My New Dream and Vision for a Family Home
In January 2018 we were ready to move on from our first family home in Cardiff, which was a Victorian Terraced House. My three girls were born here and we put a lot of work into this property to make it our dream house, but the next home had to have the little ladies at the core. This was the new dream, a dilapidated 1960’s bungalow renovation.
As well as being a family home I wanted it to be a rural hideaway that is still close to city life. We were also ready for the challenge of a doer upper (we probably hadn’t dreamt that it would be to this scale!) but we were soon to learn that this is all part of the journey!
Finding Our ‘Diamond in the Rough’
A friend of mine had also started looking for a house and stumbled across the 1960s hidden bungalow. We went to look at it and found what we believed to be a ‘diamond in the rough’.
The garden was the main selling point for me. It is sheltered by trees and had a stream at the bottom. Horses were in the paddock behind and can be seen from the garden. This was it, I could see it; the idyllic hideaway nestled in an urban setting. There was something just magical about this plot. I could picture my girls playing in the stream as my brothers and sisters once did. This was another incredible plus for this property – my Mum lives only two doors down.
I definitely had to use my imagination hard from the outset with the building. Most people would have looked at the bungalow and the scale of work needed and think ‘no way!’ This is where you have to have no fear and go with your gut. I just knew that I could visualise so much potential in this plot and see my family growing up here.
The vision for my dream home was clear in my head, but then reality hit. Not only was the bungalow extremely ugly, it was also unusually situated. Due to this several challenges unfolded.
The Bungalow was a Backland Development
It was built in the back garden of an existing bungalow in the 1960’s. The local planning department rejected it and it only gained permission on appeal. Backland developments are not looked on favourably and because of the history of the bungalow we knew that this was not going to be an easy journey.
For me, the positives still outweighed the potential negatives. The fact that it was a backland development appealed to us because it felt like a hidden house. was a hidden house. You would never even know it’s there from the main road.
We had hoped that the local planning department would be in support of our plans and design during the pre-planning process. We weren’t allowed to knock the building down and start over because the planning department are against backland developments and we were getting permission based on an application to redesign an existing dwelling. Here is our original design for a two storey extension.
The First Planning Application was Rejected
The council said no to this, they said it was too overbearing for the neighbouring properties so we had to scale back our plans and get creative with our architect. The planners had not given us much feedback as to what would be a more acceptable proposal. Our local planning consultant knew the area and planning department well. He was able to fill in the blanks, review planning policies and brief the architect.
We worked with the architect to revise the design; now only adding a second storey to the rear of the bungalow and low pitched roofs which reduced the overall impact on the neighbours. You can see from the images below the compromise we had to make, when you compare to our original version above.
We submitted our revised plans and nervously waited for the feedback! After a few weeks, we were told that the planning officer had written a favourable report and was recommending planning permission to be granted. At last, the news we had wanted to hear, but it still had to go through the hierarchy in the department for sign off. This went on for weeks and weeks, and felt like an eternity, but in April 2019 we finally got planning permission!
Setting Budgets and Selecting Builders
The next challenge was to think about the budget and hire a builder. We were lucky enough to get a builder lined up quickly as we knew someone who had built several of our friends’ houses and came highly recommended. He lived in the same village as us, and we had total trust in him. This was a bit unconventional as we didn’t go through a tender process.
We had a budget in mind at the start of the project but as so much time had passed we had managed to save more. The majority of our £200,000 budget was from the sale of our previous home and savings. Our modest budget was also another reason we had decided not to knock the existing bungalow down and start again.
The build started and it was all incredibly exciting. It felt like such a long journey just to get to this point. The 1960’s bungalow renovation was really getting underway when the pandemic hit and this has obviously thrown more challenges our way – but more on that in a later blog!
My Top Things to Think About When Embarking on Your Dream Home Renovation
I learnt so much from this experience and want to share these lessons if you are thinking of designing and building your own home:
- Hire a planning consultant – if it is an unusual plot like ours this is definitely worthwhile. The planning consultant took on the dialogue with the planners and saved us an awful lot of time and hassle.
- Use a great architect – you need someone who can bring your ideas to life and understand your vision.
- Pick a builder that comes recommended, has a strong local reputation and whose work you can see first hand.
- Most importantly keep visualising your dream home and life, you may have to tweak and adapt as you go like we did but you need that end goal to keep you going!