Tuesday, 30 March 2010

the show part 2

I have two poorly little people at home so this post has been delayed - many apologies. And if any one knows why my babies are always ill and how I can make them more robust do let me know. I blame the fact that Min didn't go to nursery when she was little, so is only just getting all the school bugs that the others have already had........hey ho.

Anyway I promised some of the stranger/funnier show stories. And I thought it would be interesting to give you a run down of the 'popular' themes

Show Story No. 1
Now, most of the people we meet at these shows are lovely, and simply want to know a bit more about the work we do or could do. Some are just starting and others may already have planning but they tend to be very nice people.
But every year, without fail, we get at least one from the 'what wood do you use' category (there is a clue in our name.......). And Mr 'What Wood Do You Use' (it is always a man, sorry for the generalisation) normally comes with his friend Mr 'I Could Have Done it Better Myself' for a day trip - they have no intention of self building - EVER.

This year we had a few - 'Is It Real Wood' visitors (they always knock or kick the frame for some reason) but no Mr 'WWDYU' - and I was beginning to think that without the inevitable visit from an awkward pair of amateur wood workers we would be jinxed for the year.......until Sir 'You've Built this Wrong' and family made their way to poor Trudy.
He duly pointed out that bits of the show stand weren't structurally necessary, that we had over sized the beams, that there were too many rafters, that we could omit at least 8 braces.

Trudy was very polite and smiled at all the right places and waited for the tirade to finish - I don't even know if she had chance to explain that the stand was just designed to look pretty and that taking out the oak frame sort of defeated the exercise, before they moved on to the next victim. What a funny way to spend a day out.

Show Story No 2.
I think we did about 6 radio and TV interviews on the stand - ranging from discussions about the NEC venue (random?) to a very personal in depth account of my fathers architectural background and Border Oak's bank balance. Of course we haven't seen or heard any of the interviews since. But I think the strangest was the man who told me he had been waiting for me for hours (I didn't know anything about it) and who told me I had a very serious face and that I didn't smile much and that it was quite depressing (for him?? what about me?!) I appreciated the advice, all pretty useful and he seemed like a nice man who's heart was in the right place - but it was a bloody radio interview.......

Show Story No 3
After a long day at the NEC we normally head back to the hotel and have a lemonade - and we usually meet the same group from PolyPipe who also stay at the same hotel each year. And they love to banter and crack a few jokes and tease us terribly about pretty much anything - but this year the funniest thing happened - and it may just be my cruel sense of humour that found it hysterical- when the boss of PP came to rejoin our group and sat down only to discover that there was no chair. You had to be there.

Most popular houses types 2010
1. Pearmain Cottage - but all sorts of variations (brick, stone, Arts and Crafts, single storey etc etc)
2. Large farmhouses - more organic and evolved looking than manor houses, but just as big
3. Weatherboarded barns - both vernacular and contemporary.

The most interesting element for me was that there was no 'outright' favourite house type - people seemed to love the idea of variety and flexibility - mixing different materials, using traditional proportions and blending 'modern' influences into the vernacular style.
Hopefully because we do so many different things and can use any construction discipline to best suit the individual circumstance it means our unique flexibility and 'complete build' package can deliver great bespoke solutions no matter where or what.

oh boy, what a long and rambling post?? Normal service resumes tomorrow? sorry!

p.s These are all just a few random pictures from my desktop - no particular theme or reason just houses we have recently built or are currently building.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

2010 NEC Show

Well, sigh, after all the hard work the annual Homebuilding show is over for another year.

And what a year it was - probably one of the busiest shows we have had, with so many lovely people and lots of fabulous projects. It is almost impossible to say how many houses you may have 'sold' during a show like this, for us it's not really about selling anything at all - but it is great to show people what we can do and to hear their thoughts and dreams. And it is always heartening to see that oak framing holds an enduring appeal for people well into the 21st Century.

We had lots and lots of great compliments about the stand and our displays - some from our 'competitors'  - some from past and present clients (it was especially wonderful to see you) and others from people just embarking on the idea of self build. I personally really love chatting to so many different people with all sorts of budgets and backgrounds. Thank you so much for stopping by and we will now work hard to get back to all of you who left your details. 

The star attraction was, by far and away, our incredible oak framed scaled model, made by Nathan (my cousin and one of our fabulous oak frame erectors who unfortunately broke his leg a few months ago). Based on one of our bespoke barn designs it really does have to be seen to be believed. 

Perfectly scaled and detailed it drew smiles from children and grown ups alike and provided a very realistic insight into a mini building project. Nathan toiled for months and months, making virtually everything himself, from the underfloor heating pipes to teeny tiny oak pegs.  The attention to detail and  craftsmanship was much admired (especially by our friends at Oakwrights  - hello Tim, who assures me he follows this blog closely!) and hopefully illustrates how unique craftsmanship and skill is at the very heart of Border Oak - machines can't do stuff like that!

After a safe return journey the model is  now on display in the office - a photo is below.

Here are a few of the stand pictures taking before the crowds arrived. I have some more to upload and will add them tomorrow with some of the best/weirdest/funniest stories of the show itself.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The NEC action - as it happens......

Ed (the project manager) has emailed these pics to the office to show us the progress of the stand at the NEC - Steve the erector must have worked his socks off because it is pretty much finished! Just the oak rafters to add by the looks of things. 

It already  looks great so please come along and see for yourself - the transformation over the next day or so will be incredible once we have added all our lovely pics and bits and bobs, I think everything on the list has been delivered and packed now. 

I think I could do with some giant Border Oak logos to go on the gable ends of the frames though........but with less than 24 hours notice I may be struggling!

Homebuilding & Renovating Show - NEC Birmingham - 18th - 21st March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Pearmain Cottage

It's hard to believe that we weren't sure if the Pearmain Cottage concept would be popular.

It all started in 2001 when Ben and I were struggling get get planning approval for a Border Oak cottage on our plot in rural Herefordshire - the planners didn't want us to used exposed oak externally as we were next to a listed oak frame and they thought it would be 'visually confusing'. So my Dad pulled out one of the sketches that he had filed away under 'concept'. 
It was worth a try..........and yep the planners loved it, Grand Designs filmed it, magazines featured it (I don't know if I will ever live down the Elizabethan costume shoot, oh lord, the neck ruffle.......) and by some miracle people liked it and bought them.

Here is one of the recent additions to the Pearmain family - what a beautiful , happy ending to a planning conundrum.....

mind your manors

I often while away a spare moment or two by day dreaming of my perfect house - and yet every day I imagine a different type of house. I would normally consider myself a decisive person so why can't I settle on the dream home? How annoying. There are just too many to chose from. I surrender.

I lurch from a sleek contemporary barn with a catalogue of needless gadgets, to the sweetest country cottage complete with foxgloves and rambling roses ( a new oak framed one of course, or, at the very least, one with extension potential). 

In my more extreme day dreams I am ensconced in a palatial mansion - the type with a designated room for every imaginable pastime. I am talking sitting room, snug, family room AND drawing room. Pantry, larder, wine cellar, laundry, boot room AND utility room. Office, library, study AND home cinema. Nothing less than 8 bedrooms with attached spas for each.
And then I get woken up by Gabriel driving into my leg with his retro style ride on.

But there are some lucky souls who do get the dream - and Border Oak do build some rather lovely manor houses.

unusual red render - the middle gable will be glazed throughout

It is hard to even describe the size of this house we are building - ginormous as Minerva would say

fancy chimneys

A more reasonable sized home? 8 bedrooms I think..........

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Tonight's the night

If you watch BBC2 tonight (Wednesday 4th March) 5.15pm (I think) you will see a Border Oak house on a programme called 'Escape to the Country' - well we have been told it is on tonight but these things to have a tendency to change.

This is the house they have a look around, it's very cute and the owners worked so very hard literally building pretty much the whole house themselves. Amazing. 
I'm looking forward to having a channel other than Ceebeebies on for a change.