Home of the month: elegant family home
PUBLISHED: 10:33 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:44 27 April 2017
After their newly-bought 1970s home cracked wide open, a couple with an eye to elegance and the environment embarked on a mission to create something new. Pat Bramley investigates Spring House in Little Gaddesden
The innovative architect David Kirkland was somewhat baffled by the reaction when he showed Omer and Belinda Kutluoglu his vision for their new house in Little Gaddesden.
At their initial meeting the three had agreed that the outward design should be as unobtrusive and traditional as possible, blending quietly into the woodland environment at Hudnall Common. Inside it would be a different story – an environmentally advanced home using forward-thinking technology to maximise its efficiency both ergonomically and in running costs.
‘We didn’t want an aggressively modern house that visually would be out of keeping with the surroundings nor one which pretended to be something it wasn’t – faux old. We wanted a classical design that would be timeless,’ Omer explains.
To commission the architect who was one of the principals at Nicholas Grimshaw – the practice responsible for London’s Waterloo Station and The Eden Project in Cornwall before he set up his own partnership, Kirkland Fraser Moor - is on a par with hiring a fashion designer who has worked for Chanel.
Omer can’t help laughing as he recounts what happened when the big reveal came as their esteemed architect showed them the outline drawings for the new house. Belinda was visibly upset. ‘David had come back to us with an Arts and Crafts house. “That’s not what I want,” Belinda said. “I want a Mr Man house.”’
The architect seemed unfamiliar with the genre. A what? he asked. ‘“A Mr Man house,” Belinda said. “You know – a door in the middle with a window either side and three windows across the top.”’
The Kutluoglus hadn’t expected to build a new house when they moved to the village near Berkhamsted with their young family. But the 1970s house they bought turned out to have what Omer describes as ‘serious structural issues’.
‘We went out to the cinema one evening and when we came back we asked the babysitter how the children had been. She said the children had been very good “but the house is not very good.” We went out to the hall, looked up, and you could see the stars through a split in the roof.’
The couple went to see the planning officer at Dacorum Borough Council who told them the house needed to be knocked down and rebuilt.
‘We told him we wanted to up the size and build an environmentally high performance house.’
It took a year to complete the design phase and get planning consent. And after the initial misunderstanding, their architect produced a design which met the brief in spades both for size – the house is more than 5,000 square feet – and design. It has the simple symmetry of Roger Hargreaves-designed Mr Man house (more Georgian elegance some might say) and sits well on the half-acre plot.
The white rendered main part of the house, seen from the private road that runs past it, is flanked on either side by single-storey wings clad in wood that run at right angles to the rear. This expansive family home, named Spring House, has seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, three principal reception rooms plus home office and games room. One of the wings is the housekeeper’s province with en-suite bedroom as well as a utility room, cloakroom and children’s playroom. The entrance ensures all outdoor clobber is deposited in the utility room and cloakroom and doesn’t end up in the main house. The other wing, with its two bedrooms (one en-suite) and a study, is the guests’ quarter.
On the lower ground floor is the 24-foot games room, a home office, laundry room and three store rooms. Masses of storage space was another priority for the Kutluoglus. Omer and Belinda have four children, three sons aged 12, 11 and four and a three-year-old daughter.
Either side of the main entrance hall, running through the centre of the ground floor are two rooms of the same size - 30 by 17 feet.
On the right is a kitchen/breakfast room designed by Belinda. She works in the food industry with some of the best names in the business, who wouldn’t put up with anything second rate at home. On the left is a drawing room/dining room.
Upstairs at the top of a central staircase are four double bedrooms and two bathrooms each with a bath and a shower cubicle. Omer and Belinda’s marble bathroom has twin basins, there’s a dressing room and wall-to-wall wardrobes. Their suite runs from the front to the back of the first floor.
The house has a steel super structure to support the weight of the concrete floors and staircases.
The property was constructed in 11 months by Essex-based Pendale Construction and completed on schedule in August 2012. The clients were as impressed by their builder as they were by the architect. ‘He was a brilliant chap, one of the old school. He arrived every day without fail at 6am and didn’t leave until 6pm, six days a week. And he expected his team to do the same. He never cut corners, nothing was too much trouble.’
The build cost including demolition was £1.6m.
Omer is passionate – an overworked word but true in his case – about the practical, financial and efficiency advantages of building in an environmentally-friendly way. He owns a company that specialises in recycling plastics and there isn’t much he doesn’t know about 21st century home technology.
‘The only energy bill for the house is electricity.’ he says. ‘It costs about £4,000 all in, including all electrical appliances. But against that we receive about £4,000 a year under the government’s renewable heat incentive programme.’ They are currently two years into the seven-year incentive.
The house is heated by a ground source system. Water is pulled up from an underground aquifer via a borehole which goes down 300 feet. The water comes up at 13 degrees, goes through one or two processes and the end result is enough water heated to 48 degrees to fill five baths simultaneously. The system also provides all the heating for the house. And it’s controllable digitally. All the systems vital to the smooth running of the home are accessible from a laptop or iPad, from the other side of the world if need be.
Underfloor heating combined with a high level of insulation result in an ambient temperature sustained at all times due to strategically positioned room sensors that send messages to ‘the brain’ of the house to adjust the heat accordingly, summer and winter, morning and night, whatever the temperature outside.
The sensors can be adjusted but the system is so effective and reliable, the owners haven’t touched the controls since they were installed.
To ensure the basement level never gets damp, the walls were constructed from poured waterproof concrete, which along with other components, will never let mould cause a whiff of concern.
All the important aspects for wellbeing in the house from the lighting (everything is pre-programmed), gas supply (a 2,500 litre LPG tank for cooker hobs and other needs is under the front lawn), the Fort Knox security system and external water supply (two hot taps are pre-mixed – one to wash the dog, another to fill children’s paddling pools plus four cold taps to water plants), has been researched exhaustively to find the right solution.
But as is so often the situation when homeowners have poured their heart and a small fortune into a house that matches their perfectionist standards, priorities change. New goals crop up. Spring House - with all its carefully thought-out solutions to modern living - is for sale at £2.75m through Savills in Harpenden.