BUILDING THE DREAM – OR NOT

All very exciting.  The plans are in and now we are in the waiting period.  Lots of planning and organising to do which is good as it will keep me busy why I wait for things to happen.  If I’m not busy I will be tempted to do things that will just have to be undone later just for the sake of having something to do!

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Happy days!!

We have seen a shaft of electricians, plumbers and window suppliers.  We have produced specs for all of them.  Making minute decisions concerning a space that is not even passed planning yet is a challenge.  Where do you put the sockets?  Where should we have outside lights so as to provide security and ambience but not let the house look like a Christmas tree.  The answer involves a lot of walking around the house and sitting imagining things in my head.  And lots of scribbles on paper.  The answer to sockets seems to be that you cannot have too many of them.  The answer to lights is to reign it in a bit!  One of the sockets I forgot in our last house was in the bay window where I wanted to put my Christmas tree – we ended up having to trail extension leads which, even when bound in tinsel did not add to the designer look that I was trying to achieve.

Needless to say having managed to get the service suppliers to the house as of yet no-one has come back with a quote.  I have chased by text – less desperate I thought and now am calling them all.  They are all very busy – I get that, but if you don’t do quotes how do you get business going forward?  One guy said he would come back to me and have a look at the job when he got back from his holiday.  Well he must be having a lovely time as that was over 6 weeks ago and I have not heard from him!  I would much rather they just said that they were not interested, it would save the stress.

On the plus side the house plans have got a ‘no objections’ comment from the Parish Council.  That’s good as an objection could sway the Planning Officer or at least give them a reason to refuse.  We went to the meeting – all very odd really.  Firstly no one notifies you that they are going to discuss your plans.  You have to grab the parish magazine and hunt your address amongst the ‘ clearing rights of way’, ‘budget for the village hall’, and ‘teddy bear picnic’ matters on the agenda.  If you do attend then you are allowed 5 minutes to address the committee at the beginning of the meeting.  That means that you have to second guess what their objections might be and address them without giving them things to object about that they might not have thought about themselves!  I went for the ‘less is more’ approach.  Kept to facts – we needed to upgrade insulation, plumbing and wiring and had to replace the conservatory as it leaked and the glazing panels had broken down.  We wanted to alter the entrance to make it more appealing and all the extensions were single storey and not very large.  We needed a larger lounge as the house has 5 bedrooms – previously 6 – and when we were all at the house we couldn’t all sit in the lounge.  I also mentioned that I had shown one of the former owner’s sons the plans ( the family were very popular in the village) and he loved them.  Short and sweet.  I said that I was happy to answer questions.  Then sat down.

The awful thing is that after that you are not allowed to say anything unless directly addressed by a member of the committee.  Another member of the public had to sit there why they basically tore his dream of building a house in his garden to shreds and other than turning purple he could not respond.  We were lucky – ours went through without question or hesitation.  So all happy.

IMG_5684.jpgWith our plans in hand and the Parish Council victory under our belt we headed to the Home Building and Renovation Show at Excel.  The holy grail of house builders.  I’ve been several times before and it is packed with would be self-builders at various stages of their dream.  Some are still just in their heads, some on paper, some in planning and some actually have plots of land with planning permission.  We got there early as one of the big draws is that you can have 15 minutes to chat with well-known experts for guidance or just a bit of star-gazing .  The lovely Charlie Luxton from Channel 4’s ‘Building the Dream’ is a main draw and I was determined to bag a slot with him.  So I was front of the queue and determined to put my months of gym training to good use.  When the barriers went up off I dashed and was almost at the head of the queue to book appointments.  I got the 3.15 one!  Brilliant.

So we wandered around the show – more hints and info on that in my next post – I was a bit distracted as I was playing out my conversation with Charlie in my head.  It went something like -‘ ooh interesting plans.  Lovely site.  Not exactly my style (Charlie is a bit of a modern box and big window man) but I can see where you are going in that site.  If I can just suggest some tweaks that would give you a more contemporary look?  Would you like to appear on the show?  Guest presenter?……’

3.15 came. We sat down.  Shock hands.  He is even better looking in real life and very engaging. He gets out his pad and writes our names on the top.  I show him the brochure from the estate agent when we bought the site.  Beautiful, he says, wonderful site.  I show him the plans. He looks at them, looks up and says ‘You are asking the wrong person’.  I raise an eyebrow.  He raises his and pulls that ‘you have got to be kidding face that he pulls on the TV.’  ‘You don’t like them ?’ I venture.  ‘Whats your budget?’ he counters.  I tell him.  Another raised eyebrow.  ‘You have a disconnect between your budget and your aspirations.’  Which I work out later is code for – I don’t like your plans and I’m going to stop you from doing them by saying they will cost too much.  So we parry back and forth about budget.  We try to explain that we are only adding small extensions and that we will do a lot of the work ourselves and not use a main contractor.  He mutters about dark wood cladding and using the garage as either a lounge or a bedroom – we already have a lounge and 5 bedrooms and need the garage, and its situated at the end of a corridor that links the house to it as is basically a satellite station with no connection to the house.  ‘Love the house you have, don’t try to make it something its not’ he says.  He doesn’t actually ask us what we want or what our style is.  Then he mutters that he has to move on and he is gone. The page from his pad is on the table – only our names are on it.

Not quite the conversation that I thought I would have.  We laughed and then got sad.  It’s like someone has told you that your child who has just performed in the school play was basically rubbish.

But he was charming and most of all he did make us think about the plans and whether we were on the right track.  I think trying to see them with a outsiders eye in just 15 minutes with no real idea of what either we or the existing house are like, is very hard especially when your own ideas are so far removed from the plans before you.  I can see why they look like we are creating a totally different house from the one that is there although we think we are just upgrading the existing.

So I’m back on Pinterest – look me up at Renovatingmum on there – Although a bit sad that I’m not going to get a call from Channel 4 I do think he has ignited a conversation which might end up with us creating a slightly different house.  I actually think he could be right about making it more contemporary – a modern take on a New England home – no sashes – we can’t afford them anyway – larger windows, maybe not white – black or a dark grey/brown combo. Continue the flat roof rather than the pitch one that is on the plans.  Although the thought of broaching all that with the architect and the planners is having me reach for a piece of cake!

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Reminding myself why we bought the house!

And as I have  been typing this the first quote has come in – he might be right about the disconnect between our plans and our budget after all!

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