The Oakwrights' frame is exposed throughout the interior and the company also made the feature window in the family room. Soil tests were taken for the NHBC guarantee, and the ground level was lowered by half a metre across the plot to ensure the ridge height of the new property did not dramatically exceed that of its predecessor – involving one hundred 20-ton lorries of soil being removed. This resulted in engaging a professional landscape designer to redesign the whole outside space. Once the 1950s bungalow had been demolished new standard strip foundations were excavated for the replacement house. The builder managed the project and proved to be an ideal choice – talking everything through with the family and ensuring a trouble-free build.
This left the Gooches free to research and purchase bathrooms, tiles, flooring, light fittings and their kitchen, which the builder then fitted. Metal windows were sourced at a self-build show, and have been fitted in hardwood iroko frames to the rear with stone mullions to the front of the house, made to order at a quarry.
"We enjoyed getting involved and went to the Oakwrights factory to take some pictures of our frame being made,” Margaret recalls. “The builder left site for two weeks while Oakwrights erected the frame and after just ten days we could see the skeleton of our new home, which was incredible." Our builder set up scaffolding around the perimeter of the slab which Oakwrights could work off while dropping the oak frame onto the prepared foundations. The crane and lorries arrived and were unloaded, with the foreman instructing his team about the sequence of the frame erection, which was traditionally pegged together.
"The frame got wet and marked, so we employed someone to clean the timbers with oxalic acid before they were waxed internally,” says Paul. “The builders were on site during the cleaning process, which wasn’t ideal, but we were on a deadline and needed to keep going." The building contractor used his own masons and bricklayers to lay the local stone and new brickwork, with random painted bricks helping to give the impression that these are reclaimed. Exposed brickwork also makes a statement in the open plan kitchen, where green and blue painted cabinets are fitted and limestone flooring has been laid over underfloor heating. This room steps down into a relaxed dining area and cinema room to the rear of the house, with folding/sliding doors opening to the garden beyond. Oak steps lead up into the sitting room, which has glass walls and doors into the hallway beyond, enabling an entire circuit of the ground floor to be completed. The flowing layout and extensive use of glass creates an extremely light and open feel, and means that it’s possible to see through the house to the garden from the front door - one of the family's specific requirements.
"The oak frame has moved and cracked, as expected, which meant we needed to have some small areas of plastering redone, but we've had no problems at all – it's all gone really well and the oak is beautiful," says Paul.
"Our underfloor heating is powered by two ground source heat pumps and energy bills are around half those of our previous cottage, despite this house being twice the size. The wow factor and character of the oak frame, teamed with modern technology, really is the perfect combination.