Looking out of the windows that spread the entire width of the house, Lynne and Adrian Sproson admire the panorama of the Solent that they call ‘the best view in the world.’
They can even see the spire of the church in Ryde on the Isle of Wight where they married.
The stunning house on the waterfront at Hill Head, near Fareham, named Lighthouse 65, has been a labour of love that was three years in the making and cost them nearly £1m.
Along the way they had to deal with landslides, potential flooding, possible reports of bats living on the site, spiralling costs and local expectations for the beauty spot.
But despite all the trials and tribulations, the Sprosons, both 60, believe they have created their dream retirement home.
And architect Andy Ramus of AR Design has been nominated for a top industry award for his work on the project – it has been shortlisted in the Small House of the Year category of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Awards.
The couple, a deputy head and a headteacher, were living in Winchester, but were looking for somewhere on the coast to retire to.
Their first choice had been another property just four doors down along the same stretch of Hill Head Road. But that deal fell through and the Sprosons began looking at other options in the area.
Number 65 had lain empty for the previous decade with the house slipping into disrepair and the plot becoming a tangle of untended bushes and weeds.
Hall and Woodhouse, the brewery which also owns the neighbouring Osborne View pub, had put in three previous planning applications to demolish the house and turn it into accommodation for the pub’s staff.
But the proposals were repeatedly rejected by Fareham Borough Council’s planning committee.
Lynne says: ‘We love sailing, so we knew where we wanted to be.
‘We were about to retire and looking for somewhere nice to live.
‘We came along the beach, walking up to the pub and saw this derelict house – it was completely overgrown.
‘We knew someone had to own it, so when we got home we did an online search and found it was owned by the brewery.
‘I think we just happened to come along at the right time as far as they were concerned.’
With the deal on the property completed in April 2009, the Sprosons began an exhaustive search of architects to design their dream home.
However, with the ground floor 20ft below street level and the spot allowing views for the public over the Solent that locals didn’t want to lose, their design problems were only just beginning.
‘We had a succession of architects come along to look at the site and tell us what they would do,’ says Lynne.
‘Most of them saw all the problems, but then Andy came along and immediately said it was fantastic.
‘He was quite inspirational and we think he did an incredible job.’
Adrian adds: ‘I think it was Andy’s enthusiasm for what could be done with the plot that shone through.
‘We’re absolutely over the moon with the design and it ticks all the boxes for what we said we wanted – it maximises the view and it maximises the plot.’
Lynne adds: ‘We had to get a bat survey done as well, as there were concerns that there bats in the old house, and bats are a protected species. Luckily there weren’t any.
‘And the Environment Agency were concerned about flooding.
‘We had to take a 200-year view of the worst case scenario.’
As a result of the survey’s findings, a waist-high flood barrier had to be incorporated along the end of the garden closest to the home.
And people living in the area had raised worries that a new house on the property would block the view over to the Isle of Wight at the only spot along the road where it’s currently possible.
But by turning the roof of the home into a car port level with the road and making the main entrance through a glass cube and down a spiral staircase, the view has been preserved for locals.
Fortunately, and with the backing of the Fareham Society, the application sailed through the planning committee stage in late 2009.
But just as work was about to get under way on the build, disaster struck in January 2010 – there was a landslide on the other side of the pub that caused a 100-yard section of Hill Head Road to shear off by up to three feet.
Although 65 was not directly affected by the incident, it raised red flags about the state of the cliff-face along that whole stretch, meaning the Sprosons would need to include extra measures to strengthen the bank.
And the road was closed for 18 months whilst Hampshire County Council dragged its heels in making the necessary repairs, which added to the logistical problems of bringing the necessary equipment down to the site.
Lynne says: ‘We couldn’t get an engineer to sign off this part of the project. We went through four engineers and 14 builders – no-one wanted to touch it.
‘There’s £100,000-worth of concrete that’s gone into strengthening that bank alone.’
The finished home is a striking piece of architecture that certainly stands out if you take the same walk along the beach that the Sprosons took more than three years ago.
And it has so far proved popular – the couple say they often see people stopping to take pictures of their home from on the beach.
In a nice touch, in the evenings, the glass cube on top – the lighthouse – glows to indicate weather conditions, green when the weather is fair and red when the atmospheric pressure drops.
‘Although it has cost us dearly, we have a fabulous house’ says Lynne.
‘It does look stark and industrial, but it’s so comfortable inside.
‘With the cost of the land and everything it has cost us just shy of £1m.
‘You are sort of living in a goldfish bowl, but you are also living with the best view in the world as far as I’m concerned.’
Architect Andy Ramus started his own company, Winchester-based AR Design Studio, in 2001.
Lighthouse 65 is not his only nomination for the prestigious RIBA Awards this year – he has another home in Hamble Marina shortlisted, and Andy himself is also nominated for Young Architect of the Year.
Speaking about Lighthouse 65 Andy, who is also a keen sailor, says: ‘I race out the front here every Sunday, so I had been looking at this spot for a long time and thinking about its potential.’
He was closely involved with the build, working with the Sprosens every step of the way.
‘When you are doing it, it’s testing,’ he says, ‘and this one was particularly difficult. But the more difficult it is, the more satisfying the outcome. You forget the trials and the tribulations quite quickly.
‘There were constraints and we had to think of ways around them. It was those solutions that made it.’