Creating a Bespoke Family Home – The Journey of Eden House
Our Eden House project is finally complete! The family have moved in and are now enjoying their beautiful, contemporary new home, complete with bespoke furniture and fittings. Eden House was a ‘one-off’, Grand Designs style property, built on land that formed part of the garden for their existing house. As well as the new build itself, there were also minor alterations to the existing building, including a small extension and internal changes intended to modernise.
The original home is a large detached house on a substantial plot of land. This attractive period property, with its traditional masonry structure, was constructed in the early 1960’s and had served as the family home for many years.
The owner, Mr Reevey, approached us to establish whether he could construct a brand-new dwelling, or dwellings, on the large garden area. After conducting several feasibility studies, we concluded that he could. We explained that it would adhere to the local planning policies of Dacorum Council and, what’s more, that we were undoubtedly the architects to help realise his lifelong dream!
He was thrilled and work began.
In the beginning…
We started by presenting a comprehensive brief. During this initial analysis, we offered several options to consider. Two of these looked at demolishing the existing property and creating two or three new dwellings. In this scenario, Mr Reevey and his family would find alternative accommodation during construction.
However, they decided against this and instead asked for the house to be retained and for a single, bespoke property to be developed. This way, the Reevey’s could continue to live in their home while their dream ‘Grand Design’ property took shape adjacent to them.
The site benefitted from a large curtilage, with the original dwelling set back against a northern boundary. Screened by large trees and hedges, there was a large front garden with a driveway along the eastern side, large enough to build a new dwelling.
The surrounding area is characterised by large detached dwellings with substantial gardens, so initially there were concerns that the council might reject our proposal for being over density and too modern. To avoid this, we decided on a design that was purposely less overdeveloped.
Our plans depicted a generous five-bedroom house, with a good amount of private amenity space for both properties. There were certainly challenges involved, but we persevered. After all, what kind of architects would we be if we didn’t push for perfection for fear of rejection? Our goal was to create something that would provide the family value, and perfectly suit a more contemporary lifestyle.
Thankfully, we won the council’s support! Unfortunately, we did not receive the same support from Berkhamsted town council. So, it went to committee…
Over to the committee…
Committee meetings are an interesting democratic English planning process. Often, councillors will jump on a bandwagon together to reject proposals, citing ambiguous reasons such as ‘density’, ‘overdevelopment’ and ‘character’, without every contextualising what they mean. It’s certainly fascinating to observe! Thankfully, we had Dacorum’s council on our side. The planning officer and consultant defending the scheme won the support of the chair and we were given permission to begin the project! Funnily enough, a few weeks later, the mayor of Berkhamsted (who outright rejected the development at committee) found himself in the chair at his local dentist, who just happened to be one Mr Reevey! With his dental care in the hands of our client, it didn’t take long for the mayor to start singing the praises of the scheme!
More about the design…
Our first discussions involved how to better utilise the south area of site. We proposed to alter the direction of the front aspect of the existing dwelling. With an extension to the south side of the property constructed, you could create a new main entrance, as well as a formal dining room. Both would have views of the south and west areas, with the entrance relocated to the east. The extension would also allow the first-floor guest bedroom to benefit from an eastern view.
In terms of light, it was decided that the new home would be positioned for maximum exposure from eastern and western light. Morning sun would illuminate the front entrance, living room and bedrooms, with the main living spaces at the rear benefitting from afternoon and evening sun. This orientation ensured that overlooking issues were avoided.
We planned to visually reduce the massing of the dwelling by creating an elevation of three separate materials. We proposed a stock brick plinth at ground floor level, to give the building an air of solidity. Brick is one of the most enduring facing materials and weathers naturally over time. It also allowed the property to fit with the character of the area. An anthracite grey render was chosen for the first floor, to contrast against the brick, and a modern slate roof provided another alternative material texture to the facade.
Moving on to the layout…
The house has been designed with an open plan ground floor, providing a connection to wherever the sun is positioned. At first floor, the feature glazed gable to the west provides maximum light into the master bedroom, whilst on the eastern gable we included a large rectangular feature window in the study, and a set of double doors with a full height section of apex glazing in the guest bedroom.
At ground level, a large hallway leads from the front door through the property, linking spaces and providing a view to the rear garden. On entering the property, you experience changes in level, accentuating the feeling of space as you descend and the ceiling height rises. This technique is intended to make the space brighter, with zones that seamlessly connect areas.
A dark lacquered wooden staircase has been positioned at the heart of the house, designed in a style that allows the staircase and floor to organically flow together. Light is abundant on this staircase, with the top floor hallway being lit from 180 degrees, thanks to a glazed strip above.
The main living area is to the south and west, with a large kitchen and living room leading to a lower rear terrace. There is a large dining room complete with a bespoke table and steps separating the kitchen, living space and feature fireplace. Exposed brickwork gives the room a laid-back feel, while adding an on-trend industrial look.
In addition, we added a snug to the front of the property located adjacent to the front door. The aim was to provide an area of privacy and seclusion, away from the open social spaces at the rear.
Upstairs, the master bedroom benefits from a private terrace which overlooks the rear garden, as well as a luxury en-suite and walk-in wardrobe. Within the void above, Mr Reevey had intended to add a Harley Davidson bike display but it remains to be seen whether he will get his way or not!
For now, the space above is used for additional storage. A large family bathroom, with both a free-standing bathtub and shower enclosure serves the remaining bedrooms, except for the en-suited front bedroom. The palette of colours upstairs is neutral, consisting of greys, creams, and blacks, which all help tie the scheme together.
After 12 months of development, Eden House is now near completion, with only external works to be finished at the front. The family moved in in October 2016, so that modification works could begin on the existing house. This stunning family home is a superb example of considered design. Not only were changes made from the outset to consider neighbouring properties, we were also able to achieve a design which is attentive, aesthetically pleasing but most importantly that the Reevey’s adore. It is a remarkable testament to what can be achieved with a strong design concept, plenty of research and a clear set of goals.