Lewis ext front6 b E primary

A country-style oak frame manor replaces a dormer bungalow in Kent

Mel and Pauline Lewis had lived in their family home in Kent for almost 30 years before the thought of self-building crossed their minds. As a young couple, the Lewis’ moved to this private road where their home resides, having been attracted by the secluded nature of its location, the easy commute into London and the large, leafy plot.

Project Details

  • Kent
  • December 2007
  • Country style
  • 650m2
  • £1.3M
Lewis ext front2b

Choosing to build with oak

“The dormer bungalow on the plot was functional enough, and served us well over the years but we knew that due to its size with only two bedrooms upstairs, it really didn’t make enough of the fabulous site and we wanted to do something about it,” explains Pauline.

So, Mel and Pauline began making plans for a substantial renovation to their bungalow, looking to extend, internally remodel, and make more of the roof space. As plan after plan really failed to achieve their vision for their future home, an Architect suggested raising the roofline to give them a full second storey.

“It certainly would have provided the space we needed but something was still wrong, as the design of the outside just didn’t look good,” says Pauline.

The couple had a friend who was a structural engineer, and he took a fresh look at their plans, concluding that with the amount of renovation work they were considering, they weren’t really leaving much of the original house in place.

At about this time, and still unsure of such a significant project, Mel took a life-changing drive home from work.

“I went past a new oak frame house being built and it just brought everything together for me,” explains Mel. “It looked fabulous and so full of character for a new home. I drove home, picked up Pauline and we went back to have another look. We both fell in love with it and made a note of the Oakwrights sign outside. Within days we’d gone from a loft conversion to a new build, but we’d seen our dream home, and everything else seemed like a compromise thereafter.”

Lewis mezzanine2

Key design decisions

The design of their oak frame home was their overriding priority, and so Mel and Pauline involved themselves heavily in the design process with our Architectural Design team.

“One of the things we really did well was to take a keen interest in the design process,” says Mel. “So many people rush into the construction element of the project and end up disappointed because they didn’t pay enough attention at an early stage. We knew that the end result for us was everything, and so we studied the plans for hours to see how they would best suit our lifestyle.” Mel and Pauline went back and forth with their design plans several times. “Oakwrights provided us with a 3D virtual walkthrough of our scheme, which was great and helped us to visualise how the house would work,” notes Mel. “We agonised over a lot of the design details.” For the Lewis’, a key area of their oak frame house is the central, double-height dining hall atrium space. They knew it would be the hub of their home, and so wanted it to be light and open.

“The design really emphasises the huge cathedral-style windows that would face you as you walked into the space, but the problem we saw was that a ‘traditional’ balustrading, with ornate spindles and a heavy handrail, would take away from the openness that we wanted to achieve,” explains Mel. “We eventually opted for handrail-free large sheets of toughened glass, which are obviously perfect for contemporary homes but we feel, do the job brilliantly in this one too.”

Lewis pool3

Let the building work commence

Planning permission for Mel and Pauline’s future oak frame home sailed through, so then they chose to bring a main contractor on-board to oversee the project on their behalf.

“We realised early on that we needed some expert help, and while Pauline was able to spend time doing valuable research to ensure we achieved the right design features and finishes, we felt the best route for the build would be to put the project in the hands of a professional,” says Mel. “We chose a local firm, Sennocke Construction, that we’d been recommended. Although they actually specialised in speculative housing, we knew they would be able to run an efficient project and had lots of local contacts. We also took on Trevor, our structural engineer friend, who had a wealth of experience and was able to advise on any major technical issues.”

Mel and Pauline said farewell to their family home and moved into a house nearby so work could begin.

“Sennocke Construction made short work of pulling down our bungalow and replacing it with new footings and a floor slab,” says Pauline, who visited the site every day to deal with any issues that might arise. “It was strange at first to see the old house go, but we were so excited at this stage to see real progress and be a step closer to our dream home.”

Once their site was ready, our teams delivered and erected Mel and Pauline’s bespoke post and beam oak frame.

“We soon began to get a very real sense of the craftsmanship and effort that goes into a house of this style,” notes Mel.

Oakwrights provided us with a 3D virtual walkthrough of our scheme, which was great and helped us to visualise how the house would work.

Lewis portrait2

Mel Lewis

Lewis bathroom4b

A traditional home with contemporary features

“Our new home suits our style and it has added so much to our life,” says Pauline.

In addition to their floorplan, Mel and Pauline built an indoor pool which is heated by one of two ground source heat pumps that serve the property, and a basement: a precast concrete basement made sense, as the original dormer bungalow had its own basement space.

“One of the big concerns for us was the size of the house,” continues Pauline. “We knew that at 650m², it was going to feel significantly bigger than our previous house (it is in fact 50% bigger) but we wanted to make sure it still felt manageable and like a home, rather than a show home. In this respect, it’s one of the main reasons we loved Oakwrights’ style: the post and beam structure enables you to have a relatively open-plan flow between spaces but also some structure to it all.

We’ve managed to get the best of both worlds, I think, and have combined this with up-to-date technology by adding a multimedia system throughout,” says Pauline. “It is obviously a large house with plenty of accommodation, as there’s a guest wing and large living areas and bedrooms, but it certainly feels like a living house that’s designed with people, not show, in mind.”

Mel and Pauline are the first to admit they were in a relatively lucky position from a financial point of view.

“We obviously saved a lot of money by not having to buy a plot, which in this area would have made the project well beyond our means. We knew that we didn’t want to compromise and that, within reason, we could have the design and features we wanted,” concludes Pauline.

This oak framed, country-style property is a home without compromise, and combined the inherent charm and natural character of oak with a modern approach. Mel and Pauline have created a light, open and, most importantly, welcoming home that will be enjoyed for years and will last a lifetime.

Sign up to our newsletter

Subscribe to our mailing list to gain more inspiration, hear about our open days and events, learn more from our experts and hear our news.

STAProtek singleNa CSBA 2024 OAK
© Copyright Oakwrights 2024
Company reg: 03713116 ‎ • ‎‎‎ VAT reg: 7210134 00