(Apologies in advance for the quality of my photos – they were taken over 10 years ago with a camera phone which was not of the quality we have today)
Many people dream of self-building their own home and we have been lucky enough to have been able to do this not once, but twice!
Our first was a bungalow which we completed back in 1997 (the same year we were married) This would seem like a lot to take on at the same time but as our wedding took place in Rome with just the two of us, it made things a little easier.
– Our First Home –
After a number of years in the bungalow we started to get itchy feet. Our children had started to arrive and we felt that the house wasn’t as suited to family life as we had thought when it was just the two of us. We added on an extension of a large, open plan Living/Dining Room to our kitchen and for a while we were happy with this. Feargal had taken riding lessons as a child and had always dreamt of having his own horse one day. Our current home, while on a site of over an acre wouldn’t have been big enough to keep a horse on. So, we came up with the idea of looking for some land in order that we could build the house of our dreams while having space for horses, stabling and perhaps other animals.
By chance, we found out about a farmer who was selling a 9 acre field not too far away from where we were living (in the same Parish) which sounded perfect. We approached him, went to see it and he was happy to sell to us. We took a chance in buying the field as agricultural land with no planning permission in the hope that we could secure this. It was tough for a time paying both our mortgage on the house and the loan on the land but our intention was that when we got around to selling our bungalow, that it would pay for the field and also the house we intended building.
– Looking from the road up the hill to where our house now stands –
For a time, we were happy just to take a drive every now and then to ‘visit’ the field but there are only so many times you can do this before you want to start taking action!! Anyone who has gone through a planning process will know how long and drawn out this can be. Feargal is a Building Surveyor so luckily he knew the system and was also able to draw up our plans. The first plans we submitted were turned down flat. A big blow at the time as of course I had also started thinking about interiors for the style of house we had hoped to build. Back then, if you saw something you liked in a magazine you had to cut it out and keep it (not like today where you can just save it to your board in Pinterest). I had put together a paper folder of my ideas which all had to be changed too. The Planners considered that our first plans weren’t in keeping with the vernacular of the area so we literally had to go ‘back to the drawing board’.
Looking back now, we are so glad to have been refused the first time as this made us look around us to see what it was in local houses that we liked. There are lots of old farm houses scattered throughout the countryside in Ireland. They are so simple in design and yet I don’t feel like they have dated at all. We decided to go with something very traditional and simple in style – a sort of upmarket farmhouse if you like!! So, Feargal sat back at the computer, with me at his side every evening. We spent a lot of time planning the layout, window style, the rooms we wanted and house size (I kept pushing to go a little bigger and in typical man fashion, he kept referring to the extra cost!!)
Eventually, we came up with the plan for the house we have today and it sailed through planning. This was when our journey really took off…
– Site Cleared and Ready to Start –
– Foundations are in and we have a floor –
I hope this first instalment will be of interest to many of you – some who are thinking of building, those who have already built (and remember all of these various stages during your own self-build!) and those who would just be interested in seeing the work that goes into building a home. Its a process that can take some time and while there are stresses and snap decisions to be made, at the end of the day, the results more than pay off. I remember thinking when we moved in that it was like child birth. When you are in the middle of it you say ‘never again’ but then once its all over and you look back, you think it wasn’t all that bad!!