New holiday home in North Wales complete with oak frame

A planning consent story from the perspective of Oakwrights architectural designer, John Williams:

A seaside location and a harbour view make for a pretty enviable location to build in.  The rhythm of the changing tides, the reflection of sunlight on the water, and the movement of boats combine to create a picturesque scene that always captivates.

When the opportunity arose to buy an uninspiring bungalow, with planning permission approved for its replacement (in a location just metres from the beach in the popular north-Wales resort of Abersoch), Peter and Jan couldn’t resist.  Having spent many years visiting and staying near to this pretty town, the site offered them the chance to create a unique holiday home very close to its centre, but still with those all-important views.

Although the approved drawings they inherited with the site didn’t match Peter and Jan’s design brief and vision for their project, what they did do was establish a number of very positive principals: the replacement of a bungalow with a two-storey house; the repositioning of the building on the site up to the ‘building line’ created by the neighbouring properties; and the addition of a separate garage at a lower level with a terraced garden on top.

Before starting on the design work, we met with Peter and Jan at the Oakwrights Show Home in Herefordshire (as well as in Abersoch) to review both the opportunities as well as the constraints of the site. As the designer, these meetings, conversations and visits to site are vital, helping me to capture not only the key elements of a client’s design brief, but also the opportunities that can help to bring delight to a scheme. Having deliberated over drawings and sketched out ideas, it’s always with some anticipation that I wait for client’s reaction to a first set of draft plans.  I was, of course, delighted when Peter and Jan sent a swift response to say they were happy with what I had suggested.

While starting afresh with the design allowed us to explore new opportunities, we were aware that the principals approved in the earlier scheme had been hard-won.  With this in mind, the changes we suggested were carefully justified; a modest increase to the overall roof-height could be achieved with no negative impact, if we revised the layout of gables, moving them away from positions close to neighbouring boundaries. Large areas of glazing could also be incorporated by carefully choosing positions and using designs that didn’t impact on neighbourly privacy.

A process of ‘pre-application’ discussion with the local planning department, based upon draft drawings, ensured we had informal support for our proposals before progressing to the full application stage. This provides a degree of reassurance, but it is still important to fully justify the new proposals in the context of the planning policy and its impact within the site and wider landscape.  Thankfully, no unforeseen problems arose through the application and planning was promptly granted.

For Peter and Jan it was important that the new house had a bright, welcoming and generous feel, perfect for relaxed family holidays as well as partying with friends. To comply with the planning constraints they chose to clad the house externally with a mixture of white render and timber boarding beneath slate roofing.  Internally they wanted to use a post-and beam style oak-frame throughout to create impact, incorporating features such as vaulted ceilings, galleried landings and a defined but open-plan style layout.

Set in a row of conventional white rendered bungalows and houses, the plot slopes steeply uphill from the road that separates it from the sea.  The new house sits in an elevated position two-thirds of the way into the site, where it gains the best views of the bay and coastline beyond.  With the driveway and garage to the north, on the south side is a modestly proportioned private garden, terraced as it steps up towards the site boundary.  Over the garage on the north-side, accessed from the main living room, is a large terrace bordered by a cantilevered glass handrail, ensuring uninterrupted views to the sea.

Glazing was obviously key in helping to capture the sea views. But given these were only available from the north side of the house, it was also important to bring sunlight in from the south. By designing an open-plan layout to the living area, and combining this with a vaulted entrance hall and kitchen area and two-storey windows and roof-lights on the south side of the house, dynamic sunlight can penetrate right across the ground floor of the building.

As well as a Master Bedroom that rightly commands the best views through its glazed ‘Juliet balcony’, the house also contains four further well-proportioned bedrooms. The two bedrooms on the ground floor and the two on the first floor are both served by en-suites as well as a family bathroom.

Abersoch stretches around the bay with houses all along the coastline.  Not only does this mean that many people are able to look out on sea views, it also means that the houses themselves form part of the landscape over which everybody looks.  In amongst the white rendered houses along the south side of the bay, Peter and Jan’s house has become an elegant landmark that might just catch the admiring eye of other residents and holiday-makers as they look out to sea!


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