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January 29, 2021

A Look at Norney from Netflix's "The Dig"


Rob Whitten

We've been eagerly awaiting "The Dig" from Netflix—a wonderful movie starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes about the excavation of an English burial mound just before WWII.

It's full of beautiful landscapes, moody skies, and Suffolk villages, then suddenly there's a full-on view of Norney, a fantastic country home designed by C.F.A. Voysey in 1897. The home plays a major role in the movie and the settings. We get to see the views from the balconies and windows and gardens, watch the daylight play across the original interiors, and move through the spaces in daily use and in original condition.

Voysey is one of my favorite architects, and Norney is one of his best houses. The house is way beyond the scale and means for today's lifestyle, but it's fun to learn from the great Country Houses. The Gate House out by the road could be the genesis of forms and shapes for a shingled Maine cottage.

Thanks to Google, you can view the surrounding countryside, the lay of the grounds and gardens, and the outside living spaces. There are wonderful lessons in the site planning and organization of the home. You approach from the north and arrive at a generous car park. There's a protected entry and two-story stair hall with beautiful millwork and a handsome fireplace. From the hall you move off south towards the living rooms with views, sunlight, and fireplaces. Those rooms then open onto protected porches and sunny gardens. As you move away from the house the landscape becomes less formal and filled with native plantings.

The owner and family bedrooms are off the central hall and above the living spaces. They get first light and sun throughout the day. The guests get the back bedrooms to the north and west. The back side of the house has well organized mudrooms, sculleries, pantries, and a kitchen with a view of the entry court. The plans make the most of a cold, wet temperate climate; they are laid out to function, much like in the homes we design.

The movie is highly recommended. It's a good story and an opportunity to experience a great house and a private home on a beautiful site.


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