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Secular Retreat

Sleeps 10

In South Devon, between the resorts of Salcombe and Hallsands lies a landscape of rolling hills, wooded river valleys, patchwork fields and small villages of old stone houses. It is here Living Architecture invited one of the greatest architects in the world, Peter Zumthor, to create Secular Retreat. 

About The Architecture

Architect – Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor is frequently described as the greatest architect at work in the world today. He was awarded the internationally prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2009 and the RIBA Gold Medal in 2013.

He is a master of craftsmanship and an expert in the use of materials. The practice was founded in 1979 and is based in Haldenstein, near the city of Chur in Switzerland. Peter works with a dedicated team of around 30 employees.

Probably his most renowned buildings are the thermal baths at Vals in Switzerland, the Bruder Klaus Chapel outside Cologne in Germany and the Kolumba Museum in Cologne itself. He is currently working on designs for museums in Basel and Los Angeles, alongside many private commissions.


Secular Retreat is located on a site formerly known as Middledown – where a local landowner built a house for his family in the early 1940’s. The house remained, but in a much-diminished state, until we purchased the site in 2008.

Although that building was removed, some of the Monterey pine trees and hexagonal walled garden structure remain. In each bedroom you will find a framed set of photographs lent to us by the daughter of the original owner. We have created new benches for the garden based upon the original one in the photographs.

Peter Zumthor first visited the site in the spring of 2008. Immediately inspired by the location, he created his first concept of a large house for up to ten people, a place where guests can come together and engage in workshops, activities, or take a holiday with a view.

Set on this undulating landscape, he produced a ‘villa’ for the 21st Century. Influenced by the rocky outcrops (Tors) found across the Devon Moors and the verticality of the existing Monterey pines, he designed a communal living space within hand-rammed concrete columns, which act as support to the massive cantilevered concrete roof. Two bedroom wings protrude from the living area, creating intimate bedrooms and bathrooms within, each with expansive views on to the garden and surrounding landscape.

The house is the result of five years of toiling, on an often brutally exposed site, by a local main contractor and a number of sub-contractors. It has truly been a ‘labour of love’ by all involved, from design to completion.


  • Completed 2019
  • Footprint 375sqm
  • Plot – approximately 5 acres
  • Rammed concrete walls with poured concrete roof
  • Internal timbers – American Cherry, Pearwood, Maple, Applewood,
  • Blue Lias stone floor

Contents of the house

The interiors have been created in conjunction with the architect, with the majority of the furniture and lighting designed specifically for the house.

Sitting room

Armchair and side tables – originally designed for the ‘Dear to Me’ exhibition in 2017, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the opening of Bregenz Kunsthaus, for which Peter Zumthor curated an exhibition throughout the whole building. Produced by Markus Landolt of Lucas Schnaidt Möbelmanufaktur GmbH

Sofas – created specifically for Secular Retreat and based on the original armchair design. Produced by Markus Landolt of Lucas Schnaidt Möbelmanufaktur GmbH

Cushions – made by Aellson

Lighting – designed by Peter Zumthor for Viabizzuno


Bathroom taps and shower set – by Dornbracht

Teak bath – designed by Peter Zumthor and produced by B4 in Basel

Pedestal basin – designed by Peter Zumthor and produced by Artisans of Devizes

Bespoke curtain rails – designed by Peter Zumthor and produced by Millimetre

Curtains – fabric by Kvadrat, produced by Le Interiors

Rugs – by The Rug Company


Dining table – designed by Peter Zumthor and produced by Horgenglarus

Chairs – designed by Max Ernst Haefeli, 1926 and produced by Horgenglarus

Fixed joinery and kitchen units – designed by Peter Zumthor and produced by Tischlerei Rüscher

Kitchen worktops – manufactured in zinc and produced by Tischlerei Rüscher and Marco Zaccheo


Upholstered leather stools and leather curtains – designed by Peter Zumthor and produced by Mohr Polster

Curtains – fabric by Kvadrat, produced by Le Interiors

Throws/Blankets – produced by Shepherds Delight

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