Exterior of healthy house

The hypoallergenic house in Richmond, London

Research and careful sourcing went into to the design and construction of this innovative house

By Jayne Dowle | 3 October 2018

Born and Elinor Barikor’s Grand Designs healthy house minimises their children’s exposure to allergens. The couple’s sons, Avery and Pascal, have an array of allergies, including asthma. Sports entrepreneur Barikor is also asthmatic.

‘Since finding out more about Avery and Pascal’s allergies, Elinor and I began searching for a way to live somewhere safe for them,’ he says.

Exterior of Grand Designs healthy home with timber cladding and white render with sunken patio garden

Steps lead down to the patio garden of Elinor and Born’s family self build. Photo: David Giles

The home the couple had dreamed of for their sons and two-year-old daughter Blakely-Rae took shape as a four-bedroom house in Richmond, Surrey. It’s on a quarter-acre site that cost £675,000 and came with existing planning permission. Born and Elinor were able to adapt this to incorporate as many elements of a healthy home as possible.

‘The pre-approved plans had taken the site into consideration,’ said Elinor, who is a digital art entrepreneur. ‘But we did make alterations to suit our ambitions for the project and re-submitted the planning application.’ The airtight building is close to Passivhaus standard and includes a mechanical ventilation system to purify the air. There are non-toxic paints, flooring and joinery, and natural materials wherever possible. In the garden, plants pollinated by insects rather than wind, such as hydrangea and lavender, keep airborne pollen to a minimum.

Entrance to the healthy house with small patio area

Entrance to the single-storey facade of the house. Photo: David Giles

Planning considerations

A stipulation of the planning permission was that the building must be one-storey above ground level, minimising the impact on the surrounding houses. It meant digging out a basement to create a home big enough for the family. So, the living areas are on the first floor allowing them to benefit from natural light during the day. The bedrooms are in the basement. With planning approval in place, Born and Elinor got a project manager on board to oversee the build and liaise with the contractors.

The couple signed an agreement giving them access to their neighbours’ land for several weeks while the build took place. But the basement had not been part of the original plans. So, it was a race against time to get it completed quickly. Removing 100 lorry loads of soil was no easy task. But the new basement level includes a beautiful sunken garden.

Hypoallergenic materials

Finding materials and furniture to meet the couple’s hypoallergenic requirements was challenging. ‘It was a surprise how difficult it is to find healthy, affordable products. Also, how hard it was to understand the composition of items,’ explained Elinor. ‘We hadn’t heard of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be used in building materials, wood preservatives and glues. They release gases into the air and may be harmful to health.’

Although the house was not quite complete, the family moved in on Christmas Eve, 2017. ‘We lived in the house for a few days before the mechanical ventilation with heat recovery was switched on,’ says Born. ‘Within hours we all felt the good effect. Then the rain and snow came and we were cosy and warm without having to switch on the heating.’

View of the sunken garden from the main bedroom of the Grand Designs healthy house

Born and Elinor’s bedroom leads out to the sunken garden. Image: David Giles

Furnishing ideas

The couple chose solvent-free lacquer-finish cabinets from Rational for the kitchen. ‘We didn’t have the budget to buy new every time, and found that it wasn’t always necessary,’ Elinor explains. ‘Second-hand and upcycled pieces became our best friends.’ Some of the couple’s best buys include a scaffolding-plank table and benches, Ercol chairs, Persian rugs and a church pew.

Modern kitchen with dark grey cabinets and a pine-topped dining table

The modern kitchen includes a mix of new and second-hand buys. Photo: David Giles