Build your dream home with your PC

Whether you're building a mansion or just adding a loft extension, we show you why your PC is a vital resource

23 Feb 2012


Michael Kelly runs an online business and recently decided to build his own home. "We'd been planning to move, but it was proving impossible to find something that had the right layout of rooms, was in the right area and wasn't way out of our budget. We'd only vaguely considered the prospect of building, but when a plot with outline planning permission in the perfect location came up, it seemed to be the best – and probably only – way to deliver everything we wanted. There were obvious downsides – the time and effort, the disruption to our lives, the risk of costs spiralling out of control – but the benefits of having a house designed and built exactly as we wanted it was very tempting."

Kelly started by looking at the plans submitted to the council as part of the outline planning permission, and began sketching out ideas to see how he might use the space.

"The outline permission was just for a small bungalow. I contacted the person at the estate agent who drew up these plans, and also the planning officer who granted permission, and it was clear that the design was put together purely to get the permission and that there was scope to change it. However, there were various limitations because of the small plot size, and not overlooking the neighbours' gardens was an issue too.

Build your dream home with your PC

Michael Kelly used an illustration package to experiment with internal layout plans within the tight confines of the building footprint

"Initially I worked within the dimensions of the approved design, but it wasn't big enough to fit everything in. I tried dozens of other ideas out, gradually moving internal and external walls around. I did this using Xara Photo & Graphic Designer [an illustration package] as this made it easy to duplicate a design and try something different without having to start from scratch each time.

"Just as I arrived at a design I was happy with, I met an architect through a friend who kindly offered to take a look at what I'd done. I knew I'd need an architect's help at some point, but his input proved more valuable than I anticipated at this early stage.

"He identified a number of problems, one of which was that the bedrooms were disconnected, with two bedrooms leading directly off the living room. I'd done this to minimise corridors, which I saw as wasted space, but on reflection I can see how people won't want to have to walk across the living room to get to the bathroom. Rather than presenting me with a list of criticisms, he came up with an alternative design that addressed these issues.

"There were a few positive elements to my design that I felt were lost in his version, but as I proceeded to explore further possibilities that combined the two, I kept finding my way back to something that very closely resembled his design. That was really useful for me, partly because it reinforced my confidence in his ideas, but also because it helped me get under the skin of what he'd come up with."

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