A dream oak frame family home on a Derbyshire plot

Project overview:

Area: Derbyshire
House Type: Country home
House Size: 929m2
Build Route: Oakwrights and self-managed
Build Cost: £ 1,444,100

When Anthony and Tracey Smith made the decision to self-build their dream family home, they envisaged they’d wait years to find the right plot. However, a chance conversation at the school gates led to a perfect find.

“We’d read magazine articles about people who waited years to find a piece of land, so we were amazed to discover such a perfect plot so quickly,” explains Tracey. “It was all down to the network of parents chatting at the school gates. I happened to mention we were hoping to build a house in the area and heard from one of the mums that her father-in-law was selling his bungalow.”

At the time, Anthony and Tracey had already sold their house and were renting a property so they could move quickly if they found somewhere to buy. After viewing the rural plot of land, they fell in love with the 360degree views and peaceful location. The 1970s bungalow that sat on one-and-a-half acres of land was dilapidated and the garden was overgrown, but Anthony and Tracey knew it was the perfect place for their family home.

Anthony and Tracey's living room is framed by the oak's warming tones

Choosing to build with oak

Initial talks with the local planners indicated they would be able to build a much larger replacement dwelling which triggered the couple’s search for an Architect. Even though Anthony and Tracey had always dreamt of one day building their own home, they were still unsure as to what style of home they wanted. Meetings were organised with local Architects and the couple hoped this would help them to determine what they wanted aesthetically.

“The designs were all for the type of boxy ‘executive homes’ that you often see on estates; nobody seemed to get what we wanted,” says Anthony. “We just couldn’t understand it because we’d assumed that Architects would be really keen to produce something imaginative and show us what they could do.”

After a visit to a self-build show and a chance meeting with our Managing Director, Tim Crump, the couple fell in love with the idea of an oak frame house.

“Tim Crump’s knowledge of his product made us confident,” smiles Anthony. “He’s absolutely passionate about oak framing.”

The couple worked with John Williams from our in-house Architectural Design team who spent time with the couple to truly understand what they wanted to achieve both aesthetically and functionally. After a visit to the site, meetings with the couple to understand their requirements and drives around other houses they liked, John came up with a traditional looking manor house that complemented Anthony and Tracey’s rural site.

The design created the impression of a house that has changed and evolved over time, including fake blocked up windows, decorative stonework and feature chimneys, while the interior layout and finishes were to be far more contemporary.

“The design process took almost a year,” says Tracey. “We’d wanted to build a house for so long that we were determined to get every detail just right. It was important to think about the room proportions and we also had to consider the structure of the oak frame and how that would affect the overall look of the house inside.”

The oak frame adds to the tranquillity of their adjoining pool and gym

Key design features

“Like most families, we tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so this was always going to be the hub of the house,” explains Tracey. “This is why the layout of the ground floor centres around a vaulted dining hall and an open-plan kitchen/dining/day-room, with a separate sitting room, study and a utility.”

A contemporary staircase rises up from the dining hall to the landing above, where you find the sun beaming through double-height glazing with far-reaching countryside views. A vaulted section above the dining table allows views from the ground floor up to the high beamed roof structure above, creating a dramatic focal point.

On the first floor, you will find four well-proportioned family bedrooms, a bathroom and two en-suites, with two additional guest bedrooms and a bathroom located at the top of the house. Creating a spacious six-bedroom property over four storeys meant that fire-rated windows, doors and other precautions were required to meet Part B of the Building Regulations.

Anthony and Tracey were in the fortunate position after the sale of their previous property that they could design and build additional outbuildings including a garage with room over for an office, a pool house and a gym. They were all designed with an oak frame to seamlessly fit into the landscape.

We had wanted to build a house for so long that we were determined to get every detail just right.

Tracey Smith

Self-building their dream oak frame family home 

The couple were lucky enough to have a friend who was a builder who took on the site management, and another friend who project managed the build which began in May 2009. Anthony and Tracey were on-site most days taking photos to record their build progress.

Once the basement excavation and groundworks had been completed, the oak frame was delivered to the site by our site crew and erected.

“It took about four weeks for the frame to go up and everything went very smoothly,” says Anthony. “The pool building was the last one to be built.”

“There were an enormous number of decisions to be made, and then we had some really bad weather which meant everything stopped,” explains Anthony. “We had hoped to move in by Christmas 2010, but by the middle of November I had to tell Tracey it wasn’t going to happen. In the end, we moved in during January 2011, before the house was completed, and lived here while the workmen finished off for another four or five months.”

One of the challenges Anthony and Tracey faced with building such a large house was ensuring it still felt like home despite its grand proportions.

“It’s at least three times the size of our previous house, but everything has been specifically designed for us as a family, which means we do use all of the space,” says Tracey. “We love features such as the zoned lighting and being able to play music in every room. For us, this is the ultimate house.”

A dream oak frame family home on a Derbyshire plot

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