

My favourite room is the living room at the top of the house. You can see the sea on one side and greenery on the other. It can be a bit like living in a gallery, but at night time it takes on a completely different feel; the room takes on different proportions.

When the moon’s out, it illuminates the sea – you can write reams of poetry about it. We deliberately put those windows in: it’s like 25 little vignettes – each one is a painting.

The quality of life here is great”, Tom concluded. ”There are a thousand reasons to be here. It’s an interesting place but not saturated – yet.”

The neighbours, on the other hand, he’s not too fond of:

The one difficult thing about living down here is the neighbours. They’re absolutely hideously blue-rinse, dyed in the wool… When I first moved in here, a respectable local man told me: “We don’t want your kind down here.”

So I said: “What do you mean? Homosexual, rich, intelligent…? What are you objecting to?” I was dying for him to say poof, because then I would have created a storm. He came and apologised a month later.

Watkins says he loves the house and is selling because wants to undertake another new-build challenge and has already bought a plot of land in the area.

In the nine years since the house was built it’s certainly bedded it. The gardens are beautiful and the house looks less stark than it did on completion. The interior – contents not, presumably for sale – is funky and fun and laden with pop art and designer furniture.

As for the location, Petts Level has become a minor celebrity haunt. They filmed Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes video on the beach nearby. The sculptor Jacob Epstein worked in one of the cottages; Paul Merton has a house here, and so does Jo Brand.

That must please the blue-rinse brigade. Yours for £1, 675,000.


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