A tranquil oak frame home overlooking the River Thames

Oak Frame Building Costs

Area: Henley
House Type: Oak frame and WrightWall encapsulation
House Size: 340m2
Build Route: Oakwrights and Valla Homes
Build Time: 01 Jul 2017 – 31 Mar 2018

In 2007, Andrew Hughes-Hallett sold his shares in a company he had founded and decided it was time for a change. He purchased two plots of land along the River Thames: one in Henley and the other in Sonning. His intention was to build a home on each, keeping one of the riverside plots for himself and selling the other.

“I am a Pisces, and so I like to be beside the water,” explains Andrew. “I have always strived to live along the river.”

Andrew’s 1.75acre plot in Henley was more substantial in size and had more character in comparison to the other site. He loved the undulating land and the mature trees which also gave the plot a considerable amount of privacy. In addition to this, its positioning on the weir pool takes Andrew off the main thoroughfare of the Thames.

“I wanted to have movement and privacy,” says Andrew. “These two factors combined, alongside the maturity of the surrounding trees, meant it was a no brainer that I would develop this particular plot on the basis it would become my long-term home, and I developed and sold the other.”

Residing on Andrew’s plot in Henley was an old bungalow which he lived in for nearly three years prior to and during the construction of his oak frame home.

“You only really appreciate a plot of land by living there through all of the seasons, so you understand where the light falls at first light and sunset,” explains Andrew. “I thought it was important to get a real lens on those aspects before deciding on the positioning of the house, and in turn, how its internal configuration would take in those lighting considerations as well as the available views.”

Every angle of Andrew's architectural design was carefully considered to capture light and his breath-taking backdrop

Choosing to build with oak

Andrew spent time researching environmental considerations and finding renewable materials for his home building project. Having received planning permission approval in 2015 for his future home, it was Andrew’s nephew, Sam Taylor from Valla Homes, who introduced him to our teams here at Oakwrights. Sam has previously worked with us on the construction of a bespoke oak frame home near Henley-in-Arden, which Andrew later went to visit.

“I invited my two nephews to take on my new build, and I always envisaged it would be framed by oak,” says Andrew. “I looked at one or two other oak frame suppliers but once I had seen this particular Oakwrights home, I was absolutely convinced I wanted to build a home with oak.”

Our Sales Director, David Grey, began working with Andrew and invited him to Herefordshire to visit our offices, workshops and stay in our show home, The Woodhouse.

“The meeting I had with the team in Hereford was extremely valuable,” explains Andrew. “We really drilled down into the design configuration and went into a high level of detail. Small but important adjustments were made which produced a superior end result. I would say this is a prerequisite for anyone looking to undergo a project of this magnitude and would thoroughly recommend going to Herefordshire to get close to Oakwrights’ whole process and have a design review meeting.”

Andrew’s interior vision for his home was based on a glue laminated post and beam oak frame structure. Our Frame Design team worked with him to create clear, solid lines throughout which naturally accentuates the property’s internal spaces, while the colour exudes charm and has a welcoming warmth.

“I wanted the new house to blend into its landscape and I like the character of green oak,” says Andrew. “So, we incorporated it into certain features such as the main front door porch, the elevated balcony which serves the master bedroom, as well as the whole decking structure outside. I believe that if you build a home of your own design in such a terrific, natural setting, you are morally obliged to be sympathetic to the surroundings and be careful with the materials you use.”

I would thoroughly recommend going to Herefordshire to get close to Oakwrights’ whole process and have a design review meeting.

Andrew Hughes-Hallett

Key design features

Raised two metres from the ground to avoid the risk of flooding, as you approach Andrew’s home from his driveway you a welcomed by a timber staircase leading to his impressive oak porch that has been subtly covered by a matt-finish zinc roof. Naturally treated timber weatherboarding encases the whole exterior of the property, accompanied by a natural slate roof overhead, blending Andrew’s home delicately into its idyllic backdrop.

Once inside, Andrew’s overarching objective of creating a sociable downstairs space, where each room flows effortlessly from one to another, unfolds before your eyes. Wide oak joists have been strategically positioned within the property to enable the vast, open-plan living space to take centre stage. Stemming from his custom-made McCarron and Co kitchen, and living area, the spacious layout transitions onwards into the dining room and outside to Andrew’s expansive decking area.

“When the bifold doors separating the dining room and garden are fully opened, you question whether you are inside or out,” explains Andrew. “The bifolds remove obstacles from the eyeline so you can take in Nature and the river views.”

Andrew opted to encase his oak frame with our WrightWall encapsulation system to ensure his home would be highly insulated and energy-efficient for years to come. Alongside his oak frame, this was prefabricated in our Herefordshire workshops.

“What I love about the natural materials we used is that everything was prepared offsite and there were virtually no spoils,” explains Andrew.

An important design consideration for Andrew was having the ability to see his structure both upstairs and downstairs.

“I love the undulations in the ceiling and the different angles,” says Andrew. “From the ground floor, you can see right through to the apex of the room upstairs. It absolutely floats my boat!”

Such angles are enhanced during the day by the natural light cascading through the handcrafted, oak joinery. At night, carefully positioned uplighters augment the warmth and homeliness of the oak beams which Andrew was eager for his home to exude.

Two large en-suite bedrooms are located on the first floor; both of which benefit from bifold doors. The master bedroom is positioned to the north of the property, where the bifolds lead you out onto Andrew’s elevated oak balcony, providing a covered, secondary viewpoint of the meandering river. This aspect also takes advantage of the afternoon sunlight, lending itself perfectly for sociable events taking place on the decking beneath.

The stunning open-plan downstairs area is enhanced by the warmth of the oak frame, creating an inviting space for all to enjoy

A home constructed with the present and future in mind

Andrew moved into his new home, ‘Arcadia,’ on 31st March 2018.

“In Greek mythology, Arcadia means a place of tranquillity and contemplation, an unspoiled harmonious wilderness; and I wanted this to resonate within the architectural design of the house,” explains Andrew.

While settling in, construction work began to create Andrew’s three-bay oak frame garage and oak frame outdoor bar which is positioned by the river.

“With a house such as this, with its expansive social areas, there was a need for something to pull guests down the garden to the water’s edge,” says Andrew.

The bespoke design of Andrew’s bar incorporates certain elements he resurrected from the bungalow once it had been demolished, providing him with an everlasting memory of its provenance.

Throughout his home building journey, Andrew worked closely with his nephews, Sam and Alastair, and our teams who were both on-site and here in Herefordshire.

“The overall quality of workmanship is off the scale in terms of attention to detail and standards. I have no doubt in 80 years that the quality of construction and finish will still be very obvious to the naked eye. If someone asked me what I would do differently next time, I can say with confidence that I would not change a thing,” concludes Andrew.