I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — it seems that you just can’t keep a good repurposed water story home down. Unique instances of elongated water storage containers-turned-private residences seem to happily exist all over the place — at least in Western Europe — with a Belgian water tower home that I featured in the past recently turning up in the New York Times. And on the topic of Belgium, last month I featured a true doozy of a water tower home: a towering bachelor pad designed by the late Jo Crepain located outside of Antwerp.
For this edition of “All along the water tower,” an irregular series of posts featuring derelict water towers converted into unique, stair-heavy residences, I head to the bizarro seaside resort village of Thorpeness, Suffolk, U.K. for a look at perhaps the most eye-catching — certainly the most fanciful — water tower residence of them all: House in the Clouds.
That said, House in the Clouds is a bit different than past water tower homes that I’ve featured. For one, it’s not a private residence but a vacation rental (or holiday let cottage in Anglo-speak). It’s also not a true conversion project. Built in 1923 by Braithwaite Engineering Company of London under the direction of eccentric Scottish resort developer/playwright/barrister/buddy of J.M. Barrie, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, House in the Clouds was “disguised” as a charming Tudor-style cottage from the get-go as to not tarnish the otherwise beautiful landscape with an ugly old water tower. And until 1977, the structure acted as both a functional water tower and a home.
Despite not being a true conversion project, House in the Clouds has gone through several remodeling projects over the years that have altered the living space/water storage ratio. For the home’s first 40 years in existence, the original 50,000 imperial gallon tank, via a just-as-whimsical windmill, supplied the entire village of Thorpeness with water.
In 1943, after suffering damage from anti-aircraft gunfire, the original tank was replaced with a 30,000 imperial gallon tank freeing up living space within the structure. Despite the downsize, House in the Clouds continued to provide Thorpeness with water until 1963 when the tank was used for storage purposes only. In 1979, the tank, now completely obsolete, was removed to make way for additional living space.
Today, House in the Clouds boasts 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and the breathtaking “room at the top” where the water tanks were once housed. In total, the structure boasts 67 “easy” stairs, 5 landings, 4 half-landings, and a spiral staircase connecting the 5th floor to the upper gallery. Phew. And, as mentioned, the building itself along with an acre of private grounds, can be yours for anywhere between £2130 ($3,845) to £3200 ($5,235) per week depending on the season. Nightly rates are also available starting at $850. Yikes. Looks like the building itself isn’t the only thing that’s sky-high although if you crammed enough people in there it would start to look affordable.
Head on over to the official House in the Clouds website where you can read up on the building’s unique history, view interior images, and learn about the current accommodations and floor plan. After spending a morning researching House in the Clouds, I’ve become more than just a bit intrigued by the daffy, "Peter Pan"-inspired resort village of Thorpeness, conceived by Olgivie an “an ideal holiday village ‘for people who want to experience life as it was when England was Merrie England’. Absolutely English, English in her beauty, English in her devotion to traditional healthy open air pleasures.” And I thought Portmeirion in Wales was an odd one ...
Bottom image: Martin Pettitt/Flickr