Jonny, as well as Kate, had been drawing possible layouts for the site from the moment they visited the site. And before long, we thought we’d reached a solution. Then, to aid the consultation process, Jonny constructed an architectural model of not only our proposed building, but of the surrounding buildings. Seeing the building in this form provided real food for thought, and the design underwent several more mutations as a result. The model making was lengthy and time-consuming for Jonny, but proved more than worthwhile in helping to resolve the design, particularly the elevations.
Prior to applying for planning permission, a substantial consultation process was held, in which neighbours, British Waterways and various heritage groups were invited to come and see the model and drawings on site, and put forward their thoughts.
The house has an upside-down plan, with the kitchen/dining/living space on the first floor, and the less actively occupied bedrooms, office and bathrooms on the ground floor. The reason for this is that the canal towpath onto which the site fronts is an extremely popular walking, cycling and running route, and living there will be a little like living in the middle of a popular city park; in addition, from spring through to autumn it is amazing how busy the canal is with holiday barges. Having our main living space on the first floor will allow us to enjoy the canal and the scenery while maintaining a level of privacy.
We knew what we wanted to achieve from the 146 square metre site: open-plan kitchen/dining/living space, 3 bedrooms, a playroom, an office, utility, 2 bathrooms. We somehow managed to achieve all of this, with an extra living space. The bedrooms are not luxurious in size, but workable, and should serve their purpose perfectly comfortably. (As we are currently living in a 1.5 bedroom flat, with no separate office space, the idea of having a room just to sleep in seems positively decadent.) Our outdoor space is admittedly limited; we will have a small courtyard area on the ground floor to allow light into the downstairs living space and two main bedrooms, while on the first floor we will have a roof terrace linking the kitchen, etc to the playroom. However, our feeling is that we have the canal on our doorstep and beautiful accessible countryside and views just 5 minutes’ walk away.
The upper floor layout (excluding the exact location of the kitchen within it) remained very stable, but the model helped immensely with the positioning of windows and doors, and with the look of the small covered terrace just outside the main living space. The ground floor layout on the other hand has been tweaked again and again, right up until a few weeks’ ago when the unhelpful client, Kate, declared that she no longer required an en-suite and would actually prefer a shower room that was accessible by anyone in the house. She has now been informed that that is the last possible tweak, given that the foundation piles are already in position, and that the structural layout has been drawn up and paid for, and that the order for the steel bending schedule has been placed.
The house is also to have something that Kate has always loved in houses, and something that is usually found on older, grander properties – two staircases. In this case, one is not for the servants, but for the children. A staircase at the back of the property, and adjacent to the boys’ bedroom, gives access to the playroom and a mezzanine space above their bedroom, as well as to the first-floor terrace. The other staircase towards the front of the property gives access to the first-floor open plan area and the terrace.