Design Case Studies

Case 1.

New Scottish House (The 'Stirling House' on Grand Designs)
Grand Designs magazine Jan 2008 edition features return visit to the Leijser House. The house was offered for sale by Savills for offers over £575k

Leijser House images by Keith Hunter from Studio KAP 16 Oct 2008

A Dutch/Scottish couple with two children recently returned from many years in Africa bought a beautiful sloping site with long views towards the Campsie Fells and required a contemporary, energy-saving 4 bedroom house which could support an informal lifestyle and maximise the changing Scottish daylight.
A two storey box on one storey plinth built into the hillside is arranged into mid-floor (entry level) accommodating family/social spaces; upper floor accommodating bedrooms, bathrooms and study overlooking the living area and lower floor accommodating guest bedroom, hobby room and storage. The double height living space is washed with daylight from a continuous roof light slot and is the spatial climax of the composition.

As featured on Channel 4 TV's Grand Designs programme Apr 2006

Leijser House in Balfron
The setting for this four-bedroomed house is a south-facing sloping site with long views towards the Campsie Fells and a tree-fringed northern backdrop. Adjacent buildings are Victorian stone houses (partly rendered) or 30 year old brick and render developer’s houses. The site overlooks the cottage identified as the birth place of Alexander Thompson.

The new house aligns itself with the neighbouring building line and overall height. It is arranged on 3 levels (conceived as 2 storeys on a plinth) to minimise cut and fill on the site. A partly covered terrace both signals the new entrance route on the eastern side and provides some privacy from the neighbouring property.

External materials are chosen for their quality in relation to this particular setting and to create (as far as is possible) a maintenance-free exterior, which would weather in a controlled and aesthetically pleasing manner.

Western-Red Cedar shakes make a conscious effort to sympathise with the leafy setting and are framed by smaller areas of concrete and render on the lower levels. The sloping roof is located behind a parapet wall and is not visible from the road, reducing both the visual bulk of the house and establishing the building as a simple wall elevation on the hill. Openings are carefully proportioned and window frames are in stained hardwood.

Photos of the Leijser house by Theo Leijser, from Studio KAP Apr 2006

Balfron house - image © adrian welch may 2006

Case 2.

Semi detached doesn't have to be boring or predictable.

The client originally wanted a single home but during the design process his circumstances changed. His brief changed to a pair of semi-detached houses with him living in one as he knew there would come a time when he couldn't manage the larger house or the large garden. We took the original design and adapted it to meet with the approval of planners by not deviating too much from the original concept while also meeting the brief.


Case 3.

The client approached us after having been refused planning to replace his deteriorating dwelling. Despite submitting a plan that appeared to meet the local plan in terms of its size it had been rejected out of hand. Through close liaison with the planner and understanding the client's requirements for the development we were able to gain a preplanning approval from the authority. The moral of the story is sometimes planners will like and therefore pass a plan of a good contemporary design when they reject what might be considered the safe and traditional option.

A design that has been carefully drawn with its setting within the landscape in mind will always stand a far better chance of gaining consent. By understanding the planner's thinking we can design something they can support, as long as our client is realistic in terms of the size of property that stands a chance of meeting the requirements of the local plan. If a planner likes a design they will often support it but if they don't they will move heaven and earth to stop it in its tracks. Sometimes a more traditional approach is required to blend with the local vernacular style such as the chalet style house featured on our home page. In that case use of traditional hand made bricks and tiles laid in Flemish bond persuaded the elected committee to overturn the planning officer's rejection by 8 votes to 2 and it took 8 months of hard work by our architect and the client to win through.


Case 4.  

THE GARDEN HOUSE (from which AHS’s GardenAsset business unit was born)

Dr. and Mrs. Fowler, both 87 years old, moved into their large Edwardian house in Buckinghamshire in 1953 when Dr. Fowler became Consultant to three hospitals, including one in London.

"We had three children under the age of three when we moved here." says Mrs. Fowler, "Guy came along 10 years later. At the time this was the country."

The house with six bedrooms and 4 acres of land cost £7,500. Fifty four years later, now in their mid eighties, they found the non stop maintenance on the 100 year old house very expensive and very disruptive. Heating alone cost £6,000 a year and even then it did not work properly.

The Fowlers decided to downsize and were considering a warden-assisted complex where a property was going to cost them £850,000.

At that point, youngest son Guy and his family returned from Belgium where they had lived for the past seven years. He advised that it should cost considerably less than £850,000 to build them a new property in the garden and they would still be able to sell the old home or pass it down to the family as they wished. Tax and Inheritance Tax planning took Guy a while to research with his firm of Tax Accoutants, Baker Tilly. "It should take about two months to get all the information correlated and a week's work to organise it."

"I envisaged moving into a small retirement bungalow," says Mrs. Fowler, "But if we had we would never have seen our family because there would have been nowhere for them to stay."

Guy wanted to make sure he built a house his parents could live in comfortably, that would be cost effective to build and to run and maintain. Mrs. Fowler wanted a drawing room and Dr. Fowler wanted a study. They both wanted a light, bright house that was on one floor.

"They are no longer able to manage stairs so they needed their living accommodation on the ground floor." says Guy, "On the other hand, a second floor is valuable in several ways." The second floor with two double bedrooms, bathroom and living room is now used by family members when they visit. Planning ahead for the future Guy has had all the services plumbed into the living room upstairs so that it can easily be turned into a kitchen/diner/living room if it is necessary to employ a live in carer some time in the future.

The ground floor accommodation comprises a large kitchen/diner/living room, double bedroom with en suite and walk in wardrobe and a spare double bedroom with a bathroom which also doubles as a downstairs cloakroom for visitors. In addition, Mrs. Fowler has her drawing room and Dr. Fowler a study, where he is writing the story of his life, which judging by snippets should be a good read.

Outside Guy has planned that the building be as maintenance free as possible. To this end window sills have a covering of copper sheet and soffits are lead faced. Downpipes and gutters are galvanised metal and the wood facing is a pressure treated Swedish redwood which should only need recoating every 15 years.

Guy would have liked to use reclaimed bricks but they would have cost considerably more than the Tourhout Flanders bricks he has used. "They are small and sandy with an open texture," he says, "Mum and Dad like them." The roof tiles were also sourced in Belgium.

“Bruce didn't want to move when we first  made the suggestion," says Mrs. Fowler, "But he loves it now."

"I kept waking up and thinking I was on holiday at first," says Dr. Fowler, "I love it now, it's absolutely superb with everything on one floor, and the bathroom en suite makes a lot of difference."

"Since we have moved here we have seen a lot more of the family," says Mrs. Fowler, "Perhaps it's the novelty but it is so easy to come and stay now. Our two oldest granddaughters from America laid out the garden for us when they were here.
Part of the arrangement Guy made with his brother and sisters is that he and his wife and family will live in the old house for a few years to be available for help when required. Dr. & Mrs. Fowler enjoy  having visits from his children. "Guy's two little ones come down every afternoon after school for cookies." says Mrs. Fowler, "It's lovely to see them every day and watch them grow."

"We're not in each other's faces," says Guy, "But I'm available at 30 seconds notice to sort out any problems."

As a result of this success, Guy decided to set up a company specifically to help older people continue to live in a place they know, surrounded by people they know. "From my experience I realise that it would be far more sensible to get in a professional to manage the build," he says.  "The combined strain of leaving the family home after so many years and having a new house built in the garden can take its toll on the entire family’s nerves.  Much of that strain could be diffused by having an experienced and impartial professional deal with the tax paperwork, planning issues and organising the many details of the build itself."

Guy's aim is that his Company will take all the stress out of moving in old age while providing a new place to live that is entirely suitable and domestic and tax meets the individual needs of the client. Dr. and Mrs. Fowler are happy to recommend the idea.



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