Christine stands her ground

“Despite retiring, Derek and Christine have no intention of slowing down. They want to move from Huddersfield to the south east of England but simply can’t afford the house prices. Their radical solution? At 71-years-old, Derek is attempting to build his first house from scratch.” from the BBC page.


One

I like housing programmes like The House That £100k Built. I’ve also been watching repeats of Building the Dream presented by Charlie Luxton who has learned to deal more graciously with his disappointment at couples not implementing his design ideas than he did in earlier programmes. Now he has learned to laugh about it and take it in his stride. Some you win, some you lose.

This is a lesson the architect Piers Taylor would do well to heed. As with the BTDream some suggestions are taken up and others ignored. In the most recent transmission where Derek and Christine were building a modest house in a village on the Kent/Sussex border, Piers couldn’t contain himself and berated the couple for not following his advice to make the whole house open plan.

Not content with explaining in a forceful way that rooms are a dated concept linked to the idea of heating a single space he shuts Derek up by putting his hand palm outwards in a pushing gesture that is borderline rude – in fact to me it was extremely rude – then continues haranguing them about their poor choice of layout.

To her eternal credit Christine is not fazed by him at all, she keeps quiet until the opportunity presents itself then very politely lets go with both barrels, see above.


Two

Let’s go back to the beginning and see what the couple have planned out. At about five minutes in it’s clear that they have embraced open plan design upstairs by avoiding an enclosed landing for the stairs with its corridor and doors and simply have the stairs landing in the upstairs living room. In fact the only wall is the one dividing the living room from the bedroom.

Still taken at 4m 57s

In Pier’s studio he and Kieran Long decide the kitchen needs a window (which the building subsequently gets) but Piers wants to be much more radical than that. He wants to swap the master bedroom and kitchen so the latter is next to the lounge and, in addition, go as far as he can to removing the wall between the two.

His anger when towards the end this hasn’t happened, is palpable.

A hint of what’s to come appears at about 16 minutes in when they are taken to see Mission Hall in Sussex which has an upstairs open plan kitchen / lounge in the modern style.

Knowalls

Ever the diplomat Christine responds to the idea put forward by Kieron (and Piers) that they should emulate the space they’ve just seen:-

“I think the way they have done it here has been in a very clever, innovative and beautiful way. Erm, but whether it would be applicable to us, I don’t know.”

When a planning hiccup causes Piers to pay a site visit there’s a wonderful exchange about the the kitchen window to be, after he’s been rude about their staircase. Has he forgotten they’re on a budget?

P: What you could do is put a lovely low window here, that did allow you to bring light in.

C: Right, if we’re going to the bother of cutting a hole in that and putting a window in, then I want a proper window that, being a tall person, I can see out of.

P: Fantastic. Whether it stops there or whether it’s there is up to you.

C: So we are in agreement on the window.

P: I think so.

C: Good! Well, it’s been a productive morning.

Later, not put off by failing to get his kitchen bedroom swap idea accepted Piers is trying to lose the one internal wall upstairs. D & C tactful as ever agree it’s an idea worth considering.

Cue visit to a London office with a coloured glass balustrade and a bus scrapyard.

They’ve run out of money so cue a visit to the Lotta Cole house that’s been furnished from odds and ends.


Three

As a contrast to this difficult programme I am full of admiration for the way Piers and Kieran helped Neil and Amanda to build a medieval style barn on a tiny budget of £50k in a village, without patronising them at all and more to the point without berating them for not doing the things that Piers wanted.


Four

At 49 minutes they go back to see the finished house. Derek has done his back in but Christine has got her kitchen window and what a joy it is. A window over the sink. I approve of that.

But thanks to Piers’ nagging,

Kieran Long: “Piers’ next big suggestion was to create a floor-to-ceiling wall of recycled coloured glass.”

Not your finest moment Piers

At this point Piers walks up few steps and peers down at them disdainfully like a stroppy teenager, for not having demolished their perfectly good dividing wall and replaced it with coloured glass.

Derek very calmly responds:-

“Your selling piece for that idea was to let more light into the bedroom. And we spent some considerable time sitting up in bed looking at different angles, sitting on the settee looking at different angles, and deciding that your idea actually didn’t add any extra light.

If you sit in the bed now and look out, you can see out of both windows without using your idea.”

“We will have to agree to disagree.” replies Piers.

At 50m 30s in though Piers loses it. Unable to contain his irritation at the couple choosing walls over open plan he launches into a tirade complete with abusive body language (hand palm outwards towards Derek) and lets fly with both barrels.

Derek calmly explains but Piers rudely stops him

Piers: “What’s interesting about contemporary architecture is that you don’t need to have rooms and the notion of rooms is a fairly traditional way of looking at a set of spaces, and it’s an inherited model of building, based around only heating small spaces and based around construction techniques.

But when you can do anything, you can have any configuration of spaces in the world, you end up with something that has rooms and the familiar language of a conventional house.”

Unconvinced and unperturbed by Pier’s tirade Christine responds . . .

“I like rooms. You made this point before, but I like rooms. I like the fact that Derek can go in that room, shut the door and I haven’t got to listen to his horrible music.”

I’ve got a lot of time for Derek and Christine by the end of this film. They won’t be browbeaten by either of them.

Upstairs it’s Kieran’s turn to express his disappointment at what Derek and Christine have done with their house.

Kieran: “But it doesn’t look like the modern interior they said they were aiming for. I think it’s really interesting that you’ve made this room the way you have, because you’ve created a wholly new house, from scratch, and this room, basically everything in it could have been any time from the last 40 years.

Like this is the eternal British living room, with a floral sofa and magnolia walls and Anaglypta ceiling and all of that in a brand-new house. And there’s something about it, for me, the key to which are these photos.

Because I look at this gallery and think, “This is really what you care about.” You want this to be cosy and nice, you want to have a nice view, but these are the things you’re creating a stage for, which is your social lives, your memories, all of those things. And this house is going to work like that.

It’s probably the room that’s most familiar to people watching this right now.”

Christine: “It is reproduced constantly. That means it’s what people want!

What do I think? I think Derek and Christine built the house they wanted despite the advice of Piers and Kieran Long – and the kitchen window? I think they would have put that in anyway.

Watch it yourself and see what you think.


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