Californian Dreamhouse to Peakland Hideaway

Mike Smith meets Terry Huggett and Martin Bell, a duo intent on realising people's living dreams...

Terry Huggett had a dream. While taking annual holidays in California, the South Yorkshire building contractor had become captivated by the architecture of the houses he had seen on America’s west coast and had begun to formulate a plan to replace his home in Mexborough with his own version of a Californian house. Although he realised that his scheme to insert a modernist fantasy into the brick streets of a former mining town might be seen as an eccentric and misguided ambition that would be sure to alienate members of the local planning committee, Terry was determined to convert his dream into a reality.

When I asked the developer about his approach to construction in general, he said: ‘Terry Huggett Developments (THD) was founded more than 40 years ago by my father, Terry Huggett Snr. The firm treats construction as a collaborative process and always tailors buildings to meet the needs of clients. Our job is to take a person’s dream from concept to conclusion. My own dream was to bring a slice of California to Mexborough, but I knew that it would only become a reality if I could find an architect I could work with. I was introduced to Martin Bell of Transform Architects; we hit it off straight away and the two of us have worked as a team ever since, not only on my house, but on lots of other projects.’

Transform Architects was founded in 2004 and specialises in converting, extending and fitting out existing buildings, from residential properties to restaurants and doctors’ surgeries. Martin said, ‘Our aim is to transform buildings for families and businesses looking for growing room and to give dated structures a dazzling new look. We also undertake new-builds, including apartments in Wath-upon-Dearne and Sheffield, so I was perfectly happy to go along with Terry’s decision to go for a brand new house that would satisfy all his family’s requirements.’

The pair spent six months designing the house, working ‘from the inside to the outside’ in order to ensure that there would be no compromise on Terry’s wish list. This included a spacious double-height living area where the family could spend as much time together as possible, evenly-proportioned bedrooms without any box rooms, a cinema room, a wet room and lots of home automation, such as sound systems, integrated lighting controls and wall-mounted televisions. In deference to Terry’s belief in the calming effect of the colour white and his love of Californian styling, all this had to be contained in a bright white interior and packaged in a building with clean lines and sharp angles.

Martin and Terry also endowed their proposed building with plenty of eco credibility. Solar energy would be captured by large windows placed on the south-facing side of the house and heat loss would be minimised by smaller windows on the north-facing side, where rooms that do not require much in the way of exterior light would be located. Rainwater-harvesting beneath the lawn and under-floor heating would add to the energy-efficiency.

Having produced an overall design with the ‘dazzle’ he always promises, Martin had the tough job of convincing the planners that a touch of California would not be out of place in South Yorkshire, but his detailed 16-page design statement did the trick and Terry’s regular team of sub-contractors was given the green light to take their boss’ dream from concept to reality. The house, known as ‘Hillcrest’, was completed in October 2008 and Terry, his wife Emma and their two children are now living the dream. n

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Terry and Martin won a South Yorkshire and Humber Building Excellence Award from Local Authority Building Control (LABC) for Hillcrest and they are currently engaged in designing and building another grand bespoke house near Matlock. However, knowing that dream houses are beyond the pocket of most people, especially in a time of recession, the enterprising pair have come up with a way of satisfying more modest dreams.

Aware that many people dream of having a garden hideaway for use as an office, a studio, or a gym, Terry and Martin have designed a series of garden ‘pods’, all with large aluminium-framed windows to let in lots of light and exterior walls which are rendered in white but tempered by a touch of wood panelling. In effect, customers are being given their own small slice of that fabulous Hillcrest design.

The pods come in three standard versions, known as Maxxi, Middi and Eccon, all with optional extras, such as divided rooms, under-floor or air-source heating and external decking. The design-and-build duo are equally happy to produce bespoke pods, constructed according to the wishes of individual customers or fashioned to blend with particular environments. In fact, their latest venture is a pod designed for a client who lives in the very heart of the Peak District National Park.

When their Peak District client showed them some photographs of holiday cottages in the Blue Reef Resort on the Isle of Harris, Terry and Martin shared a ‘wow’ moment, because they instantly realised that the sloping terrain of their client’s garden would allow them to come up with a design for a pod that would replicate the basic concept of the cottages on Harris, which is to minimise environmental impact by burying most of the structure in a hillside.

Once the Peak District National Park Authority’s planners had given their approval to Terry and Martin’s design for a partially-buried pod, excavation work was carried out by S J Design and Kinder Construction to enable the pod to sit in the ground so that its sedum-covered roof would be virtually flush with the level part of the garden. In fact, the circular imprint of the roof of the pod exactly matches an adjacent circular lawn area designed by the client’s wife. As a result, an unsatisfactory steeply-sloping garden has been transformed into a neat and interesting flat space with uninterrupted views of the White Peak.

A short flight of steps, framed by drystone walls, built by Karl Mellor and Andrew Land of Bonsall, leads to the sunken entrance to the pod, which has a wave-like fa�ade, fashioned in cedar and punctuated by windows that frame yet another sweeping view of a landscape that has not been disturbed in any way by the presence of the pod. The interior is divided into two rooms, both of which provide a perfect work environment, thanks to sound-proofing and the calming effect of the gently-curving white walls.

Terry and Martin take pride in making dreams come true with their bespoke solutions. By building boldly above ground in South Yorkshire, they have brought a touch of California to Mexborough. By building below ground in Derbyshire, they have allowed the Peak District landscape to speak for itself. And the planners in both areas have been more than happy to let dreams become reality.

For information about Terry Huggett Developments (THD) see and for information about Martin Bell’s Transform Architects see For details of the pods produced by Terry and Martin see

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