Only a short time ago a rather uninspiring three bedroom bungalow stood on two acres of land in a particularly pretty area of the Cotswolds. It might have seemed to be just the place for a young married couple with a small daughter and a dog.
However, Mary and Gavin West had quite different ideas. “Initially our plan was to keep the bungalow, convert its roof space and turn the whole building into the bedroom wing of a stunning new contemporary house we planned to have built,” says Mary, who has her own property developing business. “The site is amazing – we are at the top of a valley with a massive sky and stunning sunsets, so obviously had to make the most of it.”
Between them, the couple and their architects, The Anderson Orr Partnership from Wheatley, Oxfordshire, designed their new home so that the whole house revolved around the social and living areas. “The idea was to link the bungalow and new extension with a central vaulted and glazed link,” says architect Richard Anderson. “However, it was not until the building work began that the couple realised the bungalow needed far more work than envisaged. In fact, it became simplest just to knock it down.”
The main problem was that it had no foundations. “So either we had to underpin every wall or demolish it and start from scratch – and we decided to demolish,” explains Mary.
Fortunately, as the bungalow had no intrinsic architectural value, obtaining planning permission was straightforward. “The planners’ main concern was that we might harm the rural setting,” says Richard. “We were able to show we could avoid this through careful siting and retaining a ‘long and low’ design.”
However, the good thing about demolishing the bungalow was that as the project had now become a new build, it meant the Wests could claim back the VAT from their building costs. It also meant they had more freedom to play with the internal arrangements.
The original bungalow was around 110m². The Wests’ new home covers an impressive 475m² and dazzles the eye with its composition of glass, oak cladding and limestone with slate tiles on the roof – all natural materials which were sourced locally.
“The Wests wanted to create living spaces that interacted between each other and, most importantly, the garden areas,” says Richard. “They wanted an enclosed courtyard to the east and open terraces to the south and west, all easily accessed from the main living areas. This way they could use each outside living space at different times of the day with the ‘evening’ terrace enjoying a view west toward the sunset.”
And thanks to the large amounts of glass used in the design, the family, when inside, could still feel they were in the garden as well as enjoy the fabulous views further away.
Once the builder had created the shell, Mary took over as project manager and continued to source all the materials. Now the inside is just as fabulous as the outside, as although the place is kept cosy with open fireplaces, it is entirely contemporary with underfloor heating beneath the bamboo and slate flooring. “The bamboo flooring was an absolute bargain,” says Mary. “When I first looked at the costs it was £45 a metre, but after much research on the internet learning about its sustainable qualities, I also came across various bamboo importers and was able to buy it for just £20 a metre.”
Because the house was so uniquely designed, it meant they could not buy anything ‘off the shelf ‘. For example, Mary was able to source the steam generator for the steam shower but then had to design a wetroom around it, and this involved the collective expertise of the plumber, the electrician, the tiler and the carpenter.
“Another example was the solid glass shower door,” says Mary. “It came in a chrome frame but when the door arrived it was five inches too short as it was meant to fit onto a shower tray which we didn’t want to have in our own bathroom. So we had to send it back and get a special one made measuring some two metres high and that caused another delay of six weeks.”
Finally, some 12 months after commencing work, the family were able to move in. Where the bungalow had been is now a wing containing, on the ground floor, three bedrooms, an en suite bathroom and a family bathroom (both highly contemporary), a cloakroom and a laundry room. Above is a stunning master bedroom suite with a dressing area, bathroom and steam shower. There is also a glazed gable, again looking westward, with direct access onto a west-facing balcony.
In the new extended layout there is a big atrium into which 22 people fitted easily for a recent drinks party (as well as grand piano!), an inner hall, a big kitchen, a vast drawing room and a boot room. Above it is a media room and a study.
The finishing touch was a garden designed by Sarah Eberle, who won the gold medal for the Bradstone Garden Award at the last but one Chelsea Flower Show – “She’s even given us a conversation pit where we can sit in the evenings with cushions and candles and a bottle of wine,” says Mary. “She’s also designed the garden as an undulating landscape which mirrors the Cotswolds with its exposed limestone outcrops.”
Starting from scratch proved liberating in design terms for the Wests and has transformed an awkward, small bungalow into a splendid new home that really maximises the potential of their wonderful site.
- Name: Mary and Gavin West
- Build Cost: £692,000 (£1,457/m²)
- Build Time: 1 Year
- Build Route: Main contractor/self-managed
- Region: Border of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire