Kat and Dom Interview, Part Two: Back in Love with Building
How did you find the work on site?
Kat: We were quite involved, so we spent a lot of time down at the site with the architects and the contractors, who were excellent and recommended by John. We were encouraged to be hands on with the project and really enjoyed it. We got to have our say in day to day decisions on the site like the layout and moving walls and making sure bits were in place.
Dom: When you have good architects and contractors it takes all that pressure off you and you can just enjoy the process. We found it fun to get involved at the site or to visit John’s office, bring our son with us, and relax. It was very chilled.
Being from design backgrounds yourselves must have helped you enjoy the process.
Kat: Yeah, we come from a background of designing and building, albeit virtually, not physically. It was the same process we’re used to and enjoy going through: seeing something from to fruition from the initial thought process to the finished thing. I could also use the technical drawings to make 3D models of the house that we used for interior design.
What was it like seeing your house after they had stripped it out?
Dom: Good fun!
Kat: When the demolition was being arranged, we were like, “Can we be there when the wall comes down?” It was quite fun! It’s strange because it completely changes what you’re seeing, when those walls come down it suddenly opens up and makes you realise all the space you’ve got and gives you ideas for what can be done with it. It gives you more of a vision to see what the finished product might become.
At what stage of the build did you really start to get a sense of what the house was going to look like?
Dom: Probably when the foundation for the extension went in and those initial walls went up. There was so much more space than we were used to, it was like an aircraft hanger! Especially when you’ve got these big glass walls which are three metres high. You don’t realise it on paper but when you see them in real life they’re huge, it’s amazing.
Kat: It was only when the windows went in that we realised quite how high the ceilings were. The back was already opened up so we thought putting the glass in wouldn’t change the scale that much but suddenly when I saw Dom standing next to them I was like, “Oh my god, they’re huge!” When the windows went in the house was sealed up again, so we got our first sense of what it would be like when it was finished.
How did you feel when you saw the finished thing?
Dom: Because we were here so much we never quite had that final reveal moment. We saw it in so many stages that it felt very gradual, even after we moved in we were still doing work ourselves.
Kat: The closest we got to that wow factor was when they put the floor in. The house had to be emptied while it dried so it was the first time we got to see it without all people and equipment and coverings. I popped down to the site when it was empty and took a peak and that was my moment of, “Oh my gosh, that looks amazing!” Suddenly I saw it completely open and could see all the space and the clean lines they had been designing.
Dom: What’s amazing is that the design that John scribbled on the back of the envelope was probably about 90% of what the final layout was.
What have you found to be the biggest change living in a contemporary, open plan house?
Dom: Less clutter. There are still toys everywhere but we’ve got plenty of built in storage, which we didn’t have in the old house at all. You can put that stuff away and it’s all hidden until you open the cupboard.
Kat: You’ve got different views from wherever you sit in the house.
Dom: It’s a very pleasant place to be wherever you are.
Kat: Because there’s that transition from old to new and the glass opening up to the garden, each area feels distinct while still being part of this big, open plan space. From the kitchen you can see all the way through into the playroom where the kids are, which you couldn’t in our old, two-up-two-down house.
It must be very useful to be able to keep an eye on the children.
Dom: Particularly in the ground floor where the bulk of the changes took place it’s a very nice family area, it’s very open, full of light. It’s a real luxury to have all that space to mess around with and play on, plus it’s a great house for hide and seek.
Has doing this work given you a bug to do more or are you content just to sit back and relax for now?
Kat: No, it’s given as a bug. We’re hoping to build a garage/pool/gym type area to the side of the house. We’re in the process of trying to draw up some plans at the moment, again with Dyer Grimes Architecture.
Dom: We keep looking at things to see what we could get involved with, thinking, “What else could we do?”
Kat: But probably slightly smaller scale next time.
Dom: It’s definitely given us a huge appetite to do more, to be honest, and at one stage we didn’t even have the enthusiasm for the one project that we were doing. It’s completely swung around again, though perhaps we’ve learned nothing!