Our latest Facit Homes customers had lived in a draughty home for 8 years - always knowing that they wanted to change it but never quite knowing where this would lead.
Veena and Anand considered extensions, internal refurbishments and even buying elsewhere but they eventually realised the only way to get what they really wanted was to replace their home. Nothing else suited their family of four and their lifestyle quite as well. The location was perfect for them which, combined with the time and complexity of refurbishing and extending, led them to consider starting from scratch.
And yet, speaking to several architects and builders almost put them off entirely.
Worried that they would fall foul of the horror stories told, Veena and Anand searched for another solution and stumbled across Facit Homes by chance.
“From the very first point of contact with Rhys, we felt more positive and inspired about our project. The constructive and aspirational conversation made a huge difference to our outlook. It gave us confidence that there was someone who could take us through the entire journey.”
The existing house
“We didn’t know we were going to completely demolish. It wasn’t on the cards. We thought we would do everything from the inside and extend on top of our double garage.”
Veena and Anand felt that the location of their house was unbeatable, with family and friends close by, good access to the high street, public transport and schools. However, their existing house was cold and expensive to run: a draughty yet attractive 1970s house that would tremble when large vehicles or buses passed.
Energy usage was also an issue. They found themselves saddled with large gas and electricity bills which never seemed to reflect the temperature in the house (which was consistently chilly).
“It was not a house designed for sustainability.”
Situated on a very steep slope, the driveway was a major influence in their decision to rebuild. It deterred eldery relatives from visiting and was also a cause for concern with young children.
“Even the postman would complain just walking up the driveway. It was dangerous.”
The plot has an interesting wraparound garden - which will remain for the new home built on the same spot. Previously the garden wasn’t accessible from all sides of their house and so was underused - a factor that we have made sure to rectify in the design.
Inside their existing home, the cramped layout didn’t suit their desire to entertain. There wasn’t enough space for 8 people to sit comfortably around a table and, as a product of its time, the home had become impractical with just one shared family bathroom upstairs and small, separate living spaces downstairs.
As their children grew up with interests in sports and music, there wasn’t enough space to accommodate this. Drumming started to take place in the conservatory which was a loud, cold and impractical solution - something they have remedied in the design and layout of their new home.
Out with the single glazing and in with the energy efficient
The 1970s home was attractive but it just wasn’t built for an Indian family. In the design of their new home, Veena and Anand were inspired by Africa and India, “where big means big. Open houses, big kitchens, big living rooms and people coming in and out freely.”
“Most houses were designed with a certain persona in mind, a European persona. We were bringing African influence and Indian influence and living in London very close to the high street. A lot of things went into the design process, which was really exciting. Not just for us, but also for Facit.”
Following their inspiration and new found freedom in designing exactly how they wanted to live in their family home, the kitchen is the centre with living areas opening up from that space and large windows and doors connecting it to the garden.
“We wanted to find a way to bring together the best of the Indian culture and the Western culture in a contemporary way with family, food and cooking as the centre of our gravity.“
The cultural impact on this project was most clear in the decisions around space. Anand and Veena wanted open spaces throughout and an example of this is when an early design was quickly sent back to the drawing board in order to allocate almost double the space to the corridors and transition spaces.
Even the staircase was designed to be large enough to allow the Vermas to congregate as a family wherever and whenever, something they have always done in their existing home and look forward to doing in more comfort at the end of 2021.
“Every area is a landing area, that’s the mindset. So we can land anywhere in the house and be comfortable.”
The large, three flight staircase will be digitally manufactured and become a statement piece in the home, alongside the pivoting glass partition door between the kitchen and the sitting room. This particular piece was inspired by Veena’s extensive Pinterest research.
Two top floor office spaces will accommodate the future of working from home with integrated technology for podcasting and presenting. They are likely to become bedrooms at some point, if required, but until then will be used for Anand’s business and to complete school homework.
A soundproof music studio on the top floor is designed to ensure that the drumming doesn’t disturb others.
Technology for the future
The opportunity to design and build their new home gave Anand and Veena freedom to think about what really mattered.
They wanted to focus on making a home with a seamless experience augmented by smart technologies; and one that would also be future proof. Their existing house had limited WiFi connection and the universal 2020 experience of lockdown and working from home proved just how important this would continue to be.
“It was very clear that if we were building a house it had to be technologically advanced, because that’s what we are as a family and it is Anand’s business background.”
They researched solutions for consistent WiFI throughout the house and discovered Equippd, a young company that brings smart technology into homes.
A Lutron system was chosen to control their lighting, with Crestron operating their speakers, gate, heating and CCTV. Both systems have elegantly designed face plates that will be positioned throughout the home.
“It’s a story of entrepreneurship and supporting local businesses. Equippd are good at what they do and came up with solutions to sort common issues, such as losing WiFi as you move upwards in a home.”
What were the biggest challenges for this project?
Anand and Veena spent 5-6 years finding a solution to the problems posed by their existing home. Their biggest challenge was finding the right company to take them through the process - something they didn’t discover until Anand picked up the Evening Standard one day.
“We’re always thankful that we found Facit. It’s not just the building expertise, it’s the accessibility to the designers and engineers and the educated conversations with members of the studio team. If we ever build again, we’d rather have Facit than anyone else.”
The most impactful challenge was the planning application. After receiving an unexpected and arguably inexplicable refusal - the only one for Facit Homes so far - we appealed the decision following the advice of our planning consultant.
The Planning Inspectorate, the independent central body that reviews all appeals and avoids subjectivity in planning decisions, granted planning permission but this delay cost the project over 6 months.
For more information about planning applications, see our journal post here.
Topography of the site
Creating a solution to counteract the steepness of the driveway was a design challenge. Excavating the site enabled us to create a multi level entrance with a set of steps that lead to the front door.
As with all self build construction projects, the process has been filled with numerous emotions for the family. Alongside the happiness of the final design and excitement about decisions along the way, there has inevitably been some anxiety and changing expectations.
“It’s full of 5 different emotions, ups and downs. There is no straight line to building your own house. It’s an enormous project and we often pinch ourselves to check we’re really experiencing it.”
What are our customers most excited for?
As a family, they’re looking forward to more space and a home designed around the way they live; more specifically, one that allows them to naturally congregate all over.
For the children, the soundproof upstairs music studio and the games room are a highlight. For Veena, the kitchen and downstairs area - the hub of the house and the pantry in the kitchen. For Anand, it is the design of the house.
“Two words describe our decisions in everything - function and beauty combined. I want to see the front of the house looking as we designed it. Everything has been chosen carefully and after running a design studio, I enjoy watching that.”