Name: Stephen Turner
Location: The Beaulieu River; Hampshire, UK
Size: 6 meters long, 3.6 meters wide
Years lived in: 9 months
At the head of a creek somewhere in the South of England, a weird and wonderful structure bobs up and down on the tide. It is a giant wooden egg, polished smooth by the wind until it shines like silver. A round window on the top and a hatch on the side are the only clues that this may be something more than an otherworldly sculpture dropped down in a remote salt marsh. In fact, somebody actually lives here — British artist Stephen Turner.
The Exbury Egg is the brainchild of an artist (Stephen), an architect, and an engineer, who wanted to create a low-impact, sustainable dwelling where Stephen could live close to nature and observe and document his surroundings for one whole year. Stephen chose this secluded riverbank on the edge of the New Forest National Park, where marshland and woodland meet, as the egg's temporary home.
Inside, the egg is surprisingly light and spacious. There is a workstation along one length of the egg, where Stephen writes his blog and mans his webcams. A basic kitchen with a paraffin camp stove and a tiny sink run along the other side. Stephen's bed is on a raised platform at the pointy end of the egg. The rounded end has built in cupboards for dry and wet storage and a compact bathroom with a toilet and shower. "I wanted to keep everything very basic inside to retain the feeling of being in an egg."
Stephen and the egg have weathered a wet and stormy winter together. While the egg gained its new shiny patina, Stephen's belongings succumbed to the damp and got a covering of green furry mold instead. Even his tea bags were not safe. Despite a persistent leak in the roof above his bed and a storm so wild it nearly tore the door off, Stephen is still enthused about life on the egg.
With three months to go, he is making the most of the longer spring days. He is sketching the local wildlife with homemade inks and charcoal. He has become an expert forager and has made sloe berry gin, blackberry jam, rosehip syrup, salt crystals from river water, gorse tea, and fruit-based dyes to decorate his t-shirts. When the time comes to leave this place, the egg, the decking, the cameras and the solar panels will all be removed and the land will revert back to nature.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style / Inspiration: Right from the start I knew our structure had to be an egg, and that it should feel like an egg both inside and out. The egg is a universal symbol of fertility, birth, new life and creation. It is also a nod to the unique mixture of bird life in this area. To one side of the egg is woodland where there are lots of song birds and to the other side is the river and salt marshes with all the wading birds.
Favorite Element: The egg shape is very special.
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was getting the power right. Over the winter, I only had four solar panels, and they didn't generate nearly enough energy to keep up with the demands I was placing on the system. I have webcams running 24 hours a day, and the batteries were sucking up all the available power. I also needed to charge my laptop, wifi, mobile phone, and camera. I got two extra panels, but with the longer spring days, I now have an excess of energy. If I were to do this project again, I would want to use wind power too.
What Friends Say: They are amazed at how much space there is inside. "It's like a tardis!" is the most common comment.
Proudest DIY: The original bed was a hammock, but after three nights of terrible backache, I decided to make a proper bed. I built a platform from recycled timber and placed a mattress on top. I use the underneath for storage. The cupboard door folds out to make a table.
Biggest Indulgence: It is a very spartan and practical egg. There are no real indulgences. Everything on board serves a purpose. I figure out my needs as I go along and build something if I need it.
Best Advice: This winter when the South of England was hit by flooding, everyone was talking about how there is too much building on flood plains. We need to think about how we can make our houses work with nature, so they rise and fall with the tides and floods, rather than fighting nature.
Dream Sources: A wind turbine! I don't really have any. I am inspired and intrigued by changing landscapes that you can explore and connect with. And I am already here in it.
Resources of Note:
- ORIGINAL CONCEPT AND DESIGN: Stephen Turner
- ARCHITECT: PAD Studio
- NAVAL ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER: Stephen Payne
- BUILDER: Paul Baker
- PROJECT MANAGER: SPUD
• HOUSE TOUR ARCHIVE: Check out past house tours here.
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(Image credits: Rebecca Bond; PAD Studio)