One thing that is very certain about the country wher I now live is that there is no skyscraper vista to be seen from very many buildings – maybe one or two in the centre of town, but on the whole, the buildings tend to be one or two storeys only and on very modest plots too. Workin with the volunteer team at a local country house give me a very privileged insight into the obligations placed on home and property owners to ensure the place is well maintained, restored within the bounds of any graded listing and is sympathetic to the original build design. Nothing is worse for visitors than seeing some ghastly error that may have been committed by previous generations of enthusiasts. Calm serentiy greets most visitors wheneer they visit a heritage property. The care and attention to detail is appreciated by the visiting public.
There are always phases in building and interior design that come and go with amazing regularity. We never enitirely give up on the art deco and the arts and crafts effects and although these are not prominent in the magazines and show house examples currently, you can be sure they will creep back in with the next batch of instant tv make over star! There is in fact only so much you can do to update a house – short of knocking down walls and rebuilding them elsewhere on the site, the only way to make radical changes are to completely strip out current decoration and start from the ground level up with a whole new colour palette. The current trend for grey, black, shades of silver and red thrown in are so common now. More light hearted shades for spring and summer can be achieved with temporary accessories and flowers.
Not that many of us can be lucky enough to pick and choose the location for any house we have built – infact I can’t really say that I know of anyone who has had a place built myself – certainly not for many years. Of curse before all the planning regulations, anyone could basically use any plot of land in their pocession and have done with it. Only certain sorts of places needed full schedules and recording of every item cleared off it. Today we rely on the housing developers to do a decent job and dispose of diffiuclt landmarks or features responsibly – no eyesores to be left for anyone to chance upon. Too much is now on social media, which means anyone designing and planning a ghastly building has to get it passed by the planning office and that rarely gets permission – other folks’ sensitiviies comes first.
I have been involved from an observational aspect with a young couple’s move out to the country to a most interesting conversion. The property originally belonged to a large stately home estate and formed the school and house. It has since been remodelled and the estate itself just has a selection of very expensive looking barn conversions. There’s a small folly type castlelated building there too which has been converted into very high end luxury apartments. The architects have done a simlply fantatic job and it has been heralded in local business papers as a tremendous success. It helped that the main architect had connections with the village and was absolutely sympathetic to the style. There is something wonderful about being able to take a dead village out of mothballs and with finance, breathe new life into the stone cottages and manor houses for new generations to love and cherish.
The manner of obtaining property has changed dramatically from when I was younger, starting on my quest to get on the mortgage ladder. In the day, when ready to fly the family nest, there was the small rented room with shared kitchen and bathroom. These were always easily available and I don’t recall anyone in my crowd ever experiencing problems finding a pad. After a few months of that came a move to a rented flat . All this time you saved like crazy to get the 10% deposit for your first home. Everything came in gradual steps. Today graduates are leaving university confident of buying a home wih their first job. There is much expectation, and frustration when the properties are too dear because of short supply. At least the much lower mortage rate of less than 6% instead of 18-20% from my day, makes paying for it easier once you’ve got that deposit!
There’s a house with the most glorious Art Deco designed interior in the larger town nearest to me. Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself did the entire design down to the wallpapers, choice of carpets, lighting and furniture. It turns out that he was a very good friend of a chap called Basset-Loake, who was making quite a name for himself in the world of model trains and model making on a serious scale. This chap inherited a business from his family and expanded upon it. Basset Loake is still in business today but has taken a diffent form I believe.
It’s this gorgeous house that intrigues me. B-Ls father bought it for his son’s wedding present when he married quite a socialite. Just as celebs today expose all their domestic secrets to Hello magazine, so the BLs were not averse to sharing articles about the fantastic CRM doing their design work even without ever visiting the property!
When you want to have a totally steamlined effect in the house, it has to be a matter going fro room to room and deciding which is the best way – light for reading, or just relaxing by. There is a great deal to be thought about when designing changes to a building. One major thought will concern who is to use the house – is it a family with lots of children needing their own space and places to put their own belongings. Is it a couple with no children but with a miriad of hobbies, sports lifestyles needing masses of storage. Getting to grips with the actual needs of the user of the house is therefore critical and needs an expert in the redesign and decor of all kinds of buildings. That way the best possible use will be made of any and all space available.
Houses are such an important thing in our lives. When we are small all we worry about is whether father Christmas is coming down the chimney this year. Never mind that we don’t actually have a chimney. Most modern houses don’t have a proper old fashioned one, but a flue can be fitted for that all important wood burning stove these days.
The next consideration is about the garden. When we’re small we just want to get out there and get messy – playing with the flower beds, digging up small bucket loads of soil and adding stones to them – innocent fun. When we are gorn up the major thing in our lives after finding Mr or Ms Right, is getting that first house is next. Then of course comes the question of furnishing. But that’s something the parents and extended family can help deal with!
Bonfire night – that wonderful old annual event from years ago – had been overlooked for a few seasons, in favour of that imposter form the states, the Halloween hullabaloo. We used to make reference to haloween of course, there was often a fancy dress party to be attended, with mum’s best efforts to make us the best ghoul, ghostie or witch. Mny a spare sheet got ripped and rearranged to ensure success in the judging.
One year the party was at our house – it was chaotic from the word go. Nowhere for us to put anything, the dressmaking room was out of bounds and no pals could safely dump anything anywhere anymore. A total cabinet refit was in process and Dad had his favourite firm dealing with things. As all business people were able to do then. These days I brose and find my favourite suppliers and providers. Simple.
When a new build is being considered, maybe to replace a crumbling old wreck of a bungalow or old factory, the first port of call, after the financial side of things, will be the building company and their pet architect. Getting ideas of scale, possibilities for the site, possibilities of getting anything at all past the planning department etc. are all matters that these folk are so used to dealing with in their every day business dealings. Nothing fazes them and the business of small build developments thrives on a tightly run network of various trades all coming together to make that dream happen.
Knowing how to achieve these things is half the battle. There are some fantastic companies out there who have worked closely with each other and made dreams come true for so many families. Their knowledge, dedication and committment makes the fee a mere thing of pride. Eventually!