Contemporary home with rustic oak frame in Hertfordshire

Oak Frame Building Costs

Area: Hertfordshire
House Size: 188m2
Build Route: Oak frame and encapsulation
Build Time: 01 May 2015 – 31 May 2016
Build Cost: £490,000

The open plan ground floor has easy access to the garden

For 28 years, Johnny and Jane looked out on the near-derelict Ivy Cottage from their Edwardian villa opposite. Regular visitors of Homebuilding and Renovating shows and with a keen interest in renovating; it was inevitable that one day they would buy the property as their first renovation project.

“We had our eye on the house, but after having surveys done and speaking with our first architect, we realised there was nothing worth keeping,”explains Johnny. But getting planning permission for a demolition and new build was a two-year issue; two refusals, £4,500 worth of bat works and a failed appeal later, the couple turned to us and our Regional Architectural Designer, Pete Tonks.

“We were living in a green belt, the cottage was in a Conservation Area and the property was the oldest house in the village.” says Johnny. “We wanted something that was sympathetic to the village at the front, not imposing or shocking. But we did want a sense of theatre, so that when you walk into the house nothing looked like it did at the front. I can just glide around and see the garden from any room in the house”

The design had to retain the individuality of the original black timber cottage it replaced

The planners were quite particular in their requirements which meant that the design couldn’t be bulky or too large and had to retain the individuality of the original black timber cottage. To meet the planning criteria while still fulfilling the couple’s brief, Pete designed a home that introduced contemporary features combined with a rustic oak frame.

Starting with a basic timber porch leading to an open plan hall space, the ground floor is essentially open plan, with enclosed spaces for a bathroom, utility room and downstairs bedroom. “Coming from a small cottage where I was forever bumping into my wife and the dog, it’s nice not to feel so constricted,” explains Johnny.

A Contemporary Oak Frame

The open plan ground floor has easy access to the garden, patio and courtyard using sliding glass doors. “This is not a huge house but shows that you don’t have to build big to get something special,” explains Regional Architectural Designer Pete Tonks. “The clients were originally looking for a five bedroom house. We managed to design a three bedroom home that was 29.9% larger than the original cottage (the most allowed under Green Belt rules is generally 30%).”

A Spacious Kitchen

A Corian-topped island contrasts with the structural braces and beams of the oak frame above.

The front elevation is clad in EuroBoards and fitted flush instead overlapping, for a more contemporary look on the original cottage’s black timber cladding. The timber porch has been engineered to avoid the need for traditional curved bracing.

Light and Space

While the house isn’t large at 188m2, the open plan and zoned ground floor space and three large glass sliding doors provides a substantial amount of light and sense of space. The double-fronted fireplace provides zoning between the living and dining spaces, as well as useful extra storage and that ultimate contemporary feel that Johnny and Jane were looking for.

Tactile Quality

At the rear, an extravagant array of glass walls, different rooflines and zoned spaces create a dynamic contrast to the more modest street-facing front. The two pyramidal hip roofs address the planner’s apprehensions about bulk and volume, but bring visual attention in their own right.

The build took just 11 months, with the oak frame and WrightWall Light encapsulation system constructed in our workshops offsite. The encapsulation system allowed u-values for the walls to be 0.16W/m2 and the roof to be 0.4W/m2.  “Even though the oak framers were only on site for a month it was an absolute joy seeing the craftspeople caring about what they were building,” explains Johnny. “And having Pete Tonks, also as Project Manager may have cost more but saved us stress, time and sleepless nights; creativity is more important than managing builders. The other thing I would suggest is invest in quality materials whenever you can afford it. It’s got to last a lifetime, and there’s a reason why some things are cheaper.”

A Modern Staircase

The 108mm-thick open oak treads of the bespoke staircase are reinforced by a central steel spine and coupled with a glass balustrade. Porcelain tiles are fitted above underfloor heating through most of the ground floor to create a seamless transition between zones. Johnny tells us “All the flooring is on exactly the same level and using tiles gives that sense of using good honest materials.”

Glass Floors

Glass floors are manufactured from toughened safety glass, and are also known as ‘floorlights’. Glass floors can be used to bring natural light into a basement or to allow light from a loft conversion to flow into the rest of the building, or in this case for the Jones’, to convey a sense of space and height where there is not enough room for a double-height atrium. “There’s a clear glass floor in the master bedroom, and when you are sitting at the dining table you can look up into the beautiful oak roof” says Jonny. Glass floors can have a range of finishes, although some people dislike the sensation of walking on clear glass and would feel happier with the option of the glass being translucent.

Master Bedroom

The couple’s master bedroom oak frame has a structural arch collar as well as dragon ties which add visual interest to the space. Initial designs included three bedrooms on the upper storey; this was then adjusted to two when the planner requested more ‘sky space’ between the new build and next door. The third bedroom was moved to the the ground floor, meeting another of the planner’s requests for the home to meet the Lifetime Homes Standard.

Creating Johnny and Jane’s contemporary oak frame home was an absolute pleasure and we are so grateful to them for having the belief and confidence in us. As a result of the successful completion of this project, we secured 4 more projects to manage through 2017 and 2018.


Load more images