The concept of creating a bespoke house was originally born out of necessity after Mike was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis Couple Mike and Linda knew that they would need to move from their three storey, waterside townhouse.

Fortunately their son is Oliver Bray, the director of award-winning Winchester-based architectural practice OB Architecture, which undertakes projects across the country. Oliver suggested that he would design them an exciting, one-off house to cater for their future needs.

A developer had purchased a small house set within a large garden and created two plots — one to build on and the other to sell. The third of an acre garden plot stands back from the cliff-top in Milford on Sea, which meant that building a two storey house would ensure sea views from the first floor rooms.

“Olly favours contemporary design, so we knew the house would be modern, and he worked hard to make the very best use of our plot,” says Linda.

Project Notes

  • Name: Mike and Linda Bray
  • Build cost: £630,000 (£2,704/m2)
  • Build time: 1 year 5 months
  • Location: Hampshire
  • The reverse-level design – with the main living area positioned on the first floor – makes the most of the sea views
  • Self-build provided the couple with a route to creating an individual and accessible home, futureproofed for Mike, who lives with multiple sclerosis
  • The timber frame build is clad in a combination of untreated timber, zinc and self-coloured render, for a low-maintenance finish

Planning Permission

“The site did present us with a few challenges,” says architect Oliver Bray. “First of all, it was set between two traditional low-lying thatched cottages that were identified by the planners as being of architectural significance in the local area. Secondly, the views out to sea were only achievable at first floor level, and thirdly, the front, less-private side to the plot faced south, meaning there would be a conflict between the road and the proposed garden that would front on to it.

“Following initial discussions with the planners, we developed a concept of four interlocking forms that would give the accommodation required, while respecting the scale of the cottages either side and the important views they provided to the village. In spite of the sensitive nature of the site, the planners were very receptive to our contemporary approach.”

The materials were specified with the coastal environment in mind. Glazing is a particular feature, with south-facing sliding glass doors looking out to sea and smaller windows to the sides, which guard privacy.

“We live in an area of special character, and the parish council felt the design was out of keeping with neighbouring pastiche thatched cottages, which meant that we had to attend the council planning committee meeting,” says Mike.

The majority voted for the plans to be approved, allowing the Brays to sell their previous home to fund the build. The couple moved into a rented flat half a mile from their plot.

American white oak feature staircase with frosted glass window at the top

A frosted window was specified for privacy at the top of the American white oak staircase; the latter is illuminated to dramatic effect. It leads to the sitting room and kitchen diner on the first floor, where the stairwell acts as a divide between the two spaces. The monochrome interior scheme continues throughout, with Porcelanosa dark grey matt porcelain floor tiles laid over underfloor heating in the living spaces, and in rooms such as the dramatic ground floor wetroom 

A Challenging Build

“Oliver recommended that the house should be timber frame” says Mike. “In the end we opted for a local company, who took on the contract to build the entire house. They started in January 2010 but six months later they went bankrupt, having only completed the foundations and the structural steelwork.”

Luckily the Brays had not paid the company in advance and were able to take over the build themselves — employing some of the tradesmen who had previously worked on site.

“We had a lot of problems with the subcontractors, and ended up in court trying to reclaim £10,000 owed to us by the glazing contractor, so it wasn’t a straightforward build by any means,” says Mike.

Low-maintenance exterior finish of render, zinc and cedar

This coastal new build is clad in a mix of render, zinc and cedar, all providing a low-maintenance finish

Eco Credentials

The result is an energy-efficient, low-maintenance building, with predominantly tiled floors laid over underfloor heating, which is fuelled by an air-source heat pump. There is a ventilation and heat recovery system and a 5,000 litre rainwater harvester, which supplies the toilets with recycled water.

The south-facing facade with large areas of glazing

The south-facing façade features large areas of glazing to make the most of passive solar gain and views towards the sea, with an external, sheltered balcony being a prime viewing platform. Below, blockwork has been clad in granite to create external planters and seating, which complements the Eclipse granite paving from Marshalls

Designing an Accessible Home

Ground floor bedrooms and a lift to the open plan kitchen/dining/living space and balcony on the first floor — ensuring that Mike is able to access every room with ease. Sliding glass doors open directly to the terrace on the ground floor, with no steps or changes in floor level.

The lift cost around £13,000 to install in the double-height atrium, and opens into the ground floor hallway and the first floor dining area. “We wanted to buy the lift in the UK, but in the end we could only find what we wanted in Austria, and the company’s engineer came across and supervised the installation,” says Linda.

Our Sponsors