Grand designs - from furniture to cutting-edge homes

  Posted: 15.05.19 at 09:58 by Ashley Dennis, Ash Design (Rutland)



I have spent most of my life breaking with convention, so rather than start at the beginning I will start somewhere in the middle.

My passion is design and I graduated with a First Class honours degree in furniture design from Loughborough in 1991. I have successfully run my own business and won awards for my designs.

As a designer my passion has always been houses and so in 2015 Ash Design, based in Oakham, was born and I moved away from furniture to houses.

I had often watched Sarah Beeny on TV and thought ‘I could do that. Only better’. So my first project was a small terrace house in Oakham, which I gutted, extended and added the Ash Design stamp.

This quickly followed onto my second project another, but this time larger, terrace house in Oakham which was taken back to bare brick and given the 'Grand Designs' treatment.

As a designer it quickly became apparent that the traditional building industry was not for me.

So there was only one thing for it. All future projects had to be new builds where I had full control from day one.

Which leads me onto my current project - two contemporary three-bedroom semis in Kings Road, Oakham.

It hasn't been plain sailing as it took pretty much 18 months to get planning approval, but that’s all part of life’s great learning curve.

We are looking to break ground on the project towards the end of this month and are aiming to get them finished within six to seven months.

Although pretty hands-on, I am the first to admit I am not a builder, in the traditional sense.

But these aren't traditional houses. Within the constraints of the Rutland County Council's planning I have gone as contemporary as I could get away with.

Good design is not only about how something looks. It’s about how it works and functions. A well-designed home should be a space that energises, inspires and connects with the owners.

And as a designer I see a house as a product and apply the same attention to detail and set of rules - just on a bigger scale.

Space is paramount and the Kings Road semis both have a spacious, open-plan, contemporary living area and a large kitchen area with breakfast island.

Unlike many new semis of this size, they also has a good-sized lounge and there's a dining area that connects to the garden through large bi-fold doors.

My pet hate is houses advertised as having three bedrooms, but some of them aren't even big enough to swing a cat (not that I would ever want to).

My policy is, if it can't fit a king size bed then it's not big enough to be called a bedroom. This is a principle I will stick to on all my new-builds.

For me, the pièce de résistance is the stunning cantilever floating staircase with glass banister.

Construction materials, safety and energy-saving are also key to the new homes' design.

They will be built from Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) which is up to 70% more energy-efficient compared to standard construction. Resulting in much lower energy bills.

This is complemented by low energy underfloor heating throughout the ground floor. Again resulting in lower energy bills.

A state-of-the-art fire suppression system will be fitted downstairs. So if a fire breaks out, high-tech infrared detectors identify the hot spot and direct high pressure mist onto it. Every new house should have these. They save lives.

I could go on, but if you are interested, then the homes are on the market with James Sellicks, in Oakham.

The Kings Road semis are just the start but, I feel as far as starts go, it’s pretty good.

My intention now is that all my future new-builds will be zero energy homes, so well-designed they virtually require no energy to run them.

Integrate this with solar panels and battery storage and you have a house that over a 12-month period costs nothing to run. Or, even better, actually makes you money.

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