'It's pure escapism': this extraordinary house design was inspired by a stagnant pond

Recognizing the potential in a neglected site, Dan and Nina Rowland created a stunning sustainable home centered on a natural swimming pond

Living room, kitchen, exterior
(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

'Living here feels as though we're immersed in an ever-changing natural environment,' says Dan Rowland, who, with his wife Nina, has designed and built a cutting-edge eco home, complete with a natural swimming pond.

Wooden panelled house, natural pond, glass doors

On warmer days, the large sliding doors are pushed back, creating a seamless link between inside and out

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

'It's been a labor of love, but definitely worth all our effort and hard work. One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing our children's faces as they marvel at swallows swooping down to wash their wings in the shimmering water. This unique, close relationship with nature constantly impacts on every aspect of our lives,’ says Nina.

Blue sofa, wooden coffee table, sliding doors

The blue corner sofa creates a sense of cohesion between the natural swimming pond and main living space

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

Back in 2015, when the couple’s first daughter, Isla, was born, the Rowlands were living in a basement apartment in London and longed for more space and an enhanced quality of life.

‘I’m a huge advocate of biophilic design and how its symbiosis with nature can have a positive impact on the wellbeing of a property’s occupants,’ says Dan, who studied psychology before branching into architecture. Determined to create their own biophilic home, the pair began scouring the internet for a suitable coastal site.

Hanging plants, black high chairs, black shelves

For a seamless look, Nina included a white induction hob

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

As soon as Nina spotted details for this plot with its dated 1930s house, an overgrown paddock and large pond, she felt instinctively that this could be the one. ‘We’d previously visited friends who live nearby and knew it was an unspoilt, beautiful and tranquil area,’ she says.

‘During our first viewing, we saw precisely why potential buyers weren’t interested, as the unattractive, stagnant pond was obviously a huge stumbling block,’ says Dan. ‘But I could see how the home could connect with its surroundings, and knew this was a golden opportunity.’

Wooden fining table, grey bench, wooden inbuilt shelf

Vertical wooden panelling softens the modern scheme

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

The excited pair began formulating plans – their ideas crystallizing further when Dan crouched down beside the pond. ‘Even though the water was sludgy green, the way the light reflected off it was mesmeric,’ he says. 

This lightbulb moment inspired him to design the house with the main living area at the rear. ‘I visualized a bright, airy space with large sliding doors that would maximize the south-facing aspect,’ says Dan. ‘I wanted to create the illusion of the property floating almost seamlessly over what would become a crystal-clear, natural swimming pond.’

White spiral staircase, wooden banister, hanging plants

Dan paired the elegant steel balustrade with an oak handrail for this light-drenched space. The sweeping staircase adds drama

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

Having put their property on the market in 2016, Dan and Nina, who was pregnant with their second child Lexi, relocated to the existing house (which would eventually be knocked down), while the five-bedroom home was built.

Despite some hurdles, the tenacious pair focused on achieving their goal and gradually the three-story house, built from structural insulated panels (SIPs), and clad in Siberian larch, became a reality.

Wooden bedframe, black bedside table, grey curtains

The couple wanted this scheme to be relaxed and understated

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

Determined that the interior would complement the exterior, Nina sourced materials, furniture and soft furnishings to give their home a relaxed, modern feel, incorporating a natural, textural palette contrasting with sharper, slicker details. 

‘I wanted the interior to complement the exterior of our home, so I used natural, textural materials and furnishings alongside sharper, slicker lines and details.’

Bath, white curtains, plant

A freestanding bath frames the beautiful views

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

The result is a sun-drenched home with a calm yet stimulating ambience. Since appearing on the UK TV show Grand Designs, the couple’s Studio Fuse architectural practice has been inundated with requests from clients keen to create biophilic homes.

‘Very often, one of the first things our guests and clients do when they visit here is kick off their shoes and cross the stepping stones,’ says Nina. ‘There’s a real sense of adventure, creativity and fun that everyone immediately senses. It’s pure escapism.

Portrait, stone pathway

Every day is a new adventure in the beautifully designed garden with its meandering walkway. It’s a haven for wildlife, which are attracted to the natural swimming pond

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Kiera Buckley-Jones)

Original feature: Janet McMeekin

Styling: Kiera Buckley Jones

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.