Barn style home for young family on woodland plot

A planning consent story from the perspective of Oakwrights architectural designer, Pete Tonks:

Ian and Bonnie were both in busy professional careers and had a young family when they started their self-build journey in 2007. What they also had was a really beautiful woodland plot with a small timber lodge style building that they called home.

During 2003, the couple had already secured planning permission for a number of extensions to the lodge together with new outbuildings for a studio and garaging. Whilst the approved scheme would have given them more room, it was decided that the costs to realise the project were not viable and discussions were opened up as to the option of a replacement dwelling instead.

Replacement dwellings are a core staple of our business and we have a significant amount of experience in gaining planning permissions for this type of project.

At the time, I had been an Architectural Designer with Oakwrights for four years but the houses we had designed together had all been traditional Tudor style infill panels with the exposed oak framing externally. This is a lovely style and one that is still very popular today. However, Ian and Bonnie longed for barn style so as to retain the woodland feel that they had fallen in love with in the first place when they purchased the property. I absolutely love barn style design and this was going to be one of the first I had done for an Oakwrights client so I was very much looking forward to the process.

I spent a good first meeting on site with the couple just getting to know them individually and as a family and also understanding how the plot ‘works’. Each client and each plot is unique and it is my responsibility as a house designer to get these synchronised. At these first meetings, I will ask many questions to prospective clients. Questions about how they live now; what works for them? What doesn’t work for them? How do they want to live? What are their objectives for the project? What is the build budget? Who is going to build the house? Over the years, we have created a very unique approach to this initial appraisal process and firmly believe that this first interaction between designer and client is a critical moment and will set the blueprint for the whole project.

As Ian and Bonnie had a young family and wanted to firmly set roots down for the future, this home was always intended to be about fun and to ensure a connection is always available for the occupants within the building. It is so important with a young family to spend quality time together and therefore to achieve this, we designed a large kitchen / dining / family space at the rear which leads out to a covered verandah directly connected to the woodland garden. From anywhere in this space one can see the rear gardens, so if mum and dad are in the kitchen preparing meals, the children can safely be playing outside. Off the kitchen is a nice barn style lean-to providing the utility and plant / boot-room.

The Hallway was designed larger than one might expect, as our clients wanted to have a feature stairs and gallery space so that the height attributes of barn style could really be enjoyed from anywhere. As you enter the front door, there is an immediate ‘lift’ to the senses as you can see right from floor level up into the apex of the oak framed roofing timbers. A bridge spans this space, separating the family bedrooms and bathrooms from the main master bedroom, dressing room and en-suite. We also decided to continue the gallery away from the staircase and into the rear bedroom wing thereby resulting in a further two-storey void in the dining area. This use of broken plan and void removal really does make the most of connections within spaces and promotes true barn style living.

The study is located off the main formal living room, as Ian often works from home and this side of the house was always intended to be more for adult use. Likewise, there is a separate family / playroom which can be closed off when the children want to be noisy and messy much like children do in their formative years!

For me, the design of this house came instinctively. As soon as I got to know the clients, I knew exactly what they wanted and between us, we really did get to design what is considered a classic Oakwrights barn style home. I love the use of vertical repetitive geometry principles, the slim gables and steep roofs, the roof lights and triangular inset dormer and fully weather boarded facades with low-level brickwork and clay tile roof.

Going back to the planning process itself, this was previous to the National Planning Policy Framework, so we consulted the relevant local planning policy and also had some initial discussions with the planning authority in respect of what their stance might be. Typically, with a replacement dwelling project, we would often enter into a formal pre-application process with the planning authority to seek their views in principle as to the likely outcome of a formal planning application if one were submitted. However, as the site already had planning permission for a 50% plus increase through extensions, we decided to go straight to full planning. The key parameters we had to work within were;

  1. that the number of dwellings on site would remain as per existing
  2. the replacement dwelling would be generally in the same location as the existing dwelling
  3. the ‘uplift’ would still be generally within the 50% increase guidelines.

What makes this project even more interesting is that it has been a true self-build with the majority of the work actually being undertaken by Ian and Bonnie! This combined with busy careers and raising their family has albeit taken near on 10 years, but is that even a problem? I do not think so at all. I think they should be applauded for their commitment to the cause and for producing a truly stunning and completely unique, personal home for them as a family unit to be enjoyed for many happy years to come.