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The Design

Red Kite


Well lets say it has evolved and been shaped by the titanic forces of nature and the planning process. Its not quite what we initially wanted and has been compromised and compromised over its various iterations and has sadly lost some of our ‘must have’ features. But it is kinda cute, and we do really like it!


The site is about 1/3rd of an acre slopping up from the road and has a shared driveway to our neighbours at the rear. In the middle of the plot is a 3 bed 1960’s bungalow which has seen better days – habitable but not great (and don’t mention the asbestos). The site may look big and easy but it is actually quite constrained – with a shared driveway down one side and a shared sewer running across the plot. Together with the slope and trying to keep the ridge height down to appease the Planners (even though the houses on either side are all 2 or 3 story) it is a tricky site.


We wanted lots of light and a feeling of space and openness – so that cliché of lots of glass and open plan. We also wanted an Endless Pool and garaging for a collection of RX7 sports cars. We also wanted a crisp contemporary exterior and don’t like wood cladding much. We also wanted low energy – but not hung up on achieving Passive Haus per-se. Oh and it has to be low maintenance and a lifetime house.

We initially used a designer who was really great and had an amazing ability to use space in a really efficient way. However for the final design shown here we used a real Architect (with a capital A). There are those who would argue its an unnecessary expense but firstly he came up with a very creative design in a very constrained environment. And secondly the quality of his work probably helped with Planning. We get on very well and he is doing a fab (but not cheap) job.


As we are downsizing we would actually like a smaller garden than 1/3rd acre, so that and the economics, has led us to two houses on the site. We have had a few different arrangements of this over time but have come to two side by side. They are different sizes and layouts but they distinctly read as a pair. Height dictates a flat roof – much hated by our neighbours – and supported by the Officer.




Our house is bigger and is cut into the slope with the front out of the ground and the back completely in. It has the entrance hall, garaging, plant and an Endless Pool in the partial basement. The 1st floor is mainly open plan dining, kitchen, living areas, with the Sitting Room opening out to the rear garden at the back. Top floor is 4 beds and bathrooms and is topped by a flat roof. The eagle eyed among you may have spotted the Lift - not needed at the moment but designed in and will be fitted if and when we have the cash. It seemed like a good idea with a 3 story house and us not getting any younger!





The other house is smaller and split level. Again cut into the slope but only by half a floor. So entrance hall and kitchen dinning hall are level with the front garden and parking area. Up half a floor to the rear living which opens out onto the rear garden. Then up another half floor to the front two bedrooms at the front, and then up half a floor again to the rear master bedroom. All topped by a similar, but split, flat roof. It is just so neat we almost wish it was ours!




The overall design responds well to the site and makes the most of it, and the Architect has done his best to make the front façade broken and not monolithic, but simple (and cheap) it aint! It will be mainly off-white silicon type render with some Rockpanel grey cladding panels and grey windows and EPDM roofing – so sharp and contemporary but not the classic white sugar cube. You may be reading this and thinking its not what I would have gone for and its not my taste - our neighbours probably thought the same. Our answer is that if you feel strongly then go find your own land and build exactly what you want - just put your money where your mouth is (and keep it shut unless you do). Though in the true spirit of BuildHub constructive criticism is always welcome!

We have spent a lot of time refining the design and hopefully we make the most of the space but as we all know its always a compromise!

So having got this through and arrived at something we really want to build its now time to start - more  to come in future posts.



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I will be looking forward to seeing your project progress. When are you planning on breaking ground?

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Services were sorted today and demolition starts on Monday 🙂

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2 hours ago, Red Kite said:

Services were sorted today and demolition starts on Monday 🙂


Exciting times.

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Posted (edited)

@Red Kite


I like it, and I think the only useful comments I can make are about practicalities and real detail rather than layout. It is fascinating how much difference the lift makes in considering where things are placed. My comments, which you may have covered:


- The two look to be rather close together - if you are selling the smaller then is there a need to consider what legal rights they need wrt to future maintenance eg right to put up scaffolding in between, or perhaps other bits and pieces to manage the relationship.

- Something I have never considered before,  but is there a minimum size for a domestic lift to be to be usable practically for moving furniture around the house without hiring some help? I currently function as my mum's "lift" for all sorts of items.

- Detailed design of roof access skylight for ease of use to access the roof? (Ditto for the smaller one - how will the lower roof level of that be maintained with all those trees and leaves?)

- Do you want access to that basement loo without walking through the changing - gardeners, workmen etc?

- And my normal hobbyhorse about stairs being *much* nicer if they are less than 40 degrees in angle say 37-38 if poss..


Love rotary cars. I had to get rid of two RO80s when moving out, of my last that dad had accumulated. No one wanted them, even though one was restorable.


ATB with the build.


Edited by Ferdinand

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Ferdinand, thanks for the comments - I would have loved the RO80's - a fantastic car and way ahead of its time - once Mazda worked their magic on the engine it was fine - if a little thirsty (but 265bhp from my 1300cc engine is phenomenal). My RX7's have deteriorated by being kept outside so looking fwd to a nice warm dry garage - and as you can see the design is literally built on the garage requirement.


The gap between the houses is not as narrow as it seems on the colour site plan  since they have oversail roof detail with a wide overhang - so at the ground about 2.5m - less than we would have liked but another of those compromises you make to fit it all in. Access to the roof is interesting since the Architect is saying that if we do that then we need to comply with lots of H&S stuff and fit safety harness mounts etc. But it does make sense to access the roof from inside as there will be solar panels out there. Access is not a real issue as our son rigs lights for festivals so is used to being a long way off the ground in a rigging harness - me I dont really fancy being on the roof at all!


The lift is a 'design in now' then 'fit it if we have the cash' item since we dont need it yet - not that decrepit yet. But with three a three story design it makes sense long term - and moving furniture is a great idea. It is sized for a wheelchair so a useful size but not enormous. I was tempted to measure the angle of the stairs but it is what it is - no easy way to change it now! We are hoping to be able to afford some form of open glass stairs so the light from the skylight above flows down which should be spectacular enough to counteract any steepness 🙂


We did look at the basement WC but actually it ends up being the best compromise possible in the space available. Plus there is a lot of complication (separate MVHR systems with different pressures etc)  with an internal pool in an airtight building - keeping the WC in there actually helps a little.


So thanks again for the detailed comments - will try and keep up on the posts


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On the roof, I think there is a difference between accessible, and intended for daily use.


I mean make it such that pros who need to access the roof can put a ladder against your skylight. Rather than needing to put a 3 storey ladder or a cherry picker outside.


So stuff like make it big enough to climb through, putting it over the landing not the stairs so that the ladder has somewhere to stand, and any falls are only one storey not three. Providing a base point for a safety rope sounds good, as does perhaps providing a mounting point for a winch. Perhaps also are sure that anything on the roof smaller than the aperture :-).


I do not see why a secure, well designed skylight needing a ladder should require H&S interventions as if it were a roof garden.



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