Client of the Month: Has Assad Perfected His Country Paradise?
Assad and Lisa’s home is one of the most ambitious we’ve ever had the pleasure of working on: an open plan, contemporary twist on the country mansion with an ultra-sustainable, cutting edge design that almost disappears into the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
We recently caught up with Assad to see how he’s adapted to life in the country now that his new home is (almost) exactly how he wants it.
The last time you were on the blog, work had just started on site. How did you find the build process?
On the whole, the build process wasn’t traumatic at all. Tasker Catchpole – the main contractors – were very efficient with how they managed the project and built very well according to timetables. We had some small issues along the way such as the glazing being late and the weather not being right for applying the render, but they rescheduled the workflow fine and kept everything under control.
We didn’t have any major upsets along the way, it all went relatively smoothly and the weather was good for us throughout the whole period, which is quite unusual.
Were there any moments in the project stood out to you?
There were a number, to be honest. For a while all there was nothing on site but a big hole where the lower ground level would be, but when the concrete slabs filled that in we suddenly got a sense of exactly how big the space would be. Another landmark moment was when the steel frame went up, then again when the glass went in.
There were plenty more in between. Because I was down there quite a lot – once every two or three weeks – I was excited through the whole process.
This was your first new build and it was very ambitious. Was there anything about building a home of this scale that surprised you?
I was surprised by the amount of detail involved and how many different people are involved throughout the process, on site and off. At one point John broke down the numbers, and I can’t remember exactly, but it was hundreds of people altogether. You can’t see any of it now, but the cabling, for example, and how much work goes into designing and installing that alone is incredible.
I’m just amazed by how technically challenging building a house is. The finished thing may look simple because it has this contemporary design, but it’s anything but. People underestimate the thousands of details that go into achieving this look, from big details like how the house is oriented on the site so that it gets the optimal amount of sun, to small details like how the blinds attach to the ceiling. It all adds up and it all has to be perfect because if anything’s off it will stand out so much.
You wouldn’t notice it now, sitting in the house, but if I took someone around and pointed out all the little details – it’s quite incredible really.
What was it like when you stepped foot in the finished house?
When we moved in it wasn’t finished, so it took us a while for us to get the whole, “Wow, it’s done,” moment. We moved in around Christmas, but we needed to wait until the weather was warmer before the render could be applied, so there was still scaffolding around the house for the first three months.
We also hadn’t done any of the landscaping at first, so all that was around us was a big pile of mud. We’re still only around a third through the landscaping, but we always knew the house would be a multi-year project. You can’t rush plants and trees, and we need to take what we learn from that first third of landscaping – about the soil conditions and so on – and apply that to the next third, which we learn from again.
It wasn’t until the summer – once the render was on the and the driveway and gate were up – that we could finally step back and take in the house as a whole, both interior and exterior. Now when I drive in it and walk in the door it really feels like home.
In what ways has your new home changed how you live?
Most of all it’s a different way of life out here. You need to get into the car to do anything, just to get a pint of milk. But then the flip side to that is you wake up and you look out the window and you’re surrounded by trees and fields and so on. Once you’re at home and you sit down you feel a lot calmer than you would do if you were in London.
The views are definitely my favourite thing about the house. A lot of things I take for granted now that I’m living here, but waking up in the morning, coming upstairs and looking out over the countryside still amazes me, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is – winter’s just as beautiful as summer.
Lisa originally had some trepidations about moving out of London. How has she adapted to country life?
It took her about a year to get used to it. When you first move down, you don’t know anyone, so you feel a bit isolated. But now she’s made a very close group of friends through the children’s school and nursery so she has a support network and a full life down here. I think now if you gave her the option of moving back to London, she wouldn’t take it.
Lisa was very involved in a lot of the smaller details in the home that make a huge difference to how you live day to day, such as storage and utility rooms. It’s very much designed around her and her needs, and combining that with two children and the unpredictability they’ll bring to the home. Our house doesn’t look like one of those show homes you see on TV because we’ve got a family. Lisa’s done a very good job blending the highly contemporary, open plan design with a comfortable family home – it doesn’t feel like a big, empty, sparse room.
Would you do it all again?
Yeah, I would – just not for a long time!
Overall, I really enjoyed the process. You get stressful moments, but you’d be stupid not to expect those when you’re building a house. Whenever we had doubts, John and his team were very good at sitting down with us and explaining that whatever problems we had were totally normal in a project of this scale. They always managed to keep everything in perspective, which is tough when so much is going on around you.
I’m very happy with what we’ve done here and I’m very happy with the team of people that have helped to do it. Even a year and a half later, they’re still involved: Tasker Catchpole are still here, John and his team are still here doing bits and bobs in the background. Just recently they helped me draw plans for a small office I’m building outside. You hear stories of builders handing over the keys and disappearing and that hasn’t been the case here at all.
Everyone involved in the project has felt very much a part of the project and they’re very keen to ensure that our home is exactly what it should be.