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An oak frame home for retirees in Surrey

Dedicated self-builders, Richard and Janet Deacon, spent most days on-site while building their forever home, which was cleverly designed to meet their current and future needs without compromising on ‘kerb appeal’.

When Covid hit and they shielded, their daughter took on the site management: grappling with understanding all the restrictions but dedicated to their self-employed contractors who were desperate to keep working! Finishing the build only a matter of weeks behind their original deadline agreed prior to Covid, the end result is an incredibly attractive oak framed home to enjoy for many years to come.

Project Details

  • Surrey
  • 2020
  • Traditional
  • m2 × 410m2
  • £840,000
  • Self build
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Finding the perfect plot

It was never going to be easy finding a plot of land in the London commuter belt of Surrey for a reasonable price that, combined with the build costs, didn’t overshadow the end value of the newly built home. Eventually, Richard and Janet found a plot with an existing property, on it. The site itself had some previous subsidence issues – a problem that didn’t worry retired civil engineer Richard because he knew they could adopt a bored piling solution for the foundations.

“We independently engaged the services of Darren Blackwell, one of Oakwrights’ Regional Architectural Designers, to design our new oak frame home. Darren was very positive about achieving planning permission, bearing in mind the original property on the site. He advised on the ridge height for the new build and was correct in his assumption as this was the main proviso dictated by the existing building,” explains Janet.

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Choosing to build with oak

Janet in particular had always loved old timber framed cottages but in the local area there were few that weren’t either on a main road or very rural, and they both felt this wasn’t suitable for them. Richard and Janet love natural materials and concluded that a green oak frame house could provide the charm of a timber framed cottage, but at the same time could have the proportions and layout appropriate for modern living. Oak is also a sustainable material which is important to consider nowadays.

They started investigating possible timber framed options about 17 years ago and visited some suppliers of green oak frames, including ourselves. It was helpful to see the finished product and methods of construction and decided this was the way forward for them. However, they’d failed to secure the plot they’d hoped to buy, so put their project on hold.

Their self build journey

Three years before starting their self-build, they decided they wanted to downsize and move within walking distance of a town if possible.

Having found their ideal plot, they decided to move quickly. Richard and Janet contacted us, and another supplier, and visited more green oak frame houses which reinforced their love of oak. Levels of insulation had progressed in the 17 years since they first looked, and so they chose to work with our teams because they liked the technical design and machining that goes into our oak frames and importantly, we could meet their timescale.

Starting the process...

Richard and Janet wanted to achieve much more of an open-plan layout for their home on the ground floor than their previous home had. Open plan normally requires more beams in the construction arrangement, which can be unsightly in a conventional building, but with a green oak frame building those beams become a real feature.

Groundworks started on 4th September 2019, with their bespoke oak frame arriving two months after.

“We were absolutely determined to have finished the house by July 2020 and not let any deadlines slip,” explains Janet. “We watched the oak frame go up, and with Oakwrights’ WrightWall encapsulation system arriving and being assembled shortly afterwards, we nearly had a dry shell by Christmas 2019!

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Key design features

Faced with a sloping site and considering the importance of easy access, the ground level of Richard and Janet’s oak frame home and immediate surroundings was raised, and extra attention was given to the foundations for the property considering the history of subsidence. The original sloping driveway was raised to allow for level access at the front of their home and the gradient of the ground around was improved to make access easier.

From the roadside, their home definitely has the ‘wow factor’ Richard and Janet wanted. The double-height entrance hall featuring glazed panels is stunning and is regularly commented on by passers-by. Richard and Janet’s home is contemporary in design while using traditional handmade York bricks, oak and glazing for the exterior material palette and clay roof tiles.

The glazed central gable jetties over the front door create a covered porch area. Internally this creates an airy, vaulted, double-height entrance hall with a pair of sling braces for its feature truss. The jetty creates a ledge which has been used to display a couple of ornamental trees.

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Step inside...

Entering through Richard and Janet’s contemporary front door, their spectacular oak frame towers above and a large multi-light fitment illuminates the space, making a great feature at night from the inside and out.

The light-coloured stone floor continues throughout the ground floor giving a feeling of space while drawing you into the heart of their home. Richard and Janet have cleverly created a semi-open-plan living area with wide openings without doors between rooms giving a feeling of space but allowing for snug corners for privacy. Their dining room and study are at the front of their home on either side of the front door, with oak posts and beams and curved braces framing the areas.

The large kitchen/diner features an oak kitchen that complements the oak structure, and bi-fold doors open out onto the patio and sundeck, with steps down to the lawns and garden beyond. The kitchen adjoins a utility and leads on to one of the key requirements for the design of their home, Richard’s garage and workshop.

The sitting room has a warm feeling and lots of character with a brick fireplace, wood burner and large windows. Richard and Janet’s home wonderfully mixes traditional furniture, antiques, and paintings with a contemporary interior.

On the first floor, the glazed landing leads to four en-suite bedrooms. The master bedroom not only has a large en-suite with his and hers sinks, a bath and shower, but also a dressing room with plenty of storage and French doors that open out onto a large private balcony. The luxurious sunny terrace with views over the garden is secluded and sheltered, creating the perfect spot to sit and relax.

"We were absolutely determined to have finished the house by July 2020 and not let any deadlines slip. We watched the oak frame go up and with Oakwrights WrightWall encapsulation system arriving and being assembled shortly afterwards. We nearly had a dry shell by Christmas 2019!"


Building their dream home during Covid restrictions

“In March 2020, Covid hit, and some shortages of materials started to affect us,” explains Janet.

“The roofers had just finished the main oak framed section and the main house had windows, but with our children being worried about our health being on-site during this time, our daughter took on the on-site supervision. By separating trades, we managed to allow work to continue safely. With one of our electricians expanding his skill set, he started decorating for us. One of our older grandchildren together with our electrician’s son, then also started to help decorate and we only finished six weeks later than our target completion date,” she concludes.

After waiting three years to find their perfect plot, Richard and Janet are thrilled to be living in the beautiful oak framed home they designed!

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