So we’d bought the house – or the plot to be exact. What now? Now, we had the hard bit. We had to decide what we were going to build. What sort of home did we want? What would it look like, be constructed from? Lots of questions – few answers.
At this point, there are just soooooo many choices that things seem a little scary. Especially if, like us, you have watched every single episode of Grand Designs, and even, I will admit, a few episodes of Changing Rooms, House Doctor and Location, Location, Location. The latter programmes, however, were only watched while waiting for the next series of Grand Designs, and in truth we never transferred our affections away from Kevin McCloud and his band of merry, over optimistic, terrible at budgets, intrepid house builders. However, we realise now that Grand Designs, although the best programme ever on TV, can if taken literally cause a normal house builder sleepless nights. Before we became a fan of Kevin, all we really knew was that houses were generally built from bricks, sometimes wood, and occasionally, as by our hero Frank Lloyd Wright, of concrete. Over the series, Kevin introduced us to more building materials and styles than we had thought possible – the traditional ones of course, but a myriad more – straw, old tyres, polystyrene, cob, glass, metal, shipping containers, a boat, mud, lifeboat stations, a cinema, water tanks and on and on and on.
Not forgetting of course Huf Homes and prefab American kit homes. Fancy a Spanish castle with a touch of morocco anyone???
All of this was made even worse by the fact that neither Karin or I are what you would call craftsmen, or even any good at DIY. Although we do own a tool belt and a hammer…..
So common sense set in quickly. In some respects, we were saved by the fact that The House on the Hill is set in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which inevitably would lead to some planning restrictions. We have a few neighbouring houses too, which we wanted to blend in with. And although the house will not be that visible to passers by, we are in effect surrounded by 5,000 acres of National Trust land with beech and oak woodlands, commons and chalk downlands. So we also felt a lot of responsibility to build something in keeping with the surroundings.
Ultimately, this meant that our choices – luckily – were more limited and we determined to end up with a building that was very traditional on the outside, brick and tile to be specific, but more modern and a little different on the inside. We are still very keen to at some point to build a ridiculously modern glass box – which Kevin might actually be interested in. Karin has calmly suggested patiently that we might wait a few years to do that, given we haven’t finished our first house build yet, but she was of course very supportive of her husband’s ambitions. Actually, her exact words were along the lines of “&@%*! @% &%@!& &@±§ %$@!*§!!!!! So the glass house might be a few years off then…..
And for those of you who know us, you won’t be surprised to know that along with the house, we needed a decent sized garage. Or two, Or three. Or maybe one or two more……. It is probably appropriate to disclose now that Richard has a bit of an addiction. To cars. Being much better at buying cars than selling them, combined with a handful of race cars collected over the past few years, one of the benefits of building our house from scratch is that we can design and add the appropriate garage space. It would be an exaggeration to say that for Karin The House on the Hill is all about the house, whilst for Richard it is about the garages. But only a small exaggeration. In fact, there was a suggestion that the blog could have been called The Garages on the Gradient. One of us still quite likes that idea.
Having decided what we wanted to do, we needed some help, so we set about starting to build the team that would bring our dream to reality.