Blog 1: Beginnings


The Dream


What does it look like to actually self-build your own home? This new series of blogs, brought to you by the team here at lapd Architects, wants to set the record straight. We will be walking you through the stories of many different self-builders, with as many different dream homes, who are working with us to self-build at the one of a kind Graven Hill self-build development. We want to show you what self-build is really like by bringing you with us along the journeys of some of our clients, and show you how achievable it is for the majority of homeowners. Less drama. More facts. Real people with achievable self-build journeys.

So, to kick off this exciting new series we will be looking at the very first steps that our clients, Stef and Pauline, took towards self-building their dream home at Graven Hill. Stef and Pauline came to us with a unique idea. They wanted to build a South African inspired home in Bicester that could make the most of the summer months in the UK. They wanted this idea to guide the design of a beautiful contemporary home.

These ideas were the perfect foundations for a great design. You can read more about how to think about your dream self-build at the pre-design stage by checking out our Ultimate Graven Hill Self Build Checklist. Maybe you’re at this point already. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about what might be possible. Maybe you’re asking: “how does this dream become a reality?”


Appointing an Architect


Well, for Stef and Pauline, they got in touch with the team here at lapd Architects. At first they were considering another route towards building their dream home with another company, but they didn’t feel like it was heading in the right direction. So, they booked in a free initial consultation, chatted with Opinder, one of our directors here at lapd, and began to get an idea of first steps and what the reality of the self-build process is like. At the same time they were talking with the team at Graven Hill, having reserved a plot they loved that had beautiful views of the surrounding area.

Image: a small section of the Graven Hill plot map


Initial Brief


This initial part of the process will always feel a little daunting. You are looking out into the distance as far as you can see, with all these unknowns, and you are being asked to commit to making your dream home a reality. Dealing with this on your own can be nerve wracking. That’s why we work hard to make sure you have the right information at the right time so that you can make the decisions that matter most to you with confidence. At lapd Architects we know the Graven Hill process, we know the self-build process, and it’s our job to walk with you along every step of the journey.

Once Stef and Pauline had reserved their self-build plot the clock began ticking for Graven Hill’s timelines and processes. So, together we began the first big step towards their dream self-build home becoming a reality. As their architects, we made sure the project was moving at the right pace and began the ongoing job of liaising with the team at Graven Hill.

We think that developing these initial ideas is one of the most exciting parts of the whole process. The discussions that we have with our clients are wide ranging to say the least: everything from where they might normally eat their breakfast to what window design they think is most stylish. We encourage our clients to make a scrap book, or Pinterest board, filled with ideas and inspiration from all sorts of places. It might have holiday pictures, cut outs from magazines or even sketches the client has doodled themselves. It’s this firm foundation, built by taking the time to really get to know our clients and how they live, that informs everything about the design we produce.

So, at our first meetings with Stef and Pauline we took the time to listen to their ideas in greater detail. We first understood what it was they wanted, and why they wanted it, and then we made that vision an achievable reality.

Image: we work hard to understand you and design to your needs


Concept Design



That moment when we first showcase the initial design is extremely exciting. We always get that gasp of excitement from our clients at the first sight of what their dream home could look like.

These first meetings and first designs are not just fanciful head in the cloud sketches. They have the full weight of a professional architect’s knowledge behind them. A design that can be built. A design that addresses the budget. A design that adheres to the Graven Hill requirements. We invest so much time at this stage for many reasons, but one of the most obvious is that getting the design right at the beginning is so much easier and so much cheaper than changing it later on when all sorts of other factors are in play. Now is the time to try things out, changing and tweaking that initial design to make sure it is exactly what you want.

Off the back of this design process with Stef and Pauline we created 3D Lumion images, as you can see here. We managed to turn their years of imagining and dreaming into a beautiful and functional design. The South African concept of a pyjama lounge (the equivalent of a snug room) is the main living area and is located on the first floor. It will command beautiful views of the surrounding area through a striking front gable which has extensive glazing, allowing natural sunlight to fill this room. To the rear the kitchen leads onto a patio with an outdoor kitchen, where those long British summer nights can be spent with good food and good company.

Images: Stef and Pauline’s Lumion images for their Graven Hill self-build


Plot Passport Compliance


All this ticked the Graven Hill boxes too. Graven Hill plot passports explain the limitations on what you can build on any particular plot, and from the beginning we are working within these restrictions to get the most out of the plot you have purchased. So, after some back and forth, tweaking the final concept design and working on the developed design, we submitted Stef and Pauline’s design for plot passport compliance. This was then accepted by the local authority and the team at Graven Hill. One of the benefits of building at Graven Hill is that this process is much simpler and quicker than your normal planning application.

Stef and Pauline are now ready to take the next steps. They are looking forwards now to the Golden Brick process (setting the foundations for their home) and the first materials arriving on site. We will cover that in our next blog, including images of what the beginning of a self-build actually looks like at Graven Hill.

We’re really excited to see their dreams become a reality. If you would like to talk to us about exploring the options of self-building, either at Graven Hill or elsewhere, then do not hesitate to get in touch. We offer free initial consultations over zoom. If you are considering self-build, and want some more information, why not visit the award-winning Build It Self-Build Education House that our director, Opinder Liddar, designed? This first of its kind project allows you to explore a real self-build, and see what it actually looks like, helping you to think through your dream project.

Call us

We’re available to chat about your dream home any time Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm

01865 407722