We know we’re not the first to want to build our own home. And we certainly know we’re not the first to write a blog about it. So why are we doing both of these things?
It’s hard to remember exactly when we decided that we wanted to do just that – build our own home. And to be clear, it is definitely a home we want to build, not just a house. A home that is uniquely our own. That is comfortable and welcoming and represents us. As you will see, it won’t be fancy, or particularly modern, or even that unusual. But then, neither are we. Which is why, even if we’d applied, which we didn’t, we wouldn’t have appeared on our favourite TV show, Grand Designs. We might have made it on to Series I, but by now Kevin & Co. are well advanced from what we’re planning to build. We’re not using straw, or lime, or plastic bottles. We’re going to build a traditional home, in a traditional way. Like us……
So, how did it all begin? Back in 1999 we moved to Atlanta, Georgia, a pretty typical US City. We loved living there, with our 3 children, and got to know a lot of the locals. We were surrounded by new build houses, by people building new houses and we lived in a nearly new house. In the US they tend to build houses out of wood, very quickly, in a huge variety of designs. Before that, back in the UK, we had really only known one couple who had built their own house. We liked it, liked the idea, but thought it wasn’t really practical to do it in terms of time, cost and real life.
Our time in Atlanta changed our minds. It got us thinking that it wasn’t necessary just to go with the flow, and live in a house designed by somebody else. It got us thinking that we could decide exactly what we wanted. Since we returned to the UK in 2001, we’ve been planning. Not in a big way, but slowly, waiting until the children were the right age so that we could move from our current home and until we had the money and time.
There was a house built on an empty plot next to our Atlanta house, which we watched in fascination as it went up, in just a few months.
So Karin started to collect ideas, plans of houses we’d lived in before that had design and features that really worked for us, and I started buying books. Rather a lot it turns out as we’ve started to go through them all. Books of photos, of plans, by architects, by Kevin and so on.
And we started looking. For a plot of land. For a derelict house. For a derelict house with a plot of land. For anything we could knock down or build on!! We live in Southern Hertfordshire, and given my work, friends and Karin’s interests, it was important to us to stay close by. We learned pretty quickly that there is almost no land available in our part of England that has not already been built on and where it is possible to get planning permission. We looked at every website, every estate agent and spent many weekends driving around just seeing what we could find. The real estate world is not an easy one to navigate, as those of you who have tried a house build, or even a house purchase probably, will know. The good stuff goes before it hits the website, sold to a longstanding developer usually, and what is left is often not worth buying.
We could fill a blog with the travails of searching for property, but we won’t. Eventually, after about 4 years of searching, a friend recommended a house that was for sale, some 17 miles from our current home. After 6 months of waiting and negotiating, we had a deal. And 3 months later, we owned our new plot, with a rather tired house standing on it.
The adventure began!