Client’s Case Study at our Martinstown house takes us to, Self-builders Ciaran & Catherine. They give us an insight into what it’s like to build your own grand designs.
Why did you decide to build your dream home?
We were given the opportunity to build beside my parents. While it has always been a dream to build my own house I didn’t expect the opportunity to arise so soon! As the plot is on family land we felt we really needed to honour the site and ensure that the house would be a home for life.
How did you come about Slemish Design Studio?
I had seen some of their work online and I liked the style of architecture. When I went to meet Steven and Joe I felt we clicked and would work well together, they are both really lovely guys and I felt that we had really similar taste in material finishes and designs. They were really supportive throughout the building process and really approachable.
When putting your brief together, what was top of the list?
My list was about 4 pages long! I was careful not to impose limitations on what they could create but I outlined how I wanted the house to ‘feel’ and work as a home. Some priorities were that I wanted to be able to reach the gardens from any point in the house. I wanted to be able to see through the house to the view upon entry. I liked single storey buildings and courtyards and I wanted a contemporary house which borrowed from the local vernacular.
What is your must-have feature you wouldn’t compromise on?
As with most things in life budget can dictate how a project becomes a reality. There are always compromises to be made! One thing I was determined we would include is black timber cladding and I am so glad we did as I love the finish.
How have/did you found the experience so far.
Many people say building a house is the most stressful experience of their lives but I genuinely loved it. I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to build my own house and I really tried to relish every moment, there is nothing quite like poring over the plans for your home or visiting the site as the design drawings become real walls and windows. I remember seeing my views framed for the first time by walls and realising that this was what I would wake up to every morning!
What was your favourite part of the process?
I find it really difficult to pick just one, I so enjoyed the process of working with the architects, liaising with the builder, designing the kitchen etc. I suppose having the opportunity to work with people who are passionate about their jobs was the best part.
During the whole process, what did you find the worst
As this was going to be a ‘forever home’ I got myself tied up in knots about where to prioritise budget. There are very important decisions to be made in terms of the spec of the house as insulation/windows/roof decisions can only be made once. We had to really wrangle with this to ensure the budget was allocated sensibly. In the end, we decided to invest in the ‘bones’ of the house and accept that certain aspects such as the landscaping and some rooms would have to wait until after we moved in.
Have you used anything different such as MVHR/Eco etc in your house
We installed a BEAM MVHR house, invested in a deep cavity and lots of insulation in the walls and roof, the windows are triple glazed and while we currently use oil for our underfloor heating, long term we will explore more eco-friendly options like a heat pump.
How would you describe your project
It was a pleasure to plan and build and is a pleasure to live in.
Have you any tips for any future self-builders
Just really enjoy it, make sure you have a positive mindset towards the project. Choose your architect carefully and encourage them to push the envelope with your brief a little. Remember they have trained to create new and exciting buildings. Look at lots and lots of architecture online and challenge your tastes. I read that your taste will change every 5 years.
The builder will make or break your experience, do your research and speak to past clients to check out how the houses they have built are standing the test of time and how they found the builder to work with. I struck gold with John (ESTCO LTD). I would build another house in the morning but only if I knew John would be my builder, he was wonderful.