A BESPOKE OAK DESIGN
Having lived on the site for many years, our clients (Chris & John) knew all about what worked and did not work with the layout of their existing property, which formed a great basis for drawing up the design brief. In a quiet suburban setting on the edge of Redhill, Surrey, the site had views over the neighbouring roof-tops to the North Downs. Beyond the garden to the east, the land sloped upwards into a large expanse of woodland, giving the area a rural feel that belied its suburban position.
The brief was for a house with a more 'free-flowing' internal layout that was better connected with the private garden to the east, and that in opening itself up to the sunlight, did not compromise privacy either for the occupants or the neighbours. Making sure that the design for a new house connects well with both the private garden space and also the public side of the property is a key consideration during the design phase. Using the building form to produce sheltered, warm sitting out areas that draw you into the garden beyond enhances the whole site, resulting in a complete solution.
Being situated in a suburban setting we were expecting quite strict criteria from the planning department about the materials to be used externally. Showing predominantly good quality brick and clay tile hanging, the design combined this with details that brought the internal oak framed structure to the outside of the building – jetties and larger areas of glazed studding. It was a great result that the planners were happy with this mixed approach, which gives the design real interest, and ensures a sense of continuity between the external appearance and the internal spaces.
Soon after the second draft set of drawings were produced taking on board Chris and John's feedback, detailed designs were submitted to the planners for pre-application comment. We were pleased to receive requests for only minor alterations – mainly in relation to windows facing toward neighbours. Reassurance was required in relation to the overall height of the new building, and as a result we produced a ‘street-scene’ drawing to put our proposal into context with the neighbouring houses.
A SMOOTH PLANNING PROCESS
A key design idea from the outset had been to try and gain a view to the north towards the North Downs from at least one point in the building. This had been planned as a generously sized stairwell window, which matched the approach taken in quite a number of neighbouring older properties. Unfortunately, included in the planning permission ‘conditions’ was a requirement to frost all glazing on this side of the house. In spite of our best efforts to argue that there was precedent elsewhere in the street for a window of this type located off a stairwell and not a habitable room, there was no room for manoeuvre! In the end it was a small price to pay for an otherwise relatively smooth planning process!
The design features vistas through to the garden from all the key rooms, vaulting visible from the hallway right up to the first floor roof, as well as in a garden room off the kitchen and upstairs in the main bedroom. Sunlight can penetrate from the west side through to the east due to the large glazed area around the front door, ensuring that along with the other rooms in the house, the circulation areas used by everybody are constantly bathed in natural light. The main family room (kitchen/dining/garden room) has vistas both to the front of the house, and into the private garden, with generous access into the sheltered and private patio area created by the ‘L’ shaped plan, via bi-fold doors.
Having gone through the process of 'staying put' and replacing their old house with this new one, Chris & John and their family will enjoy the benefits of living in the area with the benefit of a wonderful oak framed home.
Interestingly, just this week we have discovered that the couple overcame losing their views of the Downs through the large landing window by having a large stained glass window commissioned to go there rather than obscured glass. It portrays an abstract landscape and the different areas of glass are placed in such a way to allow sneaky views of the real hills, fields and rooftops beyond the glass. It's a beautiful window and, as the sun moves around, casts fantastic reflections into the hall. Wonderful!