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THE GREAT HALL case study of a magnificent timber framed house

TIMBER FRAMED HOUSE - THE GREAT HALL

'HAVING SPOKEN TO A NUMBER OF OAK FRAMING COMPANIES, WE PARTICULARLY LIKED OAKWRIGHTS, WHO COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE HELPFUL'

 

The couple and their sons – Ben, now 23, and Ollie, 15 – had moved into an unremarkable 1950s six bedroom house on the site which they hoped to renovate but later changed their minds. “After six months of living in the existing chalet-style house we started to think that the plot deserved a far better property, and talked about replacing it with a new build,” Viv explains. “We looked at various options, but none of the local architects we contacted came up with anything particularly exciting. Then we met Jeremy Rawlings at one of the Homebuilding & Renovating shows with Oakwrights and immediately clicked.”


Jeremy Rawlings is an architect recognised for designing British period style homes with a blend of both traditional and more open American floorplans, who produces lifelike watercolour illustrations of his designs. “We’ve always preferred the character of older properties and Jeremy’s previous projects were really inspiring,” Viv continues. “The new house was more or less restricted to the size of the existing building’s footprint, but other than that we gave Jeremy a fairly free hand with the exterior design. 


Jeremy worked with the family over a period of time to produce a floorplan that incorporates vaulted ceilings in two thirds of the rooms. From the start the decision was taken that the house would be oak framed, and these voids enable the internal oak timbers to be showcased and enjoyed throughout the interior.


“We spoke to a number of oak framing companies and particularly liked Oakwrights, who couldn’t have been more helpful,” says Mike, who runs an internet marketing company. “Once we’d made the decision with the oakframed house, we knew we wanted vaulted ceilings in all the bedrooms, as well as in the main entrance hall and living room, to create a real wow factor.”

TIMBER FRAMED HOUSE COST

 

Area:

Hertfordshire

House Type:

Country Home Collection

House Size:

790m2 

Build Route:

Oak Frame Package 
& Main Contractor

Finance:

Private

Build Time:

Oct 2007 - March 2009

Oak Frame Cost:

£149,553

Build Cost:

1.5 Million

great hall oak kitchen

elevations

floor plans

THE TIMBER HOUSE BRIEF

 

This decision did inevitably limit the number of rooms achievable upstairs, but with so much space to play with there are still five bedrooms in the main house and an additional one bedroom self-contained flat. The main entrance hall opens into an impressive living space, overlooked by a gallery, and featuring a double height window onto the garden. 


The planning process proved long-winded, as the planners wanted one external wall of the existing house to be retained, which may have prevented the project being considered a new build for VAT purposes. “Keeping one wall would have made oak framing virtually possible, but in the end we managed to overturn the decision,” says Mike. 


By now the family had been living in the existing house for almost three and a half years and were itching to set to work on building its replacement. “We moved out and rented for eighteen months,” says Viv, who compiled a large leather-bound picture book documenting the whole build process from start to finish, beginning with the demolition of the old house and including photos of many of the tradesmen.

 

An existing railway tunnel runs along one edge of the Edwards’ nine acre plot, which had caused vibrations in the previous property. Mike researched the problem and sourced anti-vibration matting, which sits on top of the foundations and provided an expensive but effective solution. 

 

ERECTING THE TIMBER FRAME


Watching the Oakwrights team erecting the oak frame proved to be an exciting stage in the build as the huge timbers were lifted into position and traditionally jointed and pegged in place. The crane was visible for miles around and the enormous frame took twelve weeks to construct, after which a building contractor completed the project. 


“Although I’d been involved with, and sometimes project managed, building various projects for clients in the past, I’d never done anything on this scale for myself. It put quite a bit of pressure on me when I thought about how this would be a home I’d live in for the rest of my life. As a professional interior designer, I needed to get it just right from the onset,” says Viv. 


“It helped to have Mike concentrate on the exterior so I could focus all my energy on the interior”. The amount of choice was overwhelming and we lived and breathed this project, but we never plan to move house again and were determined to get everything right. Even now, after living here for seven years, I still get a buzz when we arrive home.”

FIRST TIME SELF-BUILDERS VIV AND MIKE EDWARDS CHOSE AN EXTREMELY AMBITIOUS PROJECT ON WHICH TO CUT THEIR TEETH: BUILDING A RAMBLING COUNTRY HOUSE MEASURING AN IMPRESSIVE 790 SQ M ON A BEAUTIFUL PLOT IN THE HERTFORDSHIRE COUNTRYSIDE.

oak frame interior at the great hall
the great hall oak home
fine oak staircase

OAK FRAME BUDGET CHALLENGES

 

Building such a large property brought with it a number of considerations. Everything needed to be scaled up to ensure that it didn't look out of proportion, including windows and doors, and Viv would frequently commission bespoke pieces.


“The oak doors and staircase were made by an amazing craftsman in Somerset, and I sourced all of the light fittings - including the huge chandelier above the stairs which was imported from a chateau in France,” she says. Other over-sized products include the Moroccan stone flooring, which has been laid in huge slabs in the hallway and kitchen. The kitchen cabinets and island unit were made to Viv's owns design, and everything is set against the backdrop of sturdy timbers which make up the exposed oak frame. “None of our previous furniture was suitable, it all looked far too small, which is why I most things made bespoke and I was lucky with my interiors background I was able to pull on all my resources for this.”

 

Viv and Mike decided against setting a fixed budget because they were unsure about some of the costs at the start of the build. They were keen not to cut corners when it came to quality but once products had been selected, Viv used her industry knowledge to ensure that everything was offered at the best possible prices. “I had the advantage of being able to call on my suppliers for trade prices or below, but this project encouraged me to make new connections as well” she explains.


One of the major challenges in building such a large house was ensuring that it still felt like a home. “We wanted to make sure that every room would be used, so we haven’t got a separate dining room – the table is positioned in the lounge under the galleried landing, and has a lower ceiling for a cosier feel. We also have a separate TV snug, which the boys use all the time. It’s fantastic to have so much space.” 


The planning process was lengthy but the build was an enormous success. The start-to-finish collaboration that took place formed a solid working relationship, which has resulted in Viv’s company Edwards McCoy linking with Oakwrights as their interior designers.

the great hall timber frame home - exterior with hot tub

view the great hall gallery

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