- Written by Merry Albright
- Published: 24 July 2015
Some internal design features explained………
This post doesn’t follow chronological order so forgive me for any confusion.
I thought now was a good time to run through some of the internal design features of the house. Even the most modest and ‘ordinary’ Border Oak house (in this case The Pearmain Cottage) is given an incredible amount of design consideration ‘behind the scenes’, even if most of it will be subtle or imperceptible once the house is built. Some details become ‘standard’ for all houses, whereas others are specific and distinctive to an individual project.
Almost all of the ‘features’ described below were designed on paper - before a length of oak was ordered or a spade hits turf. It all started with a mood board on Pinterest and a collection of images from books and magazines and grew from that with the Border Oak design team. If you are considering a self build it is never too early to think of the internal features and ‘ambience’ that are important to you – everything Border Oak build is bespoke and our team are highly skilled, creative and genuine artisans, so you have an exciting opportunity to create a unique home. Here are just a few of the characteristics of this house and how we have created them:
People often think that oak framed houses don’t have enough storage – I have no idea where this worry comes from as we definitely build A LOT of cupboards – but this house has given us the opportunity to showcase some of the options.
There is a typical under stairs cupboard (set within a T&G paneled wall), but we have subdivided ours so it is accessed partly from the kitchen (to form a pantry with two narrow bespoke doors to make sure it doesn’t encroach on the kitchen space). The remaining space will be a generous hallway storage cupboard, for coats and shoes etc., with the underfloor heating manifolds also concealed inside.
In the utility area each appliance (apart from the fancy Fisher and Paykel fridge) is hidden by a cupboard, including the teeny tiny eco boiler which is concealed by a another bespoke cupboard - with linen storage below. Even the fuse box has been hidden in a void made by a dummy wall for the cistern of the downstairs loo – maximizing every inch of space we can.
Upstairs we built a beautiful boxed window seat (with storage under) beneath a large sky light, with full length cupboards either side of the seat to hide the under floor heating controls and the sockets and provide hanging rails and shelving space. The seat and cupboards work well with the sloping ceilings upstairs and have become a feature that is both pretty and practical and so the ‘lost’ floor area is barely noticeable.
Between the master bedroom and smaller bedroom we have built a pair of substantial ‘dummy’ walls (softwood construction) and have subdivided the space into two large fitted wardrobes – one for each room. We have applied decorative panelling to one side of the dummy walls for a textured feature and further adding to the excellent soundproofing throughout.
In the en-suite shower room and bathroom we have utilised every nook and cranny created by the dummy walls built to hide pipework – forming niches and recessed cupboards for all the bathroom stuff you want to hide away but maintaining a very smart and streamlined feel because most of the plumbing mechanics are concealed.
The downside of all of this clever cupboarding is increased cost – it is undoubtedly more expensive and time consuming to make all of these spaces, niches and storage . However we have tried to minimize costs by using ‘standard’ ready made doors which will be upgraded with lovely handles and painted in heritage colours.
Open Plan and light, bright interiors
We wanted this cottage to be very light and to have a feeling of being a little bit open plan without actually being open plan. We looked at how best to create an unimpeded flow around the ground floor rooms - using little tricks to borrow space and light and to form cheeky little glimpses from one area to the next. We eliminated internal doors and focused upon views through the space – from one room to another. Often ‘open plan’ works best if there are still areas of privacy (such as utility areas, bathrooms etc) – so in places the layout remains conventional.
However, creating the actual ‘view through’ was a lot more complex than the concept itself. And omitting doors required radical design alterations to work successfully and look architecturally strong. We had to consider how the eye might read all the spaces together, without doors and divisions, and what happens above your eye line from one room to another. I became obsessed with lining up archways and streamlining every possible line! Sometimes we accepted a compromise – such as the downlighters not being able to sit in a straight linear run because of the change in direction of joists required for the room span. Annoying at the time, but actually unnoticeable now implemented.
During the build I realised how easy it was for me to flippantly ask for something to be done, but how hard it actually is to do in physical terms due to the constraints of construction and engineering. It was a great learning curve for me and I quickly worked out the true meaning behind the builders facial expressions (for example a long stretch of silence, combined with a deep inhale, followed by some neck scratching and raised eyebrows translates = ‘why-would-you-even want-to-do-that-when-it-is-basically-impossible-to-do-and-far-too-late-to-ask-me-to-do-it’).
Making the house light and bright was much easier we passive orientated the design at the planning permission stage to maximise the natural daylight coming in, with double and triple aspect rooms and a lot of glazing. The hardest part was making sure the glazing style still suited the cottage feel and wouldn’t look odd from the outside. We tried to preserve the cottage essence but with a lot of glass in all the right places.
One of the most recognisable Border Oak trademarks is probably our ‘look’. It’s really hard to describe this but ‘contemporary country’ seems to sum it up.
We focus on natural materials, textures and colours, a very high standard of workmanship, craftsmanship and an unrivalled attention (some might say obsession) to detail.
For this house the ‘look’ will hopefully come from a combination of the beautiful hand made oak frame (we have left ours a natural light colour, which isn’t shiny or orange, and we haven’t put oak framing everywhere – I think some oak houses just have too much wood?) together with the chalky lime render, handmade bricks and clay roof tiles and painted weather boarding. We have contrasted these ‘vernacular’ textures with glass, galvanized guttering and contemporary lighting. Internally the grey oak and limestone floors, painted joinery, blacksmith made door latches, brushed steel light switches, brass taps, handmade kitchen, antique furniture, classic bathrooms, hand made doors, light fittings and artwork will hopefully work together to create a cottage that is brimming with artisan detail and feels homely, tactile and fresh. Of course the only way we will know if all the tiny detail and our meticulous planning and sourcing is really successful is when we open the doors and show you what we have done – we are really looking forward to it!