Building a new home on part of their garden has been transformative for one family
Despite being fans of the TV series, retirees Jo and David Wright had never contemplated taking on their own Grand Designs-style project, until they found themselves in need of a wheelchair-friendly house.
Following an infection in her spine, Jo found herself in need a more accessible home. The couple raised their three grown-up children, Lizzie, Sally and Tim, in a six-bedroom, four-storey Edwardian house in the Hampshire countryside.
No longer suitable for Jo’s needs, the couple started searching for a single-storey property, but couldn’t find anything they liked. They then investigated the possibility of extending their home to create a wheelchair-friendly ground floor.
‘Building an extension would have left me cut off from everyone,’ Jo explains. ‘I wanted to be able to go into every room and be entirely independent.’
Jo, 60, and David, 62, turned their attention to finding land on which to build a new house. They didn’t have to look far. ‘Our home is on a two-acre site, so we came up with the idea of dividing the plot in two,’ says Jo.
Not knowing whether building another house would be possible from a planning perspective, they sought the help of an architect. ‘I’d been doing some research online, looking for local practices,’ says Jo. ‘I went away from the computer and came back to find that an advert for the architecture firm Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt had popped up. We gave them a call, and the rest is history.’
The practice had a successful track record when it came to working with the local planning office, and was open to the couple’s ideas. Though Lizzie, Sally and Tim had left to study at their respective universities, the new house needed to be a base to which they could all return, so they went for five bedrooms. ‘Dominic Gaunt and the team listened to us,’ says Jo. ‘We wanted a home that worked for the whole family – with me just happening to be a wheelchair user.’
Wheelchair friendly design
The design also evolved from the couple’s desire for a complete contrast to their old house. ‘It is red brick, with turrets and multiple levels in a Gothic style, whereas the new-build is contemporary,’ says Dominic, who is a director at Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt. Inside, the open-plan layout includes level thresholds, along with enough space for a wheelchair to turn.
After bouncing around ideas with Jo and David, the practice presented them with three design concepts. ‘We homed in on one option pretty quickly,’ says Jo. Once this had been nailed down, the couple obtained outline planning permission to build on an area of their garden fondly known as the football pitch. ‘When the kids were younger it was filled with goal posts and the trampoline – it wasn’t cultivated garden,’ explains Jo.
Going for outline permission before submitting a detailed application afforded an opportunity to test the waters with the planners. The approach worked well, and the scheme received no objections.