Fishponds, an area of Bristol widely known for its countryside feel whilst still being moments from the city. We meet Phil and Philippa at their thoughtfully extended home on Idstone Road to learn more about their journey in making this three-bedroom 1930s house a modern home.
With Philippa working in the events team at The University of Bristol, and Phil studying Shiatsu, as well as being a fulltime furniture maker, it’s a surprise the couple found the time to create the wonderful, welcoming space they have!
“Due to the pandemic we have a backlog of graduations that we are working through at the moment, its been so much hard work, but sharing in the joy of students who’ve worked tirelessly for years, and be a part of the celebrations with their friends and family, I find an absolute privilege”, explains Philippa.
“I’ve run men's groups from the workshop that sits by the side of the house, including things like carving, whittling etc. I've also been developing my skills and studying counselling and conflict resolution, as well as studying Shiatsu for the last four years a body-based therapies”, adds Phil.
But work they did, and when the pair found a 1930’s house in need of some modernisation, they set to work on establishing design boundaries to ensure they worked with the house, not against it.
“We both needed more outdoor, green space. We lived in Easton before which is such an amazing part of the city, but we wanted to feel the seasons changing, as well as hear and see more nature. Combining the extension work with the original building was tricky, but we used a great architect, Carlton Bodkin from Practical Architecture, who came recommended because of the design we wanted. Our brief was to create a versatile living space that can be enjoyed all year round. We purposefully didn’t include a kitchen island in the design, meaning we could keep the space flexible. We’ve had 24 people over for dinner and drinks and hosted yoga sessions, and we’ve never felt crammed in”, explains Phil.
“Our time cycling through southern Europe on a sabbatical, living in barns and volunteering at yoga retreats is something that we really drew inspiration from. Being so close to nature, open spaces and calming architecture, made us realise that we don’t necessarily need many material things, but having our living space looking at nature was a must. With the doors open and the gradual staging of combining the indoor and outdoor space, our living area is just a few steps away from nature”, says Philippa.
As a carpenter and cabinet maker by trade, Phil was able to use his well-honed skills to really put their stamp on their home.
“Cabinet making for me is something I am so grateful for. Having my carpentry and furniture-making skills allowed me to have a hand in making our home, which meant so much. To have the workshop separate from the house allows me to determine my work time and home time, it’s an absolute dream. I don’t find this pull to run away to a “man cave”, it’s just Philippa and I, and we thoroughly enjoy each other's company.”
But it was the company of family and friends that kept the couple going throughout the building process.
“It was a real family affair, and we both loved that we had such a hands-on approach to the design and build work. I project managed the build myself, using tradesmen along the way for more specialist work like digging the foundations, plumbing and electrics. At certain points along the renovation journey, we would invite our nearest and dearest over to celebrate each step. A favourite memory of ours is inviting family and friends to enjoy some food and drink once the timber frame of the extension I had made was up. We gave everyone Sharpies and asked them to leave messages and doodles that could live on, imprinted on the bones of the house. We love that underneath the modern, white plasterboard there are lovely personal messages, as well as some weird and wonderful obscenities and drawings. The house is a part of us.”
With the pull of nature not easing anytime soon, Phil and Philippa are searching for the ideal project.
“The dream is to find a piece of land and build our forever home. There’s something so personal about having a hand not only in designing but also building your home. We are both really interested in building a structure that doesn’t require an attachment to the services of the city. I believe we are now in an age, or nearly there, with our technologies etc, that there is a very menial need for heating and burning fuels. The sun has so much to give us, and we have the tech and materials to store and use the energy as and when needed.”