Green oak, single storey home created in Cornwall

Build information

Area: Cornwall
House Type: Oak frame and encapsulation self-build
House Size: 199m2
Build Route: Oakwrights and self-managed
Finance: Private
Build Cost: £383,300.00

Open plan living

Lesley and David Black’s dream to create a green oak frame home in Cornwall is particularly remarkable, given that Lesley is in her 70s and David is in his 80s. Lesley and David semi-retired and relocated to Cornwall from Kent 27 years ago, restoring, and converting three barns into two holiday lets and a new home. Lesley explains: “We bought the barns when we lived in Kent and spent weekends and holidays on site in a caravan. Eventually we moved down here permanently and lived in the barn until 2003”.

Living spaces flow together seamlessly

A lucky find

Lesley and David had lived in a new house for nine years but had always admired the style of Kentish barns, and so in 2012 they came to the conclusion it was time to build their own home. They sold their house and lived in a campervan for two years, to ensure they were ready to relocate when a plot became available. They took out subscriptions to plot finding websites, but it was their persistent niggling of estate agents that finally found them the perfect plot.

 

“We found a plot but the agent advised, it was controversial because an interested developer had illegally removed some trees, which resulted in tree preservation orders and restrictions being put on the site limiting where we could build. There are very few houses around here and the site was woodland, so the locals were not in favour of anyone building on it. Fortunately the owner of the plot agreed to allow us six months to try and secure planning before the sale was completed”.

Lesley Black

Making the most of the planning conditions

He and Lesley talked to designer Sara Edwards, who created a design based on the Derndale from the Woodhouse range. Planning conditions specified that the house must be single storey so the bedrooms were located in the roof space, with the frame adjusted to have a lower ridge height. This clever tactic meant the house appeared to be two storey and yet still conformed to planning. 

Sara prepared a 3D design so that David and Lesley could visualise the space much easier. Once the frame and WrightWall encapsulation panels were manufactured, structural changes would no longer be possible so any alterations had to be made at this point. ‘Although we had a clear picture of what we wanted, Sara came up with ideas that we would never have thought of, and the house is enhanced because of them,’ says Lesley.

 

Enjoying the self-build process

When searching for a builder to work with on the oak frame assembly, Lesley explains “we were determined to enjoy the process and not get stressed, and a key part of this was choosing people that we felt we could work with. We chose David Burrows because he was clearly an easy person to get on with, and we also loved the fact that he was a carpenter. Although he had never worked on an oak frame home before, he understood wood, and I think that is evident from the level of craftsmanship throughout the house.” David Burrows laid the foundations and carried out the groundworks, making way for Oakwrights to deliver and assemble the frame and panels. Within just 13 days the structure was erected, including the Wrightwall Light wall panels and roof cassettes.

 

Location is no obstacle

The isolated location meant that an oil-fired boiler and septic tank were necessary, with bottled gas used to power the range cooker. Lesley and David also chose to have a wood-burning stove, powder coating the flue to match the galvanised aluminium drainpipes and guttering. “The house is incredibly well insulated and really warm. We often don’t need the heating on even in winter, but we wanted a wood-burning stove for decorative reasons; they are so lovely to look at and they make for a cosy home in the winter!” Lesley explains.

Enhancing a home with it’s interior

A double-height entrance hall with glass balustrade complements the impressive oak frame which is a significant feature of the home. King post trusses in the vaulted ceilings are on display in the galleried landing as well as the bedrooms, and there are posts and beams in every room, some were tailored to allow for large furniture that Lesley and David wanted to keep. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs, one of which is an en-suite, and a further shower room on the ground floor.

Ready for another build…

Undeterred by their previous experiences, David and Lesley have not ruled out another self-build – but not yet. “We loved building this house, but have no plans to do it again for a while – we want to enjoy our home for a while first,” says Lesley.

What was the high point?

“From the local golf course we could see the crane lifting the whole frame into place. It went up so quickly, and watching its progress was definitely the highlight for us.”

And the low point?

‘A massive downpour just after the frame went up meant the house was like a swimming pool, and the tannin that came out of the wood was surprising – it looked like tea! We had to pump the water out.’

What do you like best about your home?

“The lightness – it lifts you. It’s comfy, cosy, substantial and tactile. It’s a very warm home, very easy to live in.”

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A green oak frame home in Cornwall

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