The Moat House is the flagship Georgian home design from Benjamin Allen Bespoke Homes and has inspired many new clients to build similar properties using high quality materials as shown on The Moat House.
Mr and Mrs Dawson viewed the land in the small village of Ditchling advertised through King and Chasemore Estate Agents. “We went down to Ditchling to have a look. Ditchling is a lovely Downland village which nestles at the foot of the South Downs. We instantly fell in love with it and made an offer, which was accepted”.
The plot had full planning permission for a 3300 sq. ft Sussex style house. This planning permission had been gained some time ago and styles had changed considerably. Having a large family, Mr and Mrs Dawson wanted to live within a house that was much more open plan and suited to their family needs.
“It had always been our dream to live in a Georgian home and the majority of the architecture in Ditchling a South Downs Village was Georgian, so we didn’t see a problem in designing such a house”.
“We spoke to the planner officer over the phone about our ideas, and he laughed! He said that he would not be particularly happy with a mock Georgian home on this plot. We explained that we didn’t want to see a mock Georgian home either and that we were very conscious that great care would have to be taken in selecting the external materials and the detailing would have to be authentic”.
“We agreed to have a meeting once we had some plans drawn up and that we would bring in some samples of materials we intended to use”.
“We then went to work on the design; we thought it would be very simple to design; after all Georgian homes were very boxy and symmetrical”.
“Right and wrong! They are boxy and symmetrical from the outside as the windows have their positions and cannot be changed. You therefore have to design the rooms internally and around the window positions.This proved a little more challenging than we thought but we got there in the end. We had designed a Georgian home over three floors with 5 bedrooms and four bathrooms but keeping it within the 3300 sq. ft. This was the same area as a previous application, so as not to be too controversial”.
“We arranged a meeting with the planners and took our plans and samples along. The planning officer was genuinely impressed with what we had designed and said he much preferred it to the original application. Although not giving too much away he said he didn’t see there being much of a problem and that it should go through on delegated powers which meant it would not have to go back to a committee meeting. This was brilliant news as it looked like our dream of a Georgian home was going to be realised”.
“The planning officer suggested that we visited our local parish planning meeting and just run it past them, if they liked it, it would help with the application”.
“Mid July we receive notification that planning permission has been granted for our design. We can now give the go ahead to our technician to start the building regulations application and the engineer to commence the engineering for the timber frame”.
Benjamin Allen Bespoke Homes commenced with the groundworks and drainage in September 2009. The groundworks involved the construction of pad and beam foundations with a block and reinforced concrete beam floor installed on top. Once the groundworks were complete Benjamin Allen Bespoke Homes commenced the construction of the timber frame structure.
Just three weeks later and the timber frame is complete. The sliding sash windows are fitted and the structure is watertight and secure. One of the main benefits of timber frame is being able to work on the inside, even if the weather outside is dire.
“Once the timber frame was complete the roof tilers commenced on site. The beauty of the timber frame is we can continue with the project inside and we start to erect the partition walls internally to create the rooms. This part of the house always excites me as before this is just looks like a large empty box, once you start to carry out this process you can start to imagine yourself living here and you start to visualise where your furniture will go”.
“We decided to go for the Flemish bond brickwork which is a little more complicated to work out for every brick there is a half brick, so we have had to have 10,000 cuts carried out by a brick cutting company. The Flemish bond is a bond that was used for this style of house and was considered to be one of the strongest forms of constructing a brick wall. We have now also instructed the brick cutting company to create the arches above the window off site. They make them up and point them up which gives you a much neater finish”.
Whilst the brickwork was being completed on the external skin Mr and Mrs Dawson commenced the installation of the plumbing, electrics, plasterboard and tape and jointing in preperation for the decorations. They decided on Marble in the hallway and polished marble to the bathrooms and en-suites.
“We decide to spray finish the house from top to bottom, ceilings white and a very pale grey to all the walls. This is a very quick process after masking up all the windows, first fix electrics etc. Within 2 days we have the whole house decorated 2 coats and we are left with just the final coat to be carried out by hand”.
In June 2010 Mr and Mrs Dawson completed the house and arranged to move in. “The day before moving in the curtains and blinds are fitted and the house is starting to look like a home, talk about cutting it fine. Tomorrow arrives and we are all packed and ready to move”.
What we know now
What was your best buy?
The wooden sash windows are fantastic and came factory finished in our chosen off-white colour, which suits the house perfectly.
What is your favourite part of the house?
The kitchen is so light and comfortable, with the glazed dining area looking out onto the garden and a seating area at the other end , we spend most of our time in there.
What did you find surprisingly hard?
We ordered our bespoke white staircase with oak treads and handrails, but for some reason the company lacquered the oak, giving it a very orange look, which was exactly what we didn’t want. When the replacement eventually arrived just days before our move-in date there were several parts missing and we had to employ a joiner to complete it.
If you could do the project again what would you change?
The weather, although building with timber frame did mean we could carry on working inside during the snow.
What advice would you pass on to others?
Make as many decisions in advance as possible because it takes so much pressure off during the build.
The symmetrical appearance of the three-storey Georgian-style home determined the internal layout, as window positions were fixed. Two of the five bedrooms and two en-suite bathrooms are located on the top floor under the eaves, and the master suite was positioned on the first floor.
Exterior front: A bespoke front door and hand-finished sash windows, together with handmade roof tiles and bricks laid traditionally in Flemish bond, create an authentic Georgian home frontage to the new house
Exterior rear: French doors and a glazed single-storey dining room overlook the rear garden. A stream runs along the perimeter of the plot and prompted the name The Moat House
Dormer detail: Pretty dormer windows have been clad in lead to match the entrance porch and the flat roof of the garden room.
Kitchen: The handmade pine kitchen was fitted by Benjamin Allen Bespoke Homes and painted in situ. The kitchen incorporates built in appliances, including a wine cooler, and is finished with an Angolan black granite worktop
Dining: A single-storey garden room leads off from the kitchen, making an ideal dining area with light pouring in through the glass doors and rooflight
Master bedroom: Oiled, distressed, smoked oak flooring achieves an instant aged appearance and was laid over underfloor heating in several rooms
Sitting room: A pretty wood-burner has been installed in the sitting room fireplace, and French doors lead out onto the terrace
Hallway: Deep skirting boards, over-sized doors and wide architraves continue the Georgian Home look internally and marble floor tiles have been laid in the spacious entrance hall
Bathroom: Polished marble tiles were chosen for bathrooms, which have pale grey walls. Stone sinks and sanitaryware were purchased online at a discounted price
Attic bedroom: Two en-suite bedrooms with dormer windows have been built under the eaves on the second floor
To view the The Moat House Self Build Diary please click here.