Our man in Fife finds inspiration on a Spanish hillside
We still await the pleasure of the planners. The council is legally required to rule within two months on the application we lodged before Christmas to build a kit house on our orchard and vegetable garden.
Advertisements have appeared in the local paper, listing our application as one of two “deviations” from council policy which are under consideration (the other is for a development of 214 houses: which one would you guess is more likely to get consent?). At present, however, there is nothing for us to do except dream.
And in such a vision, the modernist house that I would love to build on our half acre of Fife hillside actually appeared before my eyes. I happened, however, to be in Majorca, on a working trip.
Until that moment, no clear idea of the house we might build had ever emerged in my mind. The planning submissions that were drawn up for us by our agent, Allen Creedy, included several specimen photographs, all taken from the catalogues of kit-house companies. Most were so uniformly mundane, so lacking in aesthetic interest or inspiration that I would think it a form of cruel and unusual punishment to house delinquents within those walls. Last week, however, I drew the curtains of my hotel room and, through the mist across Majorca, I saw the very house, set into the hillside on the other side of the valley.
I tried to photograph it on my mobile phone but nothing appeared on the image except the hanging baskets on the hotel’s veranda. I tried to sketch it but – with drawing talents that have not improved since being derided as “agricultural” by my art teacher at school – it came out looking like a busted cardboard box, collapsed on its side.
Let me try to describe it. Imagine two sealed packs of A4 paper, resting on top of each other, with the longer sides facing forward. If you push the top pack back by an inch and a half to form a terrace, you’ve got a model of this house.
That would suit our plot perfectly. We could dig the lower floor into the land so that the roofline would not rise above the gradient of the hillside. The building could thus merge with the landscape and not obstruct the views of our neighbour further up the hill.
I always imagined that, if we built on this plot, we would want to place the living rooms on the upper floor to take advantage of the views across the Forth river to the Pentlands and over the tops of the bridges to Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. The bedrooms, then, would be on the lower floor.
The house I saw in Majorca would adapt superbly to that arrangement. We could have four bedrooms in a line, all facing south with floor-toceiling windows that opened out on to a terrace. Behind the bedrooms, a corridor could run the full width of the house with bathrooms and wardrobes set against the north wall.
The rooms on the upper floor could follow a similar pattern – open-plan kitchen and dining area at the western end, leading to a central living room, with a walled-off office at the easternmost end. All rooms would have sliding doors or French windows that open out on to a full-length balcony. The north side of this floor, including a cloakroom, could be walled with kitchen and diningroom cupboards and bookshelves.
Fife being a little damper than Majorca, a degree of cunning would be called for to make rainwater run off the flat surfaces of this house. And the cream concrete walls of the Majorcan house might stand out on a Scottish hillside. To fit in with the landscape, our rendering of this design ought probably to be constructed in timber and glass.
But it should be a straightforward proposition for a kit-maker to fabricate this house. And, apart from digging a terrace into the hillside, it ought to be simple to construct.