When we decided to move back to Cornwall and renovate the coastal home where I grew up, I realised there would be a few surprises.
After all, we were totally pulling apart a 200-year-old cottage that had been in my family for eight generations.
This heritage is especially unusual when you consider that most of the properties in our beach-fronted road are now highly prized and pricy holiday homes.
Thankfully, my 80-year-old mum Barbara was up for the challenge and after 2 years of hard work we all moved in together, with my husband Mark, son Oliver and my media consultancy business in tow.
Little did I know that five years later we’d have a daughter, Evelyn, and be planning to build again.
The opportunity came thanks to a patch of land set just above our house, overlooking the cliff tops in the village of Porthleven.
My father, Ken, bought it long before Cornish living was the dream of the aspirational well-to-do and for more than 50 years gaining planning on the site proved impossible. He therefore filled it with hobbies. From duck-ponds to BBQ parties, boat sheds to aviaries – for me these were the stuff of my childhood dreams.
Now we want our youngsters’ childhoods to be filled with the freedom that Cornwall offers. And without a very hefty bank balance, it’s clear that self-building offers the opportunity to put down our own roots.
The plot is sizeable, with spectacular coastal views and after watching perhaps one to many home renovation shows we decided to take the plunge.
The question was where to start, what to build and in the end how to finance it?
The sloping cliff-top site presented a host of challenges. We knew that being based in a Conservation Area and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where views are highly prized, could make this a highly sensitive and controversial planning application.
The key was finding an architect who truly understood our needs. After meeting with many different firms, we found Chris Strike, a chartered architectural technologist and owner of RA Design, himself a local.
Taking this time to seek out the right architect – someone who knew the area and took time to get to know us – was incredibly worthwhile.
Chris’s approach was immediately reassuring. He guided us clearly through the steps required to come up with a design that worked, we could actually afford to build and crucially was likely to get approval.
In my next instalment of my self-build blog, I’ll be revealing how we came up with a design that maximises the plot’s potential!