THE INITIAL DESIGN
We held an initial design meeting on site with the couple, to first of all get a flavour as to the location and to establish the parameters for design and planning related matters.
The site featured an existing residential dwelling (a simple rectangular bungalow) built of the cheapest materials you could imagine, along with an uneconomical heating infrastructure and very little insulation. As far as we were all concerned it was “curtains” for the poor old bungalow.
The plot did have the benefit of an existing Outline Planning Approval for a replacement dwelling but with all matters reserved. This basically means that when applying for further, more detailed, planning permission you only need to seek approval of the reserved matters rather than applying for full permission. This is useful to consider when looking at buying plots as it does potentially fast track the process and the principle of development is already established. The reserved matters on this occasion were Amount, Layout, Landscaping, Scale and Appearance.
Whilst I had no issues in designing exactly the right sort of house in line with the parameters set out in the Outline Approval, I did have some concerns about the trees that were present on the site. If I described the trees as incredibly tall, this would be an understatement. Furthermore, there were far too many of them for my liking bearing in mind where the clients wished to build. Trees in relation to new construction can sometimes be your best friend as they provide valuable established presence, but they can also be your worst enemy. Because of the situation of this particular plot we needed a TPO (Tree Preservation Order) on all of the trees. This means that any works to the trees, including removal, have to be approved by the local authority but in reality the trees will be heavily protected and it is unlikely that they can be removed at all unless a good case was put forwards in favour of felling. The other tree related constraint is for the protection of their root zones and how they will be affected by the construction of foundation trenches and service run trenches. To ensure we knew exactly what we were dealing with, I advised our clients to commission a full arboricultural survey which serves to identify all of the trees in terms of species, crown and height and most importantly the root protection area (RPA). In basic terms, we were going to have to design the new house in such a way that the footprint avoided all of the RPA’s. You will see from the drawings that we managed to do this for most of the house but managed to negotiate a minor intrusion into some of the RPA’s as the existing bungalow already did and we were able to demonstrate that the new dwelling with the same intrusion, posed no greater threat than the existing dwelling. The footprint was to the satisfaction of the client and we agreed in principle on a way forwards with the planning officer and trees officer at the local authority.
I could now sit down with my clients again and work up the exact floor plans they were looking to achieve and I was able to give them the benefit of my local knowledge as to how this house should look and feel. The design direction was to create a really classic Cambridgeshire village home with simple linear proportions, slim gables, differing roof heights and a simple palette of materials and tones.
At ground floor, you enter the house by way of a large front covered porch which leads into a glazed lobby. Beyond the lobby is a large open hallway with a staircase rising to the left and a backdrop of exposed brickwork toward the rear of the main central fireplace. Open plan beyond the hallway is the dining/sunroom with panoramic floor to ceiling glazed oak framing providing stunning views of the trees and rear garden. On the opposite side of the hallway is a classic square farmhouse style kitchen, utility room and WC.
The first floor layout provides 4 bedrooms, 1 en-suite, 1 family bathroom and the stairwell is vaulted up into the roof space with a gallery looking down providing a nice connection between the two floors, allowing natural light to flow in and out of the spaces.
Externally, it was always my wish to present the new house as simple as possible and whilst Oakwrights are renowned for some amazingly detailed oak frames, we kept it pared down a bit on this project and the result is exactly what we wanted to achieve. The oak framing is still an important feature with this house but it succeeds on this occasion by following the “less is more” rule which suits this Cambridgeshire village location. The framing and render are successfully blended with locally referenced clay plain tiles and bricks and on this occasion I did not want the house to feature a low level plinth so as to maintain my original sentiment of simplicity. On the rear elevation we did however mix things up a little bit and chose to clad most of the facade in deep section oak weatherboarding as this will silver off naturally and blend more so with the rural aspects beyond of open meadow land and agricultural fields.
The site also features a detached garage barn which is clad in the same deep section weatherboarding and sits comfortably alongside the dwelling resulting in a true village feel street scene.
Planning was approved in October 2008 and has resulted in another successful project for us and with happy clients which is all we ever ask.