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Life in a Selfie

David and Greta Iredale reflect on their iconic Surrey self-build a decade on

Brought to prominence by Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud back in 2004, many applauded David and Greta Iredale, now in their 80s, for their bravery in embarking on a self-build in Surrey with a then relatively unknown German house manufacturer. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and the couple’s proclivity for architectural innovation and appetite for cutting edge design spans over half a century. For David and Greta were first held aloft as beacons of ground breaking design in Woman magazine back in 1957. Greta explains: ‘David and I spent our first couple of years as a newlyweds renting a room in my father’s Chelsea flat, but what we really wanted was something modern – a home that pushed boundaries and would satisfy our architectural aspirations.

‘Our search ended in the viewing of a new build in Shepperton, which the developer had the audacity to market as “contemporary”. Even when pressed for an answer he couldn’t give us a single explanation as to what exactly was modern about the building.

‘Such disappointment gave us the courage to pursue our first ever self-build, which was eventually showcased in the media. We bought a small piece of land and set about designing a bungalow. Then, it was our avant-garde floorplans that evoked most interest, with our open plan kitchen, living and dining area an almost unprecedented concept in the UK.

‘That was our first taste of a self-build, and after some happy years in our starter home, we moved to Walton on Thames in 1965, purchasing another plot of land, but this time with a grander vision of what our home would become. Employing just two contractors David and I did all the labouring, including digging the drains, which took a year in total.

Life in a selfie

‘This was to be another modern home, but this time made entirely from timber and raised up off the ground on steel stilts. We lived there for thirty years, very happily, making the occasional modifications over time.

‘In the late 1990s, our neighbour approached us one day and said that he had seen a fantastic new timber and glass style house out in St George’s Hill, and was so convinced that we would like it that he booked us in for a viewing.

‘This was our first introduction to Huf Haus; we were utterly blown away and knew we had to have one. We instantly put our house up for sale and started to view suitable plots. However, after four years in a stagnant market, it occurred to us that the land we already owned might provide the ultimate setting for a Huf House and so we took the decision to demolish our ‘wood house.’

“For me, there are some intricate architectural details in our Huf that you couldn’t replicate with a traditional box-like house”

David adds: ‘For me, there are some intricate architectural details in our Huf that you couldn’t replicate with a traditional box-like house. Irrespective of where you are inside, wherever you look, there is a clear view of the garden or the sky, and it’s a delight to feel so immersed in nature. Furthermore, the expanse of glass that characterises our Huf House enables us to enjoy our garden as an extension of our internal living accommodation.

‘So many new builds suffer a disconnect between the interior and exterior; while interior specifications are excellent, the exteriors are often a frightful pastiche and it’s unfathomable that developers and builders get this so wrong. With a Huf, there is a transparency – the beauty in the external architecture is continued internally.

‘Grand Designs was in its relative infancy when we appeared so I don’t think we quite appreciated the ramifications of televising the build of our Huf, but we are in awe of Kevin McCloud and the work he has done to open people’s eyes and liberate them from the perceived limits of what is achievable architecturally. We have always been progressive – brave even – when it comes to design, and from our standpoint, a self-build allows you to fulfil your most exacting personal needs.

‘The reassurance of a Huf compared to an independent self-build, however, is that it is a tried and tested model, and for those considering venturing out on their own, there is a lot to be gained. We didn’t need a snagging period and we’ve never had a problem in the property, which is testament to the precision and accuracy of design, construction and finish.’

Life in a selfie

Greta concludes: ‘We are still amazed by the four and a half day build. The entire project took five months overall, but to see our new house standing and weatherproof in less than a week bore such a contrast to our previous projects.

‘The entire experience has been an absolute revelation. We hope our endeavours have encouraged those much younger than us, who have the energy to experiment and push boundaries, that self-building is the most thrilling journey. We feel immensely luck to be living in our dream house.’

Huf Haus has now launched its first show house – at
Brooklands, Weybridge. Visit: www.huf-haus.com or
call 01932 586550