A La Ronde - the 16 side house
Have you ever seen a 16 side house before? Let me take you to one called A La Ronde in Devon, UK
A La Ronde
In the late 18th century, two wealthy cousins called Jane and Mary Parminter toured Europe visiting countries such as France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Upon their return to UK a decade later, they built a house back home at a place called Exmouth. It was an unsual house to say the least, in that it had 16 sides and many features not commonly seen back in those days. The design of the house was inspired by Jane and Mary's European travels.
The visitor car park at A La Ronde is at the back of the house. First impressions it already looks very nice. The tall building is the water tank which is not accessible as it's in need of repair. And the barn next to it is now the reception area.
The apple orchard is to the left. When the house was first built in 1796, it is believed that there was an apple orchard here. The original trees had died long ago and these ones are replanted by the current owners. We've had a good apple harvest this year, and free apples are in abundance.
A La Rounda is very special due to its architecture. It's 16 sided house, and the rooms are lined on the outside. Jane and Mary were very much involved in the design of the house, but no one is sure if there was an architect involved at all. Probably not, as they were well traveled, and clearly knew what they wanted in life. For example, when they designed the room layout, the bedroom was facing the east so they can see the sun rise when they get up in the morning. The other rooms were located based on their main use during the day, so it's like their life and the house follows the sun. Finally the dining room faces west, so Jane and Mary could see the sun set as they dine. How clever is that!!
This is the bedroom and is located on the second floor.
The main lounges are downstairs and you walk through from one room to another. You can see the corridor leading into the rooms isn't long and straight like normal ones, and the walls have many sides. That's all due to the 16 side design of the house.
Where there's space in between rooms, it's been used as a mini library. Everything is so cleverly designed, and this is from over 200 hundred years ago.
Going back upstairs, the corridor follows the unique design of the house and goes round and round like you see here.
In 1886, a bathroom was installed in A La Ronde as well as central heating. This major modernisation was done by the only male owner of this property. When Mary died in 1849, her will stated that this house could only be passed onto unmarried kinswomen. It seems that somewhere during the next few decades after her death, a male relative crept in when the inheritance line ran out of unmarried kinswomen.
Let's go back downstairs and see what the centre of the 16 sided house looks like. Many of the rooms on the outside of the house leads into the center. This is one of them. If you look carefully, there is so much thought that goes into the entire architecture of the house, down to even the door frame. If you look closely, the top of the door frame is curved and it closes with a sliding door that is also curved. I find the attention to details at A La Ronde so fascinating.
And here is the most beautiful part - the center of the house. The 16-side design is reflected in the core of the property and from here there are various access to the different rooms. I wonder if Jane and Mary ever got confused into which room they wanted to go in?
The other very unique thing about the house is the use of diamond shapes. The diamond shape windows are very special and makes the exterior of the house look so quirky yet quaint. And when you see it from the inside, even the shutters are very special. You may have also notice the walls in the centre of the house have diamond shape decorations, as does the main gate. It's all quite subtly done, but blends in perfectly.
The decoration inside A La Ronde includes a lot of souvenirs Jane and Mary bought back from their Europe trip, as well as many oddities. A few items that stood out are these shell pictures they made.
But I was most impressed with the feather frieze. The top of the wall were adorned with feather decorations. You can't really see how impressive they are unless you zoom in. Each and every one of them are different and was painstakingly hand glued onto the surface creating unique patterns. It's truly amazing!
A La Ronde is a truly amazing house. Not just because of its unique architecture, but also because of Mary and Jane's vision to create something so extraordinary over 200 years ago. If you're ever in the region, I highly recommend a visit.