Serene, rest­ful and cheap as chips

A north Lon­don cou­ple with a pas­sion for a low-en­ergy, healthy home seized their chance at a Som­er­set auc­tion, says

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Our Home -

LON­DON­ERS don’t think any­thing beats The Smoke — but see a house like this one, set amid fields dot­ted with sheep just 20 miles from the Som­er­set coast, and you’ll think twice. Ar­chi­tect Gra­ham Bi­z­ley and his wife Emily, an in­te­rior de­signer, fin­ished build­ing it in 2014 and it was short­listed for the fol­low­ing year’s RIBA Grand De­signs: House of the Year.

The green oak-clad struc­ture on slim oak pil­lars ap­pears to float in the vivid green land­scape, its big win­dows pro­tected from the glare by deep, tim­bered ve­ran­das. The wedge-shaped struc­ture nes­tles into a steep hill­side. From the road al­most all you see is a softly pitched, raised-seam roof. But go around the side and down the steep gar­den path, among wild flow­ers, cro­cos­mia and pur­ple salvia, and you see the rest of the house be­low — its lower layer — and the fam­ily’s pet chick­ens scratch­ing con­tent­edly about at the bot­tom of the gar­den.

There’s a hint of chalet. Gra­ham, 48, and Emily, 40, went to Switzer­land for in­spi­ra­tion and loved the mod­esty and snug home­li­ness of those tim­ber build­ings in their land­scape. With the Bi­z­ley chalet, though, the lo­cal sta­tion is an hour and a half from Padding­ton, so they can zip up to the Lon­don of­fice when nec­es­sary.

In New­ing­ton Green in north Lon­don in 2003, Gra­ham was build­ing him­self a house. He’d only re­cently met Emily, so while she had some in­put, it was his de­sign. Af­ter a few years they be­gan plot­ting a house to co-de­sign, while scour­ing the auc­tion cat­a­logues. Emily’s fam­ily are from Som­er­set and the cou­ple fixed on the county early in their search but kept an open mind about ex­actly where, as they al­ready had a de­tailed wish list.

Top of this list was their com­mit­ment to build­ing a Pas­sivhaus, con­form­ing to strict en­ergy stan­dards. This meant find­ing a site that would take a south-fac­ing house, for max­i­mum so­lar gain. They wanted to cre­ate some­thing “serene, rest­ful to look at and to live in”. With their un­der­stand­ing of coun­try plan­ning rules, they looked for some­thing to “tear down” — be­cause, Gra­ham ex­plains, per­mis­sion to build a house on vir­gin fields is pretty rare.

They sold the Lon­don house in 2010 and moved into a flat while search­ing. By pure fluke, their dream site was the first they vis­ited. A Twen­ties bun­ga­low, full of rot and as­bestos, stood on a steep hill a few miles south of Glas­ton­bury — and was ripe for de­mo­li­tion. They bought it at auc­tion that Novem­ber.

The Bi­z­leys filled a book with draw­ings and sub­mit­ted plans in Fe­bru­ary 2011 for a house built right into the slope, with con­crete foun­da­tions and re­tain­ing wall. Dug down like this, their 2,280sq ft, two-

Our very own Grand De­sign: ar­chi­tect Gra­ham Bi­z­ley and wife Emily, an in­te­rior de­signer, cre­ated their in­no­va­tive fam­ily ho

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