After responding to an ad from estate agents King and Chasemore, Mr and Mrs Dawson viewed a plot of land in the small village of Ditchling, a lovely village nestled at the foot of the South Downs. They instantly fell in love with the area, as well as the land’s potential, and made an offer, which was promptly accepted.
The plot had full planning permission for a 3300 sq. ft Sussex-style house. Planning permission had been gained some time ago, and styles had changed considerably. Having a large family, Mr and Mrs Dawson wanted to live within a house that was much more open plan and suited to their family needs.
When the couple spoke to the planner officer over the phone about their ideas, he laughed. He said that he would not be particularly happy with a mock Georgian home on this plot. Both parties came to the agreement that great care would have to be taken when selecting the external materials. The detailing would need to be authentic, too.
Agreeing to meet with the planner once the plans had been drawn up (and bring samples of their intended materials), Mr and Mrs Dawson set to work on the design. They thought this would be simple, as Georgian homes are typically boxy and symmetrical – but what they didn’t realise is that Georgian windows are placed in particular positions and cannot be changed, so rooms in these properties need to be entirely designed around these features.
Eventually, after getting to grips with these design challenges, the duo designed a Georgian home over three floors with 5 bedrooms and four bathrooms. Their plans covered the same area as a previous application.
The planning officer was genuinely impressed with what they had designed and said he much preferred it to the original application. Although not giving too much away, he said he didn’t see there being much of a problem and that it should go through on delegated powers, which meant it would not have to go back to a committee meeting.
Planning permission was granted for the design in mid-July.
As mentioned previously, the symmetrical appearance of the three-storey Georgian-style home determined the internal layout, as window positions were fixed. Two of the five bedrooms and two ensuite bathrooms were to be located on the top floor under the eaves, and the master suite was to be positioned on the first floor.
Benjamin Allen commenced with the groundworks and drainage in September 2009. The groundworks involved the construction of pad and beam foundations, with a block and reinforced concrete beam floor installed on top. Once the groundworks had been completed, we erected the timber frame structure, which was finished within just three weeks.
One of the main benefits of using a timber frame is being able to work on the inside of the build, even if the weather outside is dire. Partition walls were put up to create rooms, and suddenly, Mr and Mrs Dawson could begin to visualise the layout of their new home.
The client opted for Flemish bond brickwork. This bond was used for this style of house and it is considered to be one of the strongest forms of construction – but it is a little more complicated to work with, because there is a half brick for every brick. 10,000 cuts were carried out by a brick cutting company. The same firm also created the arches for the window, then pointed them up onsite for a neat finish.
Whilst the brickwork was being completed on the external skin, Mr and Mrs Dawson commenced the installation of the plumbing, electrics, plasterboard, and tape and jointing in preparation for the decorations. They decided on marble in the hallway and polished marble for the bathrooms and ensuites.
The client chose to spray finish the house from top to bottom, ensuring the ceilings were a consistent white and a very pale grey shade was applied to all the walls. It was a quick means of decorating the whole house (after masking up the electrics and first fix electrics, of course); the first two coats were completed within just 2 days, so the final coat could be carried out by hand.
In June 2010, Mr and Mrs Dawson completed the house and arranged to move in. The team worked right up to the wire, fitting the curtains and blinds the day before handover – but the couple collected the keys as planned.
They named The Moat House as such because of the stream that runs along the perimeter of the plot.
We consider The Moat House to be a flagship Georgian home design for Benjamin Allen. It has inspired many new clients to build similar properties with the same high-quality materials, as they can see the quality of finish in this project.