06 Sep 2021

The Self-Build Diaries: Graeme & Amanda Hogg

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For Scottish husband and wife Graeme and Amanda Hogg, creating a home that met the needs of busy family life was at the top of their wish list when looking to move. So, when the pair stumbled across a picturesque plot amidst the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire, they let their creativity run wild. The fruits of their labour, Mack Lodge – a contemporary black-larch-and-white-render self-build home that sports beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the view – is more than fit for family life.

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In this month’s Q&A, i-Build’s Editor, Rebecca Kemp, talks to Amanda Hogg about family life at Mack Lodge. Here, she briefly discusses the behind-the-scenes design and build processes that have provided a striking home for her, Graeme, their two daughters, 11-year-old Laila and nine-year-old Lucie, grey cat, Kiki, and fox-red pup, Indie.

RK: What inspired you to embark on your own project rather than buying?
AH: The opportunity to build something to suit our everyday living.

RK: What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?
AH: We wanted something spacious and full of natural light – and to make the most of the views that our plot offered.

RK: How did you approach finalising your design brief?
AH: We designed our home from the inside out – in terms of the space and rooms we wanted, and it took shape from there.

RK: Did your project need to cater for any special requirements?
AH: We did want to have a high energy efficiency rating.

RK: How and why did you choose this plot?
AH: Not only was it in the area we were looking in, but it is also had a large south-facing plot with great views of the rural landscape.

RK: How long did it take to gain planning permission?
AH: Altogether, planning permission took around 12 to 15 weeks.

RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?
AH: It was our first venture into house building. So, many lessons have been learnt along the way. That said, overall, the process went smoothly.

RK: Did you project manage the build yourself?
AH: Due to time and work commitments, we decided on a custom build with project management through our main contractor.

RK: Did you work with an architect at any point in the process?
AH: Yes, they helped us with the design process and completed our planning and building warrant drawings.

RK: How did you approach material and product specification?
AH: We looked at many different houses to see what materials we liked and narrowed it down to our final choices.

RK: Did you install any renewable systems?
AH: Yes, we have an air source heat pump and solar panels (including Tesla battery storage).

RK: How does the property respond to passive house principles?
AH: It’s a highly energy-efficient house with a rating of ‘A’.

RK: How long did the project take?
AH: It took 12 months from planning to the completion of the build; and the build itself took 20 weeks.

RK: Did you remain within the original budget?
AH: We stayed within 5% of our budget. Our choices (kitchens and bathrooms mainly) dictated higher costs than our budget.

RK: Please provide an overview of the finished space.
AH: We wanted this to feel very spacious and light. We like things relatively neutral and add colour where it’s needed. We have a large entrance hall with floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the views. This leads into our open-plan kitchen/living area, where we spend a lot of our time. In the hall area, we have incorporated some internal stonework sourced from a local quarry. This stonework is also continued on the outside of the property, encasing our large feature window in our hallway. Other rooms downstairs include a playroom for our girls and a snug/TV room, a comfortable area to spend time in. We have completed some wood panelling in various spaces (the hallway and master bedroom), which adds some texture and warmth, and have polished concrete floors throughout the downstairs. We wanted upstairs (mainly the bedrooms) to feel more cosy and homely. As such, the rooms are all light with light grey carpets. Outside, we opted for clean off-white K Rend mixed with some black larch cladding and stonework.

RK: What was your vision for the garden?
AH: Our garden has a sloped area and another flat area at the bottom, so from the house, it looks like the garden flows into the field in front, which is nice. We have many ideas for our garden; we want to build a patio/seating area with some screening at the side to make the most of the evening sun. We also want to add some flower/bedding areas to add some colour. The garden isn’t very established yet, but we have a large grass area and some wildflower sections with trees. The garden is next year’s project!

RK: What does the local community think of the new property?
AH: There were no objections when it came to building, and it’s in keeping with the other houses around us.

RK: Is the final property everything that you hoped it would be?
AH: Yes definitely, I think when you move in and start living in it, that’s when it becomes your home and not just a drawing of a house that you have been looking at on paper for the last six months. The layout of our home really works for us as a family.

RK: What’s your favourite thing about your new home?
AH: We love the open-plan area; it’s our favourite, we spend a lot of our time in it as a family, and it’s a great entertaining space.

RK: Is there anything that you would have done differently?
AH: The only thing we would have done differently was to add a balcony.

RK: Would you do the whole thing again?
AH: Yes, we’re already planning our next one!

RK: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to self-build?
AH: Spend time looking at different houses and designs to get ideas of what you like and choose a good architect as the design is the most critical area to get right; everything else follows from that. Be prepared to make a million decisions – and choices on things that you hadn’t even thought about! Have a budget but be prepared for costs to be more and choose your contractors carefully. It’s stressful at times, so having contractors you trust and get on with helps the process.

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