Building a colourful mews house before gaining planning permission was a risk for architect Ian Hogarth. Is he still a fan of the striking style?
Who? Ian Hogarth and Claire Farrow
What? Created the ultimate family-friendly home, complete with a vibrant basement room with DJ booth and sauna.
Where? Kensington west London
When? Sereies 11, 2011
What have you been doing since the show?
‘Enjoying the house. We’ve had six years to test it out – mainly by having lots of parties – and it’s become a real family hub home. All the children bring people over and we have friends round, so it’s always busy. It’s a bit like living in a hotel.’
Have you made any alterations to the house?
‘I built myself a gym in the garage, which lasted for about six months until my son decided he needed a recording studio, so now it’s both. Most of our work has been on the garden. Our initial concept was to build a hidden house, but it wasn’t very obscured when we finished it. We’ve been growing plants, and building frames and wire structures, so this will be the first year that it feels tucked away as it was intended.’
How did you manage your budget?
‘You need to get prices for everything before you order and keep track of your spreadsheet on a daily basis. We had a fixed amount of money at the start, but during the project opportunities became available that blew it out of the water. For instance, we found out that our neighbour was selling the garden next door, which allowed us to add the garage and an extra bedroom.’
What was the most valuable lesson you learned?
‘Hire the best people you can afford. I tried to manage this project myself and, while I did complete it successfully, I would never do it again. It made me appreciate what a builder brings to a project. An architect has vision, but a good builder can help to realise that dream. Prior to doing this, I didn’t understand the pressure that they are under, with timings and fittings and ensuring everything comes together, but I value that much more now.’
Having lived here for several years, what is your favourite thing about the house?
‘The garden in the summer, particularly as we’ve never had an outdoor space before. We’ve replaced the lawn as it was patchy from playing football on it, and Claire suggested we get an artificial one so now it looks perfect every day, even in winter. Claire and I exercise out there.twice a week and the kids often use it to play table tennis;it’s an extension of the house.’
Did all the eco features work the way you expected?
‘The solar electric panels are great, and there’s nothing like getting a cheque four times a year from the energy company. The insulation is made of Polarwall, which is incredibly warm – we haven’t had the heating on for three years. Before you buy solar panels, you should invest in insulation and heat recovery ventilation to help keep bills down. The only thing that didn’t work was the greywater recycling, which was a lot of money and maintenance for not much gain.’
What advice would you give to someone attempting their own self-build?
‘Be strict about your decision-making process – nothing costs more than changing something when it’s half-built. Ask your architect to explain their drawings to you, or create a 3D model so that you can be sure about your choices before work starts. Once you decide on the structure and layout, you shouldn’t go back – ensure you factor in time to sit with the plans, so that you’re certain on every detail.’
Have you got any intention of undertaking another build?
‘We’ve started a development wing of our practice to help people create their own grand designs. We find sites, draw up the plans and sell them to people who perhaps haven’t got the time to do it all themselves. We’ve just built four houses in Cornwall that are mini versions of our own, which we’re selling as holiday homes. We’ve also found a plot there to build our own home, which will be very different from what we have now. Everything responds to where it is and this is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so the building will celebrate that. I think we have one more project in us – maybe in five years or so, once the kids have left home.’
Photography: Chris Tubbs