Why did you decide to self-build at Graven Hill?
We were looking to escape from London. We visited Kingsmere in Bicester and heard about the nearby Graven Hill. It seemed to fit our ideal, to build our own self build project. This had been our dream for a long time. It seemed like it was a ‘unicorn’ of an opportunity – if we chose the correct style plot we would be able to build our New England-style dream home! Graven Hill seemed to offer that scope when other plots would never allow it due to planning regulations. That, combined with the lovely village, walkable amenities, closeness of nature, and links to London for commuting seemed to provide a great opportunity for us.
What were your main worries about self-building at Graven Hill?
Expense. We wanted a basement from the beginning and basically everyone tried to put us off due to the expense. Graven Hill sells its plots as having the bonus of being able to include a basement, but there are more hurdles than there seems to be at first. Not long into our self build project we were worried the whole self-build adventure would prove too much with so many things to juggle within the project, plus full time jobs and family life too. This wasn’t helped by our first architect who designed a house nothing like our spec, and told us we would never be able to build what we wanted.
How did lapd Architects help to alleviate those worries?
Opinder was fantastic from the very first meeting, and he and Yolandi did everything they could to make our dream a reality. They planned out exactly what we wanted. We felt it was as if they truly understood that this was our home forever and it had to be right for us. They really listened. When we came back to see the initial design we were so worried after our experience with the first architect, but those first plans put our minds at rest. Huge relief! There on paper was our home, made real. The prior architect had huffed and sighed at our turret plans but Opinder was all for them, even excited by them, and said ‘If you want turrets you shall have turrets!’ lapd were also the first firm of any type not to roll their eyes at our basement plans. They were open to any ideas, no matter how unusual. Stairs that turn into a slide? Sure! Spiral staircase with a secret door? Of course! (FYI, only the secret door made it to the plans.)
What part of the self-build process are you up to at the moment?
The worrying about the money bit! Actually have just got Confirmation of Compliance after a lot of jumping through hoops, and delays from planning. About to go to ground investigation stage and start looking at specific details of the house with lapd, then hopefully go to tender very soon.
What is it like working with lapd Architects?
It’s a generally calming experience when all around us there is so much going on. It is not without the odd glitch, but overall an excellent smooth process which seems to flow well. I have highly recommended lapd to anyone who will listen, telling them to ‘run don’t walk’ to lapd and get themselves on board!
What is the most fulfilling and enjoyable aspect of self-building at Graven Hill?
We feel that is yet to come. When we finally see our house come together it’s going to be amazing! We cannot imagine the fantastic feeling when we walk through the front door for the first time. In the present though, it’s the fact you can build a dream house that is simply not possible in most of the UK where planning rules are super strict. Our blue clad house with turrets and a front porch will happen, and the reality of it will be the most fulfilling part. However, we need to try to enjoy the journey because we have a long way to go! Another fantastic bonus is the community that is being built alongside the houses. We are not even living in Bicester yet, but have met our neighbours and gain from a wealth of knowledge from those who are steps ahead of us.