A character building

Build information

Area: Buckinghamshire
House Type: Oak frame self-build
House Size: 445m2
Build Route: Oak frame
Build Cost: £989,000.00

Light floods in to this traditional style new build Photo credit: Mark Welsh

What began as a self-build dream to design and build a modest home to downsize too, over a 12 month period of honing their ideas became a large family home for June and Geoff Gaffney.

In 2009, June and Geoff were happily living in their traditional cottage when they saw an advert for oak frame homes. Falling in love with what they saw, the promptly requested a brochure and there journey to find a plot began. By chance, a plot became available close to their existing house which offered unrestricted views of the countryside and lots of space to build.

June and Geoff’s offer on the plot was accepted at which point they appointed us to design their new home. The design took around a year to perfect, as the couple honed their ideas and wishes for their new home. Initially the plans were for a more modest home, but after considering their large family, they chose to add two extra bedrooms and increase the footprint of the kitchen for entertaining.

The challenge for our Regional Architectural Designer, Pete Tonks, was to gain planning permission for a larger house, as a replacement for a bungalow which was around a quarter of the size.

Stunning views from the first floor living space Photo credit: Mark Welsh

Planning difficulties

Once the couple were happy with the design, the plans were submitted to the local planning department for approval, who, unfortunately had reservations over the design. “They said that the type of house we wanted to build didn’t blend in with the rest of the village,” says June. “However, we knew that there were plenty of other brick and oak houses, so we went round and physically counted them so that we could put a case forward to support our design. Part of the front of our house is also rendered, as well as the brick, which again caused issues.

“As a result, the house needed to be slightly repositioned within the plot to make the most of the natural light and warmth from the sun,” June continues. “We also had to install a ground-source heat pump (GSHP) as we weren’t allowed to use oil for heating.

These weren’t problems as such; it’s just how houses have to be built now so that they’re more efficient. The GSHP has been brilliant though — really efficient and heats everything in the house well.”

Finally, June and Geoff had to agree to install a bike stand to meet the local planning authority’s demands, which they complied with, and the plans were finally approved in 2011. “In the end we didn’t have to make too many compromises — we essentially got everything we wanted, it just took time to tweak the design,” June adds.

“I had always wanted to build my own home and everything just seemed to fall into place”

Geoff Gaffney

The Build

As a result of their year-long planning process, June and Geoff’s building work didn’t start until February 2011. The builder began laying the foundations in April 2011 and once they were in, we took over to erect the oak frame. “It was up within three weeks, which we were very impressed with,” says Geoff. “There was a planning issue with the very narrow lane to the site which we overcame by making the turning area big enough to turn an articulated lorry within the site. This meant no neighbour obstruction, and our neighbours were very accommodating during the build.”

Once the frame was erected, the couple and their builders were left to finish the build.

 

An Accommodating Home

June and Geoff’s new oak frame home boasts five spacious bedrooms. “We could have probably fitted another one in, but we preferred to have more space in each room, rather than feeling crammed in,” says June. There is also a comfortable sitting room off the galleried landing on the first floor showcasing the beautiful exposed oak beams, with a large balcony that overlooks the surrounding countryside.

Downstairs, the kitchen/dining/sitting room space has been particularly successful, as June says: “The kitchen was important because everyone seems to gather in there. We also opted for a formal dining room, which can comfortably seat 20 people, so suits our family life well.” The informal dining space in the kitchen also sits within a single story section of the house and so benefits from rooflights and views out over the garden.

To further increase the sense of space throughout the house, a double-height atrium features a wrap-around staircase, complete with glass balustrade, which offers a grand entrance. The oak frame gives the whole house a warm and welcoming atmosphere and is perfectly in line with the look that the couple wanted to achieve. “One of our previous homes was a converted barn and our old house not far from here was a traditional cottage, so I think you’re either a beam person, or you’re not,” says June.

“We didn’t think we would ever build our own house,” admits June. “When the children were growing up, sometimes you have these dreams but don’t ever think you will be able to fulfil them.

As we got older and circumstances changed, we just decided to go for it. If the plot hadn’t come up, we might never have done it, but everything just seemed to happen at the right time.”

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