OCEAN IN­SPI­RA­TION

Mark and Clare Flower seized the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a stun­ning pair of prop­er­ties over­look­ing the Taw-tor­ridge Es­tu­ary in North Devon

Build It - - READERS’ HOMES - WORDS RE­BECCA FOS­TER PHO­TOS ALEX CAMP­BELL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Self build vet­er­ans Mark and Claire Flower built a pair of beau­ti­ful hol­i­day cot­tages over­look­ing the sea in Devon

Hav­ing tack­led nu­mer­ous self build and ren­o­va­tion projects over the years, Mark and Clare Flower have a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in spot­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties ripe with po­ten­tial. As they moved closer to re­tire­ment, the pair turned all their at­ten­tion to the search for a per­fect hol­i­day home. Based in Hamp­shire, the Flow­ers’ quest started in 2012 and took them all over south west Eng­land. “My wife has al­ways wanted to find a pro­ject where we could cre­ate some­thing with un­in­ter­rupted sea views,” says Mark. It was two years be­fore the cou­ple dis­cov­ered a run­down bun­ga­low in North Devon, po­si­tioned on a site with the ocean out­look they’d been dream­ing of.

“We were in a priv­i­leged po­si­tion in that if we didn’t find the ideal site quickly, it didn’t mat­ter, as we were never go­ing to live there

per­ma­nently,” says Mark. Si­t­u­ated within the quaint fish­ing town of Ap­ple­dore, the sin­gle-storey abode ben­e­fited from far-reach­ing sea views. Plus, it was only a five-minute walk from shops, res­tau­rants and other lo­cal ameni­ties. “As we’re get­ting older, we wanted a place that of­fered an easy, level walk to nearby fa­cil­i­ties. at was one of our main cri­te­ria. With this site, it’s worked out su­perbly,” says Mark.

Self build strat­egy

e plot al­ready had plan­ning per­mis­sion for a scheme to de­mol­ish the ex­ist­ing bun­ga­low and cre­ate a new home in its place. ere­fore, Mark and Clare were con­fi­dent from the out­set that they’d gain con­sent for a fresh de­sign that met all their re­quire­ments.

One of the cou­ple’s key goals was to find a site large enough to ac­com­mo­date two new prop­er­ties. at way, they’d be able to sell one at a later date to pay off the build­ing loan. “Hav­ing com­pleted sim­i­lar small de­vel­op­ments be­fore, we know a plan like this works well. In a sense, you’re build­ing two houses and get­ting one for free,” says Mark. “Our plan was to keep one as our own hol­i­day home and rent it out for sev­eral weeks dur­ing the peak sum­mer pe­riod.”

De­vel­op­ing the de­sign

With the ideal plot now in the bag, Mark and Clare be­gan think­ing about a suitable de­sign for the two houses. ey didn’t have to look far to find a pro­fes­sional to han­dle this as­pect, as Mark’s son, David, is the di­rec­tor of his own firm – Flower Kit­tle Ar­chi­tects.

e ex­ist­ing plan­ning per­mis­sion had al­ready re­ceived nu­mer­ous ob­jec­tions from the lo­cal com­mu­nity, as the aes­thetic wasn’t in keep­ing with the ver­nac­u­lar style. e Flow­ers there­fore set about cre­at­ing some­thing fresh that re­sponded to the unique quirks of the lo­ca­tion. “e site was quite re­stricted in terms of its size and shape, so we had to main­tain a clear de­sign prin­ci­ple and try not to over­com­pli­cate things,” says David. “e best views are to the north, so we wanted to bear that in mind as the draw­ings de­vel­oped.”

e plot is on the edge of a con­ser­va­tion area – an­other im­por­tant fac­tor that in­formed the plans. “is wasn’t a case of a client com­ing to us with an ex­ist­ing pro­posal they had al­ready en­vi­sioned,” says David. “We re­ally fo­cused on re­spond­ing to the fea­tures of the land and get­ting more creative in that sense.”

To help fit in with the lo­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, block­work was quickly se­lected as the struc­tural sys­tem. “ere are a num­ber of ter­raced fish­er­men’s cot­tages nearby that are all ren­dered and painted in dif­fer­ent colours,” says Mark. “e build­ing next door to us fea­tures a smooth white fin­ish, so we were very keen to go with some­thing like that.” Once the fin­ished pro­posal was sub­mit­ted to the plan­ning de­part­ment, it sailed through without any is­sues. “Sur­pris­ingly, the process was rel­a­tively straight­for­ward,” says Mark. “I think the orig­i­nal de­sign had re­ceived hun­dreds of ob­jec­tions and some­how still got con­sent. Ours went through first time.”

Team work

As Mark and Clare were based a three-and-a-half-hour drive away from Ap­ple­dore, they knew they’d need to hire an ex­cel­lent team of pro­fes­sion­als to en­sure the pro­ject pro­gressed smoothly on site. As such, they ded­i­cated a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of time to find­ing the right builder. e cou­ple’s first step was to reach out to lo­cal ar­chi­tects and sur­vey­ors for rec­om­men­da­tions of nearby firms. ey fol­lowed up ev­ery lead by talk­ing to con­trac­tors on the phone, even­tu­ally whit­tling the list down to a se­lec­tion of four or five com­pa­nies. At

this point, they trav­elled to Devon to look at pre­vi­ous projects each con­trac­tor had com­pleted be­fore putting the pro­ject out to ten­der.

“We only got two quotes, and as it hap­pened, there was no real choice,” says Mark. e pair were able to iden­tify who they wanted – a firm called An­der­son and Evans – purely on the ba­sis of the ex­cel­lent qual­ity of their ten­der. “In fact, we’ve done nu­mer­ous projects over the years, and I’d def­i­nitely say these are some of the best peo­ple we’ve ever worked with,” he says.

To keep things as sim­ple as pos­si­ble, the Flow­ers en­gaged An­der­son and Evans as the main builder, and the com­pany then out­sourced jobs to var­i­ous sub-trades. David han­dled over­all pro­ject man­age­ment du­ties, tak­ing the four-hour drive there and back ev­ery two weeks. e long days meant he had to be ex­tremely ef­fi­cient

with time and have a clear un­der­stand­ing of what he wanted to achieve on each visit, but ul­ti­mately, this ended up work­ing well. “If I’d have been just around the cor­ner, I’d have been there ev­ery day,” he says. “But as this wasn’t pos­si­ble, I saw big­ger changes each time I vis­ited, which was great.”

Con­struc­tion chal­lenges

De­spite the ex­per­tise and strong work ethic of the team on site, the build wasn’t without its com­pli­ca­tions. One of the big­gest chal­lenges the Flow­ers faced re­volved around drainage con­nec­tions and di­ver­sions. Orig­i­nally, they’d been given an es­ti­mate of £10,000, but the pair ended up spend­ing nearly £40,000 in the end. “Ev­ery time we con­tacted South West Wa­ter with what we thought would be a sim­ple so­lu­tion to the is­sue, the fig­ures from came back much higher than we’d ini­tially an­tic­i­pated,” says Mark. “Even­tu­ally, we couldn’t wait any longer – we had to bite the bul­let and ac­cept it.”

ough the prop­er­ties are of block­work con­struc­tion, it turned out that a sig­nif­i­cant amount of steel­work was re­quired to achieve the spa­cious open-plan spans the Flow­ers wanted. “Both of the houses are quite a com­pli­cated shape – nei­ther are rec­tan­gu­lar,” says Mark. “You’d be able to go in­side and wouldn’t think there’s any sup­port­ing steel, but ac­tu­ally there’s a lot – you just can’t see it.” Get­ting the de­sign for this el­e­ment right took a bit of prob­lem solv­ing, and ul­ti­mately caused a two-week de­lay. Plus, ev­ery sin­gle piece of the ma­te­rial had to be gal­vanised be­cause of the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment, which meant the process took a lit­tle longer.

De­spite the mi­nor headaches that popped up along the way, Mark thor­oughly en­joyed the con­struc­tion process. “My back­ground is in civil struc­ture en­gi­neer­ing, so I rel­ished the nitty gritty build­ing as­pects of it all, like see­ing the steel­work go in,” he says. Clare, on the other hand, pre­ferred the re­search in­volved in spec­i­fy­ing all the fin­ishes for the liv­ing spa­ces. “She en­joyed the in­te­rior de­sign and choos­ing prod­ucts for the floor, walls, san­i­tary­ware and kitchen. We com­ple­ment each other well,” says Mark.

The fin­ished prod­uct

Now com­plete, the prop­er­ties sit beau­ti­fully in their pic­turesque coastal set­ting. Broad swathes of glaz­ing are set within pow­der­coated alu­minium frames, achiev­ing a con­tem­po­rary aes­thetic.

e in­nate strength of the metal means the Flow­ers have been able

Build It Fe­bru­ary 2019 to max­imise the ocean views via large spans of glass, without the need for glaz­ing bars for ex­tra sup­port. “e win­dows were de­signed to cap­ture the views when you look out to sea,” says Mark.

e roofs are topped with slate tiles to re­main in keep­ing with other prop­er­ties on the street and each of the houses is spread across three storeys, with the main liv­ing area and kitchen po­si­tioned on the mid­dle floor. is is so oc­cu­pants can en­joy views from an el­e­vated van­tage point. A neu­tral colour palette en­sures a crisp, clean look through­out, while lux­ury vinyl tiles pro­vide a stylish and low-main­te­nance floor cov­er­ing – an es­sen­tial in the sea­side set­ting.

I rel­ished the nitty gritty build­ing as­pects of it all, like see­ing the steel­work go in

anks to their ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on past projects, Mark and Clare were able to make a sav­ing on their kitchen suite. “You can spend a lot of money, but if you plan things care­fully and source prod­ucts your­self, you can get fin­ishes and sur­faces of a rea­son­able qual­ity that will make the space look su­perb,” says Mark.

Each of the seven bath­rooms had to be planned care­fully at the de­sign stage. “All the zones were dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes, and even more so on the sec­ond floor with the slop­ing roofs,” says Mark. “It was quite dif­fi­cult to get right, so we worked very hard on sketch­ing out var­i­ous floor­plans and do­ing our re­search on san­i­tary­ware. In the end, they’ve all worked out very well.”

Suc­cess­ful out­come

With both houses now com­plete, the Flow­ers have al­ready man­aged to sell the larger of the two dwellings to pay back their build­ing loan. Although they spent slightly more than they’d orig­i­nally planned, the over­all cost only went 10% over their orig­i­nal bud­get. “No mat­ter how you go about it, the price is more than likely to ex­ceed what you ini­tially ex­pect,” says Mark. “Our ex­tra spend was mainly due to things that were out of our con­trol, like the drainage is­sue.”

Mark and Clare are de­lighted with the re­sults of the scheme, and de­spite their ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, they still ac­knowl­edge how much they’ve learned from this par­tic­u­lar pro­ject. “For us, build­ing by the

sea was to­tally new. We dis­cov­ered a lot about the dif­fer­ent de­sign as­pects and mea­sures you have to put in place to en­sure the dura­bil­ity of the struc­ture,” says Mark.

Ar­chi­tect David is also de­lighted with how the de­vel­op­ment has turned out and is sure that he and his fa­ther will work to­gether on some­thing else in the fu­ture. “I think he’s get­ting a bit bored now we’ve fin­ished it,” says David. “We have a sim­i­lar mind­set and there’s a great un­der­stand­ing be­tween us, which makes it eas­ier – es­pe­cially when you’re on site and you don’t have to be con­cerned about run­ning ev­ery­thing by the client, be­cause there’s that el­e­ment of trust there. You know what each per­son’s in­ten­tions and am­bi­tions are.”

As it hap­pens, Mark and Clare are al­ready on the look­out for their next op­por­tu­nity – this time for a per­ma­nent home to live in once they re­tire. “We cur­rently live in a grade II listed farm­house with small win­dows and low beams, so we’d like to cre­ate some­thing re­ally modern,” says Mark. How­ever, the cou­ple don’t think they’ll go for an­other sea­side prop­erty. “We’re lucky to have this lovely house in Ap­ple­dore that we can use when we wish. I don’t think I’d want the next place to com­pete with this one. At the mo­ment, we’re just look­ing. It’ll take time, but watch this space.”

Right: the liv­ing room is on the first floor of the prop­erty so oc­cu­pants can en­joy the dra­matic sea views

The kitchen has been de­signed for modern fam­ily liv­ing

The glass balustrade is one of Mark’s favourite de­sign fea­tures

Lux­ury vinyl floor tiles pro­vide a clean and con­tem­po­rary fin­ish

The ter­race ben­e­fits from stun­ning views over the Devon coast­line

Mark and Clare’s bed­room, si­t­u­ated on the top floor of the house, en­joys fan­tas­tic views

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