Tony and Nicky Maude were living perfectly happily with their two sons, Jamie, 19, and Harry, 17, in a large, panelled, Arts & Crafts house with several acres. For some people, that's the pinnacle of desire. But it was dark, rambling, and, as Nicky says, "snow never sat on our roof".
They'd done up houses before, and set their hearts on a brand-new one, designed round their own gregarious, party-loving lifestyle — and energy efficient, too. "I'd always had a desire to do something from scratch," Nicky says.
What happened next is a story of gut instinct, nerve and flair — and of teamwork. From husband Tony, a banker, and from Nicky, who designed the interior with an intense attention to detail, using local craftspeople.
The couple sold their old house and rented, to make it easy to jump, and an agent suggested that they buy a tired bungalow on a triangular plot. It's in Oxted in Surrey's green belt, a bastion of Nimbyism, and hemmed in by pitched roofs. Worse, there was no planning consent for a new build — but the Maudes had set their hearts on a white, glassy, flat-topped modernist house. So they took the plunge and bought the bungalow and 1.5-acre plot for £850,000 without it.
"We found our architect, John Dyer Grimes, on Google," Tony says. "We'd met a few, but it's when someone gets what you want straight away."
"I went with my piles of magazines," says Nicky, "and John came back with this." Her gesture takes in the huge living space, and the lawn beyond. Three planning applications later they got their consent through for a house that makes full use of the sloping plot, and the project began in earnest in summer 2010. At the lower level there's a self-contained unit, connected to the main part by a walnut staircase. Son Jamie, who plans to be a music producer, lives in this enviable space that could work as a granny flat.
At the higher level, the main house has amazing views across to the North Downs.
Dyer Grimes is open about the homage to Corbusier — the long, low, lean, whiterendered house supported on slender pillars has flanks lined with reinforced glass that glides open, so that house and garden merge. Themes of wood, whiteness and glass repeat throughout. Elsewhere in this four-bedroom, five bathroom house there are glass-balustraded balconies. From the master bedroom's full-length one you could almost dive into the nine-metre pool.
A dream of Nicky's, the pool has a glass end facing the house so that on a hot day one could get an amazing view from the kitchen.
Nicky's attention to detail pays off. From the walnut used for flooring, bed heads and cupboards, to big, soft brown porcelain floor tiles in other parts, to the wash of LED lighting behind bed heads and even under the kitchen island. Spaces can be divided up using sliding doors, and all rooms have a linked audio-visual system.
The huge kitchen area with two dishwashers and a "spare" oven is designed for entertaining, as is the capacious orange sofa nearby.
"We wanted a place where we could flop, eat, and do homework. Everyone convenes here," Nicky says. "The children bring their friends." Tony adds: "They swarm on us like locusts."
Nicky found local companies to build the kitchen and bed just as she wanted — and she even added an old-fashioned laundry chute. "Tony throws his shirt down here and is amazed when it comes back ironed," says Nicky. But by whom? "By me!" The couple have nothing but praise for the builder, Galower, who came via the architect. "The company was big enough to do the job, but small enough to be personal," Tony says with admiration. "Nothing was too much trouble, they cared about the last nail."
So where's the catch? The house, with its solar panels and top eco-credentials, came in a month ahead of schedule in April 2011, but way over budget. The architect estimated £1 million but it ended up nearer double. However, the Maudes admit they added things.
The pool, based on a photo from a magazine, was very expensive, and halfway through the build they wondered "what the hell we were doing". But the result is spectacular. Even the boys give it the ultimate teenage accolade: "It's all right," says Harry.
How to get the look
Architect: Dyer Grimes (dyergrimesarchitects.com)
Builder: Galower Builders (0178 424 3187)
Pool: Tanby Pools: 01883 622 335
Paint: Dulux brilliant white (dulux.co.uk)
Decorative glass: by Stainger(stainger.com)
Italian orange leather sofa: by Contempo (contempo.it)
Walnut flooring: by The Ultimate Flooring (theultimateflooring.com)
Total cost: about £2.75 million, excluding architect Internal size: 480sq m
Photographs: Simon Maxwell Done