Progress & status update - we’re onsite! But we’re not building just yet…Read More
This excellent little digger is onsite with us today digging trial pits for some more information about what kind of foundations we’re going to use.
We have concluded missives and have an official entry date of July 1st - that’s next week! Our static caravan arrives on the 2nd. Unfortunately we might not have water until the end of the month though - URK! BYOWB at our place! (Bring your own water bottle).
We are planning to do as much of this build ourselves as possible. We’ve been working towards an ideal scenario in which we have enough passive income to get us by, whilst we work on the house for a minimum of 6 months, and up to about 12 months. We have a two year window to build in, once we start…or else the council will come get us, WAH!
Ben and I have designed the house ourselves based on work we’ve both done in the past. Ben has 2 years of traditional post and beam timber frame building - he’s also a SketchUp whizz. He can make just about anything and we’ve built up quite an impressive tool collection over the last year or so. I’m an ex Sims-addict (not really sure I need much more experience than this to be quite honest), I worked as a 3D modeller at GSA’s Digital Design Studio (now the School of Simulation and Visualisation) for 2 years modelling and texturing Stirling Castle, Rosslyn Chapel and New Lanark, to name a few. We have been playing around with drawings and 3D designs ever since we met. We travel quite a bit and try to stay in interesting and unusual places when we go.
We’ve obviously watched a tonne of Grand Designs, Stay Here, Homes for Under 100k, everything with Sarah Beeny and the rest… I had never considered straw bale as a building material for our house until one of the architects we have been consulting with mentioned it. Chris Morgan of John Gilbert Architects gave us some exciting ideas with regards to building materials and heating systems. He lectures at GSA on heating systems and we’re hoping we’ll get some more consultation with him before we start the build! It was really great to chat to someone who really got where we were coming from, and who seemed to have a lot of confidence in us, wahooop!
So I jumped online, and as luck would have it, there was a straw building course running that very week at the School of Simulation and Visualtion at the art school (!) Perfect timing! We contacted Allan from The School of Natural Building right away and asked if there was room for us. He said yes indeed, and that Barbara Jones would be leading the course. We had seen Barbara on YouTube and were reminded of a couple of brilliant Grand Design episodes where they used straw bales for the walls and insulation. We re-watched those, then nipped down to The Hub at Pacific Quay for the course last Friday.
So, so interesting and brilliant to meet 15-20 other builders, some of whom who have land already, others looking for land, others looking for advice on renovations, others just generally interested in natural building. We had a great day hosted by Eileen and Barbara who answered all our questions and made all of this feel really achievable and real!
Now for how to manage the weather if we choose this inexpensive, natural path. Barbara told us there is a Straw Bale Goddess looking out for her, and that they’ve never been rained off yet - I’m just not sure that Goddess would travel to Maryhill in Glasgow, hmmm…..!!!! The lime rendering can be entirely ruined by frost, so ideally rendering would be complete by September. Eek. Let’s see….
We are currently looking at running these courses on the site:
Straw Bale Building
Lime & Clay Rendering
Car Tyre or Plinth Wall Foundations
There has been a lot of interest already - we just need to do a bit more research with our lenders and the other peeps in charge… But we shall keep y’'all posted.
Please fill in the form on our contact page if you’re interested in coming to build as a volunteer or attending one of the courses this summer.
I used to lie in bed scrolling through Right Move on Saturday mornings. I love looking at what’s out there. A few months after Ben had moved in to my place in Fergus Drive in Glasgow, I was doing just that and I scrolled upon a real mess of a property. I angled my phone at Ben and said something like, “Look at the state of this place…” He took a look and commented on how big the rooms were. A few weeks later Ben suggested we go check out the area that scabby old flat was on, just to see.
Driving down Millbrae Crescent feels like driving on to the set of a movie. We were gob-smacked - really! I couldn’t believe this beautiful street was hiding only a few minutes drive from a street I lived on as a kid, in Newlands, just down the road. I had driven past it a hundred times on my way to school… So we slowly rolled along the cobbles, peering in to the beautiful Greek Thomson town houses on the opposite side. Then we spotted a Clyde car, outside number 7. Yeah! I nipped inside and sure enough the agent was there showing a couple around. He invited us in to look around too, and told us there had been “a lot of interest.” We didn't say much inside, we just looked around, up and down, asked a couple of questions. And then we went outside, the car drove away and we just stared at each other.
What followed was a couple of months of madness - probably not worth regurgitating, but a series of EXTREMELY fortunate events led us to our dream renovation project, and Millbrae is now a place we call home!
We both took 3 months off work and did everything ourselves, bar the plumbing and electrics.
I would wake up at 6am most mornings and start work on filtering through my Gumtree alerts for “square tiles”, “vintage taps”, “4 poster beds”, “range-style cookers”… Then I would rake through the auction catalogues for anything that might work for us. We took trips to the incredible Steptoe’s Yard in Montrose a couple of times, filling up with odds and ends - old cistern brackets, hooks, pans, all sorts of things. I would find an image in Pinterest, show it to Ben, then we would visit these places and eventually something would emerge in the flat - totally unique and made for a no cash at all!
We designed our kitchen from scratch. The room that would become the kitchen had nothing in it except a stand alone sink, which we took away as quick as we could as it was in a really bad way - like everything else in the place! Ben created the kitchen layout and design in SketchUp then built the cupboards from scratch. I ordered the handles from Etsy. Ben’s friend Lewis came around to help us pour the concrete tops. We’re so very proud of it! We kept the original single pane wooden sash windows - too beautiful (and expensive) to get rid of, and I made some thick, blackout curtains - who needs double glazing! (Possibly us, now that we’ve learned so much about efficiency and how much energy we are wasting!!)
We’re still finalising and chipping away at the place, but it really is a crazy transformation… Hopefully these before and after pictures do our work justice!
J & B