How to build a house in the country

Dreaming of designing your own rural retreat? Matilda Battersby rounds up what you need to know

If you want to swap your London pad for a self-built Grand Design in the sticks, then you’d better start making friends with your architect - and your new neighbours.

“Designing a house in the countryside is very different from building in a city,” says architect Mark Winnington, who has seen both sides of the coin having worked for years designing one-off homes for individuals on countryside plots, but now works for a top London architecture firm.

Here, he shares the benefits and drawbacks of building for the countryside:

1. The pros

Space: an architect enjoys the freedom the space brings almost as much as the client will once he or she starts living there.

Nature: the gift of designing harmoniously with the rural context.

Planning: there are, generally, fewer restrictions on what you can build. However, both urban and rural areas require adherence with regulations, so double-check.

Landscape: the luxury of surrounding gardens provides opportunity for interplay with the building.

Access: in cities it can be tricky to get heavy-duty vehicles on site, but this is less of a problem in the country.

2. The cons

Utilities: there can be restrictions on amenities such as those for sewage, gas, electricity and water.

Planning: areas of outstanding natural beauty are, understandably, more stringent on restrictions.

Nature: consideration must be given to the local wildlife, flora and fauna when building a country house.

3. What to discuss with your architect

Feasibility: describe your needs, what your current house is like and why you want to change. Really explain what it is you want, going into lots of detail.

Planning risks: environmental impact assessments (noise, wildlife, water) are best understood early. They also cost time and money. Also, check the site history and the status of any previous planning applications.

Knowing me, knowing you: build up a good relationship with your architect - educate him or her about how you live and provide some insight into who you are. The design should really reflect your personality.

4. How to ensure your project fits seamlessly into the environment

Local planning: work closely with the local planning authority. Be very clear and concise with planning officers. This might mean starting with pre-planning application processes.

Study the area: all sites are different and an architect should not treat them all the same. Materiality, form and function should all come as a direct response to the environment.

Play with your ideas: architects make two-dimensional plans, physical models, virtual models, photomontages and play with them until they are satisfied. The more playing the better, and you, as the client, should get your chance to play too.


For more inspiration tune into Grand Designs on Channel 4, where the RIBA House of the Year award sponsored by Hiscox Home Insurance will be judged during a four part series. Click here for more information about how Hiscox can protect your dream home renovation project.

For more Hiscox:

City vs country: what an architect sees that you don't

Super home extensions guide - part 1

Super home extensions guide - part 2


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