Ascension, by Michael Moore

June’s Newsletter and this week’s links

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This month Carl is sharing another design video, this time remodelling a house in Cumbria, while I’m mixing up some 2024 design trends with art and builders – not a natural pairing I admit, but let’s go with it. Speaking of pairings, Lucy and I agree that the sparkling wine in this month’s trio would go well with fish & chips.

A Trip to the Lakes

A manor in Kendal, near the Lake District, perfect for running enthusiasts. (DALL-E)

I’ve had a break from terraced houses in Portsmouth this week and been on a virtual Rightmove tour to Kendal in Cumbria. The most expensive house listed in Kendal is £1.15m, which buys you a nice-looking manor house next to a river with two self-contained holiday lets on the grounds. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s good value for what you get.

A few years ago, I stayed in Kendal as a base for running up Lake District Fells. There is a good bus service into the heart of the Lakes, which I used each day to get me to Grasmere. The hotels are cheaper in Kendal as it’s not in the National Park, and the top deck of a double-decker is a great way to see the landscape each day. Kendal itself is a nice enough market town all built in the same grey limestone. I don’t remember too much about it other than the man in the running shop laughing at my nice new urban running shoes when I enquired about what he had that would stop me from slipping and sliding on the Fells. “Nobody ’round here runs in them things.”

The house I selected for this week’s Design for the Weekend looked appealing in the main picture. I clicked on it just to have a look at a nice house but found what is really a terrible floor plan. A bit of luck it gave me something to work on. The problem with many houses is not a lack of space but a selection of rooms that I wonder what one would do with. It’s a quantity over quality issue.

Sometimes, creating more volume, reducing floor area, and having fewer rooms is the way to go. I’ve removed floors to create double-height spaces a few times. Of course, this doesn’t suit every house, but there is a fantastic house in Old Portsmouth that benefited from this approach to remodelling. 

I had worked on the house next door previously, so I knew the issues when I went to see the new owner. I listened to what they wanted and then drew on an envelope a sketch that ended up being exactly what they built. The very low and dark basement became a double-height space with four-meter-high glazing to the garden, along with a mezzanine snug that looked over the kitchen and dining space. In this case, we added a new floor on the flat roof so the space that was lost was relocated to the roof where the ships moving in and out of the harbour were visible.

It’s amazing what a few lines on paper can become and how it can change someone’s life, both emotionally and financially. This is a testament to the value of design in transforming spaces and enhancing lives.

You can watch this week’s episode by clicking on the image below.

Art for art’s sake

Inside Out by Michael Moore

This week I popped into Southsea’s newest art gallery to see their current exhibition. The Box Gallery, on Castle Road, currently has an urban architecture-themed exhibition by artist Michael Moore. The work explores the warping reflections seen in city architecture and the unexpected beauty of urban spaces. I was especially taken with the image at the top of this newsletter, entitled Ascension.

The gallery opened just three months ago with the aim of promoting emerging and established artists, including local, national and international talent. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, drawings and mixed media pieces and will change from month to month.

Other featured artists include Suzie Edwards, who makes curiously tactile sculptures, and local artist, Pete Codling, most well-known for his giant charcoal drawings, intricate mosaics and for the Treadgold Fish installation on Southsea seafront.

Charlie Stevenson, co-owner and Manager, said that they want to bring art to Portsmouth that inspires, brings joy and appreciation but that will also will be an investment. “Art should make people feel something, that’s what its essence is. Everyone who comes in has something to say about one of the pieces and this is what I love about being a small local gallery.”

Keep an eye out for future exhibitions and events, including a live painting session in August by flamboyant Colombian artist, Carlos Delgado. Is Southsea ready for it? Bring it on!

Featured builder – Dominic Hearn, DH Builders Ltd

bedroom conversion by DH Builders
Bedroom as part of a renovation by DH Builders

“It’s not just about the job, it’s about the relationship with the client. Communication is key and it makes for happy clients and a happy life.”

Meet Dominic Hearne, builder – dad – teacher. Former teacher, that is. The man who spent almost a decade teaching engineering and carpentry to school and college-age kids, left the classroom for the building site and has never been happier. “I thoroughly enjoyed teaching for several years and I still get kick from passing on my knowledge. I’ve had several apprentices and helped them get their NVQs, and even had a young lad doing work experience for me.

“But I love everything about construction. I like starting a project, doing excellent work and seeing it all come together as a result of a job well done. I’ve got a great team who I’ve known for years, I like getting my hands dirty and I even like dealing with clients, probably because my approach works. I put a lot of value on that client relationship and building trust and confidence.”

Dominic has what might be a unique approach in that his contract sets out how communication on the project will be done and what clients can expect from him. He strongly believes that client and builder should be on the same page. “Both parties should be looking at the project from the same perspective and want the same outcome. It’s about being mindful of each other. I’m always mindful that for my client, the project represents the most money they’ll spend on anything, and it means everything.

He’s also known for his diligent paperwork, something he says is also left from his teaching days, so his clients always know where the project is against time and budget. If a customer asks for a change to the original spec, it’s costed out and written down before anything happens and the client isn’t taken by surprise.

Bathroom as part of a renovation by DH Builders

The company, DH Builders Ltd, focuses on one project at a time, rather than working on several jobs at once. It means that his team is dedicated to one site and one client and he likes nothing better than a meaty project to get his teeth into. “If we have an extension to construct, and the client also wants to refurbish the rest of the ground floor or to build a loft room or garage space as well, I know I’m going to be dedicated to that job for the next few months. I love that feeling of managing and building the whole thing!”

Dominic came to Portsmouth to do a degree in 3D design and never left. He loves the city for its beach, green open spaces and wonderful character and while he now lives in north Hampshire, he still does plenty of jobs in area and believes that reputation is everything. “I have almost zero complaints and we have very few snagging issues. Where a mistake happens, and they sometimes do, it’s about how you put it right. And that relationship of trust means my clients know that I will always make good on a mistake, it’s just who I am.”

Wines of the month, by Lucy at Wines by the Sea

Wines of the month

Here are my wine choices for June, a selection of three wines that make for perfect summer drinking (when the weather decides to sort itself out – at least it hasn’t rained as much)

Quinta Pousada De Fora Vinho Verde Brut Natural, Portugal – £21.75
A crystal-clear, citrus, floral and fresh sparkling wine from the traditional Vinho Verde region grapes Loureiro and Aristo. Made, in the traditional method for 12 months and aged on its lees. A perfect choice as an alternative to prosecco or champagne with a lighter feel.

Oumsiyat Blanc de Blanc, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – £12.25
A mouthwatering wine with refreshing flavours of ripe yellow fruits and subtle floral overtones. Beautifully balanced on the palate with a soft, fruity finish. Made from 60% ugni blanc, 20% clairette, 12% sauvignon blanc and 8% chardonnay. The ugni blanc imparts characteristic acidity and freshness, clairette adding green apple and fresh citrus notes and the sauvignon blanc offering crisp vivacity to the richness of the chardonnay.

Gamay, Vin de France – £13.50
According to the Moreno wines team, this wine is unshackled and bound by no rules! This Gamay shows all the fresh, vibrant, bouncy red fruit crunchiness that you’d hope for. A perfect red for summer drinking and at a great price.

All wines are available from Wines by the Sea, Albert Rd, Southsea. 

This week’s links

More about Artist, Michael Moore on Instagram 

How about these houses??! 

Home renovation trends according to ideal Home

General election housing Q&A on rightmove 

Live music on weekends at Southsea bandstand this summer 

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