A dilapidated waterside home becomes a luxury retreat

Case Studies, General

Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Penzance, Driftways overlooks the Drift Dam, which was created to form a reservoir that would supply West Cornwall with water. Built in 1961 as living quarters for the water bailiff, the property fell into disrepair when the dam became automated. However, when architects Mark Camillin and Liam Denny came across the dilapidated building, they spotted its potential and decided to transform it into a luxurious lakeside escape.A dilapidated waterside home becomes a luxury retreat

The architects’ vision involved blending 1960s minimalist design and modern technology to create a stylish, comfortable holiday home. Their plans for the building included remodelling its three spacious floors and surrounding it with a steel framed terrace. This would make the most of the property’s stunning views and significantly increase its living area.

Driftways’ lower floor features two large bedrooms, one of which was originally the integral garage. While only the master bedroom comes with an ensuite, both rooms have their own sun deck facing the reservoir. There’s also a light and airy living room, a stylish kitchen, a third bedroom and a family bathroom.

Unusually, Mark and Liam decided to clad the upper level of the property’s exterior in copper, an innovative choice that was commended by Cornwall Planners. The rest of the building is made out of Cornish granite stone, which provides an effective contrast.

Copper also features in other areas of the lakeside house. For example, a copper panel has replaced the property’s original up and over garage door and there are copper light fittings inside, as well as a copper flue for the wood burner. The living room has been clad with birch faced plywood, which gives the property a 1960s feel. Due to building regulations, this had to be coated in fire retardant paint.A dilapidated waterside home becomes a luxury retreat

Sustainability was a major consideration when Mark and Liam were deciding how to transform Driftways. The property’s thermal performance has been boosted by adding new insulation and double glazing, while solar panels provide hot water. An air source heat pump also supplies underfloor heating throughout the home.

From the beginning of this ambitious project, the relationship between the architects and their building control officer was excellent. As well as providing detailed drawings which showed how they planned to meet building regulations, Mark and Liam arranged several meetings to explain the proposals. They also delayed demolition work until an inspection of the property’s foundations had been carried out. This revealed a small amount of asbestos, which was disposed of safely.

Mark and Liam also had to provide extra information about Driftways’ landscaped areas, which include dangerously steep drops in level. The architects resolved this problem by using timber sleepers to provide retaining walls for the steps and the edges of the extended driveway. While this was a clever solution, the extra work did contribute towards pushing the project slightly over budget.A dilapidated waterside home becomes a luxury retreat

The transformation of Driftways was, however, completed on time and the project was such a success that it won an LABC South West Building Excellence Award, in the Best Extension and Alteration category. The property has also received a nomination for the national LABC awards, which take place this November.

Both architects are thrilled with both the look and the performance of their lakeside holiday retreat, describing the redesigned house as “uncompromisingly modern modernism from the 1960s with a feel of a Californian lake-side cabin.”

Project Team


Camillin Denny Design, Mark Camillin/Liam Denny, 01404 871100

Building Control

Cornwall Council Building Control, Ms Annette Buckingham, 01872 224792


AMJ Renovations, 07972 166076

Homeowner Guide

Guide to Renovating Your Home

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