Grand Design

Some point before Alex was born I decided that my current house isn’t big enough. It’s three bedrooms, but the master bedroom is upstairs. That is fine but with a new born baby we didn’t want to keep walking up and down. So we moved our bedroom downstairs. But then we realised that if we ever have any more kids this won’t work.

So I went and bought a new much bigger house. The new house is kind of old. 1890’s we were told. It’s a decent size, 5 bedrooms, swimming pool, on half an acre. It’s half way between my family in Walsall and Sarah’s family in Wolverhampton. So it ticks a lot of boxes. It’s kind of run down which is fine because I would rather buy a house and renovate and get it how we want than move into a brand new house and have to put up with how it was. This time I wanted to get all the work done before moving in.. instead of living in a house that is half a building site. Especially with a new baby.

So I got an architect around, told him what I wanted to spend, what I wanted to do. And the obvious answer that he came up with was to tear it down and build a new house. This would be faster, everything would be brand new, we’d get more for our money because there’s no VAT charged on new builds.. and most importantly we’d get what we want.

So now we’re in a position where we can make the house we want. Which is a really awesome position to be in. We’re thinking about what we want the house to be, what we want to use it for, planning for the future. I came up with this document for the architect describing what I think we need.

So the question is.. if you were doing this what would your house be like, what special features would you have?

36 thoughts on “Grand Design

    1. Lived in a house that had some hidden rooms behind bookshelfs and the like and the novelty wears off in like a week. They do make nice storage rooms though since people visiting don’t see them.

  1. We’ve just bought a new build house and had them pre-wire every room with cat6 faceplates, terminating in a cupboard with the master phone socket and lots of power.

    We also had celing speakers fitted in the bathroom (totally stole your idea), again the wiring terminates in the aforementioned cupboard.

    Lounge is pre-wired for 5.1 (speaker connectors on the wall, all terminating in the corner of the room).

    Gotta have the gadgets!

  2. I would relish the opportunity to build my own house so much. A Kitchen with an island and big old range cooker, a free standing tub and shower big enough to actually extend your arms in, decent sized rooms without insane layout decided by what must’ve been an architect on the verge of a psychotic break and enough space to walk around the end of our bed without hitting my thigh on the corner of the effing bedpost like I do EVERY SINGLE DAY.

    Unfortunately I, as a naive first time buyer bought a 120% mortgage in 2007. So….. It seems a long way off now but I’ll get there one day.

  3. There really is an absurd obsession in the UK with having as many rooms as possible at the expense of space. Having lots of open space is awesome, my ideal house would be similar to what you’re describing. I don’t really have any “special features” but I would try and have my house built as much of a blank slate as possible, so that I’m not pigeon-holed into living a certain way based on decisions made years previous.

    My old apartment had large floor to ceiling windows and it was awesome, have you had a look at smart glass? That seems great because it has the benefit of giving you the option to go as open as you want with windows, while retaining privacy when it’s needed.

    Good luck with the build! My favourite part of your blog has been the photographs and progress reports on your house and office, looking forward to seeing more of that.

  4. Just throwing this out there: many architects who tried the Oculus Rift said it’s a great tool for the owners to get a tour through the virtual version of their house. You should keep that in mind once they start throwing designs at you.

  5. Decent fucking water pressure. My parents live in a new build (built about 13 years ago now), and the water pressure is magnificent, without any need for any special power showers or anything.

    Probably can’t design for this but hopefully the street you’re on is wired for fibre optic too.

    Big rooms. I’d avoid building things/gadgets into the house, as when they become obsolete it’s that bit more difficult. My dream place would be easy to customise when my needs change.

  6. You should make everything in your house “smart”: lights turn on when you enter the room and turn off when you go to work, adjust heating so your house is warm when you get home, etc.

  7. Mixed taps, because separate taps are a painful old relic.

    Plenty of carpet flooring too, because kids want soft surfaces to play on, not laminated.

    Other substantial “no no”-s with children around: Glass stairs, ceramic vases, kitchen island tops that extend off the edge of the island (like ▀███▀), cacti, and treadmills (seriously, keep that treadmill safety key the fuck away from your children).

    Conversely, if you have pet dogs, you will want laminated flooring. From time to time they like to shit and throw up all over the fucking floor, and getting that out of carpet is very fucking tedious.

  8. Um, you forgot the bowling alley and servants quarters? Also, a private runway would come in really handy when you just need to get away from it all.

  9. You should try to integrate the traditional qualities of the old house with a newer plan. I would like to see that old house be turned into something great, even if it is not in the best shape.

  10. One thing I really hate about our house is that the toilet is so close to the living room. Everyone in the living room can you hear you take a shit. I’d suggest in a sound proof door!

  11. Proper ethernet cabling (think cat6 is the new standard), nothing pissed me off more in my last house then the shitty job the cabling guy did. Asshole didn’t even bother to label half the stuff in wiring closet. I feel like every room in a house should have a jack in it now since you never know when you might want to hook something up in it. Plus having a media server setup that can stream to all rooms is awesome.

    Automatic lights in closets and pantry. I’ve seen a few houses that have this and it seems like a really nice feature, basically you hook a button up to the inside frame of the door and while it’s pressed (door being closed) the lights are off when it becomes unpressed (door open) light turns on.

    One thing I did see somewhere online that I always thought was really cool was a room dedicated as sort of a video game/movie room. Guy had built this room so not only could you play games/watch movies on the TV but he also had hidden PC’s behind panels that rolled up to reveal the monitor then they keyboard and mouse slid out on a tray so if you had friends over you had a LAN setup and ready to go. IIRC the PC’s were even setup to copy off a master PC twice a week so they were all up to date and ready to go and not having to worry about who has what games and if everyone has the right addons installed.

  12. Your house is gonna be amazing if you can get everything you want! I’ve always wanted to be able to see into my pool from a large window inside. One thing I would add (if you are able to take care of it) is an area for a massive salt water aquarium. Because they’re cool.

  13. I’d like to have a house that’s autonomous to some degree.(Solar Power + Windmill, water treatment system, an area of the house that stays cool during warm weather and warm during cold weather).
    And a relatively private garden or outdoors area would be nice.

    Although, I’d rather have a space yacht ^_^.

  14. If I had the chance to design my own place I would be pretty run of the mill in terms of the overall design. However I would like to have a “man cave” so to speak, as well as a similar one for the significant other. It would be like an office, a place where I can get work done, but also a place where I could get 2 or 3 of my best buddies together and enjoy ourselves over some beer and videogames or what have you. A personal space to call your own. This will come in handy as the kid(s) get older

  15. -I’ve lived in a big house and spent 2 hours just on cleaning the floors.
    -I’d leave a bunch of land free so you can have room to build on in the future.
    -Build a nice shower.
    -Plant a massive tree so you can build a treehouse on it.
    -Get a big kitchen sink. If you’ve ever tried washing kale leaves you’ll understand why.
    -Dogs need housetraining. Think about tiles with heating under them. So much easier to clean up dog puke. Some dogs guard their puke as if it where their own puppy, so it will have time to seep into a carpet. Old incontinent grandma might leave droppings too.
    -Invest in security systems that aren’t annoying.
    -Place bedrooms according to summer breeze and sunrise preferences.
    -Don’t buy into the renewable energy crap. It’s not eco friendly and it’s just another thing to go wrong.
    -Automatic garden irrigation.
    -A basement to store all the crap you don’t use.
    -Lots of lights and plugs in the kitchen.
    -Fire extinguisher.
    -Outdoor beanbags.
    -Chlorine-free pool.
    -Small toilet near the pool. Hidden in some bushes. Soundproofed.

    Don’t design the house just incase you become disabled or granny moves in. Granny in the house means no more family vacations and the eventually inevitable nappy cleaning. If you become disabled, you move home should it be necessary.

    Clothes shoot idea is genius. Make sure you put a sound proof lid on it though.

    PS: secret rooms and passages get old extremely fast and eventually become an annoyance.

    You’ll never get it perfect though. This is a good thing. I would hate having nothing to improve on.

  16. I recommend thinking about Wifi enabled LED lightbulbs. You’re able to change their color, brightness, ect. throughout the entire house from any computer or phone. You can have them wake you up by slowly dimming up in the morning, or have them “bounce” to music. They’re a wonderful addition, and they last for years.

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