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A contemporary home with rustic oak frame in Hertfordshire

For 28 years, Johnny and Jane looked out on the near-derelict Ivy Cottage from their Edwardian villa opposite. Regular visitors of Homebuilding and Renovating shows and with a keen interest in renovating, it was inevitable that one day they would buy the property as their first renovation project.

“We had our eye on the house, but after having surveys done and speaking with our first Architect, we realised there was nothing worth keeping,” explains Johnny.

Project Details

  • Hertfordshire
  • 2016
  • Contemporary style
  • 191m2
  • £490,000
  • Turnkey
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Choosing to build with oak

Obtaining planning permission for a demolition and new build was a two-year issue; two refusals, £4,500 worth of bat works and a failed appeal later, the couple turned to us and our Regional Architectural Designer, Pete Tonks.

“We were living in a green belt, the cottage was in a conservation area and the property was the oldest house in the village,” says Johnny. “We wanted something that was sympathetic to the village at the front, not imposing or shocking but we did want a sense of theatre, so when you entered, nothing looked like it did at the front.

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Building requirements

The planners were quite particular in their requirements which meant that the design couldn’t be bulky or too large and had to retain the individuality of the original black timber cottage. To meet the planning criteria while still fulfilling the couple’s brief, Pete designed a home that combined contemporary features with a rustic oak frame. Please click here to read more about Johnny and Jane’s planning consent story.

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Characterful oak frame home

Starting with a basic timber porch leading to an open-plan hall space, the ground floor is essentially open-plan, with enclosed spaces for a bathroom, utility room and downstairs bedroom.

“Coming from a small cottage where I was forever bumping into my wife and the dog, it’s nice not to feel so constricted,” explains Johnny.

The open-plan ground floor has easy access to the garden, patio and courtyard using sliding glass doors.

“This is not a huge house but shows you don’t have to build big to get something special,” explains Pete Tonks. “Our clients were originally looking for a five bedroom house. We managed to design a three bedroom home that was 29.9% larger than the original cottage (the most allowed under green belt rules is generally 30%)"

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Key design features

The front elevation of Johnny and Jane’s home is clad in EuroBoards and fitted flush instead overlapping, for a more contemporary look on the original cottage’s black timber cladding. The timber porch has been engineered to avoid the need for traditional curved bracing. At the rear, an extravagant array of glass walls, different rooflines and zoned spaces create a dynamic contrast to the more modest street-facing front. The two pyramidal hip roofs address the planner’s apprehensions about bulk and volume but bring visual attention in their own right.

Although Johnny and Jane’s home is 188m2, the open-plan, zoned ground floor space and three large glass sliding doors provides a substantial amount of light and sense of space. The double-fronted fireplace provides zoning between the living and dining spaces, as well as useful extra storage and that ultimate contemporary feel the couple were looking to achieve.

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Unique features

Porcelain tiles are fitted above underfloor heating through most of the ground floor to create a seamless transition between zones.

“All the flooring is on exactly the same level and using tiles gives that sense of using good honest materials,” explains Johnny.

Glass floors also feature in Johnny and Jane’s home, conveying a sense of space and height where there is not enough room for a double-height atrium.

“We opted for a clear glass floor in our master bedroom, and also in our dining room, so when you are sitting at the table you can look up into the beautiful oak roof,” says Johnny.

Moving through their home, Johnny and Jane’s staircase catches your eye. It has 108mm-thick open oak treads that have been reinforced by a central steel spine and coupled with a glass balustrade.

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Style and comfort

Travelling up their staircase and onto the first floor, the oak frame in the couple’s master bedroom has a structural arch collar as well as dragon ties which add visual interest to the space. Initial designs included three bedrooms on the upper storey; this was then adjusted to two when the planner requested more ‘sky space’ between the new build and next door. The third bedroom was moved to the ground floor, meeting another of the planner’s requests for the home to meet the Lifetime Homes Standard.

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Building a home for the future

The build took just 11 months, with the couple’s oak frame and WrightWall encapsulation system constructed in our workshops offsite in Herefordshire. The encapsulation system allowed u-values for the walls of the home to be 0.16W/m2 and the roof to be 0.4W/m2.

“It was an absolute joy seeing the craftspeople caring about what they were building while on-site,” explains Johnny. “Having PJT Custom Build project manage our build may have cost more but saved us stress, time and sleepless nights; creativity is more important than managing builders. The other thing I would suggest is to invest in quality materials whenever you can afford it. It’s got to last a lifetime, and there’s a reason why some things are cheaper.”

Would you like to learn more about Johnny and Jane’s architectural design and planning permission process? Please see a link to their planning consent story, written by Pete Tonks, below.

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