So it’s September and we have finalised the plans. This is good as I think that the architect was about to kill me if I suggested any more amendments. The plans have gone back and forth so much they must be giddy. It got to the stage where I could feel the sigh when he realised that it was me on the phone! I do still have some tweaks, for example I’m not convinced that we have to correct ratio of weatherboard to render, but I am keeping them quiet as I do not want to responsible for causing him a breakdown, leaving his profession and becoming a hermit in outer Mongolia!
So what did we end up with? Well smaller and less ambitious than we had first thought – mainly down to budget constraints but also from having a better understanding of the house, the grounds and how we wanted to live in it. Hopefully its a better version of the original – but maybe that is for others to judge. I look at it a bit like how I view looking after myself. Yes I go to the gym and I eat sensibly. I put make-up on, try to look reasonably nice most of the time. But I am savvy enough to know that with all the preening in the world I am never going to look like Cindy Crawford! My legs are far too short to start with. I just want to be the best version of myself that I can be. That’s how I see the house. It’s never going to be a Victorian Rectory or an imposing farmhouse. It’s a 1960’s house that has the front door in the gable that sits on a lovely plot. I just want it to be the best version of itself that it can be using the basics that we have been given.
We have gone for a ‘New England’/’Colonial’ look to complement the barn that also sits within the grounds. The front door being in the gable lends itself to this style as well. So render and weatherboarding, wooden windows and a porch . Inside there will be a bit of wow (hopefully) from the vaulted hall ceiling, the numerous patio doors leading the eye out to the views and the large open plan kitchen, breakfast room and snug. On opening the front door you will be able to see straight through the house to the views beyond. Lots of light and hopefully a sense of space.
We won’t have any weird and wonderful features like you see on the TV home shows – the house will be like we like our food – good quality presented simply. There will be deep skirting boards, solid doors, wooden floors, a handmade kitchen. The house will hopefully feel robust and solid and most importantly comfortable. We like to slug – no prissy chairs here – big sofas, layered fabrics, no bling!
Yes there have been compromises. I would have liked to have a larger dining room, maybe pushed the back of the house out. I pine for my last (huge) en suite and beautiful bedroom. Not only can we not afford these things, I’m not convinced the planning department would allow them, single storey non-invasive extensions are an easier sell in the countryside. We have gone for dormers and I hope we get them otherwise getting another shower room on the top floor will be tricky and the bedrooms will be a bit dark. We shall see but I think we have more chance of getting the dormers having kept the ground floor extensions relatively small. Whatever happens we do really love this place – the site, the views, the village. We are incredibly lucky to have found it – we just want to make it our own.
So the planning application is in – drum roll please! We are due to hear by the end of October which is very exciting. We now have 6 weeks to sort out electricians, plumbers, windows, get the builder booked in, choose the kitchen and bathrooms so we can hit the ground running IF the application is approved. Busy but fun time ahead me thinks. It’s a bit like having a baby. You think carrying it is the hard bit and then it arrives and then you realise the hard bit is just about to start!
DEALING WITH ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ROOMS IN THE HOUSE
If you ask what the most important room in the house is – most women will say the kitchen, most men – the cinema room if they have one! But to me the bathrooms are up there for that acolade. Why? Well beside the view of your sleeping partner – which lets face it is not the most appealing site after they have been asleep for 8 hours, open mouths, dribble, well I am sure you can conjure up your own picture in your head – the first thing that you see in the morning is your bathroom. We have dismissed perfectly lovely houses because the bathroom or more usually the en suite was rubbish. One place had an en suite that was so small that I think your bum would have been hanging out the door while you brushed your teeth! I want to walk into the room and smile and say a big ‘hello’ to the day.
It doesn’t have to be big – just as well as ours is certainly not that. It just has to work on a functional level and look good. That doesn’t mean spending a fortune – having some coloured soaps around, a plant, some antique i.e. old bottles – can make all the difference. But the layout has to be right. So we have been working on that. Two of our new bathrooms will occupy the same space as the existing ones so the size of those rooms are fixed. We can, however, alter the layout. We have used an on-line design program to help us visualise the rooms – the one we used is called Home By Me. It was OK, not brilliant and very frustrating at times but it was a start. Probably just as helpful is the fact that I always draw up the rooms on graph paper using a 1:20 scale, cutting out the shapes of the bath, shower etc and play around with them. That’s great but it’s not 3D – you don’t get a sense of height or really the floor space – how the door opens, how much walking space there actually is between the sink and the shower etc. The physicality of the area. So what I do is find a suitable area of garden, grab a tape measure, grass paint, set square, twine, sticks and lots of boxes.
If you ever wondered what Pythagoras’ theorem was for, well now you know. It’s for helping to get angles right when you are trying to draw out a life-size version of your bathroom on the ground! We spent hours drawing both the main bathroom and our en suite out – getting the size exactly right, making sure the windows were in the right place and the walls square. Once we were happy and had put stakes in the right places we tied twine between them and then marked the ‘walls’ on the ground with paint. Then we got boxes and built the shapes of the sink, bath, shower etc and laid them within the marked area. The beauty of this is that you can build up the boxes to get a sense of the height of things and a sense of the space around them. We could play around with shower sizes – 1100×800 looks and more importantly feels very different to 1200×900. We spent a very pleasant afternoon creating our bathrooms aided by wine and sunshine. The main bathroom was finalised – the ensuite proved much more problematic and we ended up with an empty space! Nothings perfect – but its a start. We just have to sort it out before the rain washes all the paint away!