Building their own home was never on this couple’s bucket list. But, like many of life’s big decisions, it seemed the obvious choice in retrospect. They were driven by the desire to remain in the idyllic New Forest village where they had lived for nearly 20 years.
‘We had a lovely period house, but it was expensive to run,’ says the owner. ‘Our children were leaving home, so we decided to move somewhere smaller. As we love the village, we didn’t want to go too far.’
Few properties come up for sale in the area, so when a bungalow on a large plot of land went on the market, the couple hurried to view it. ‘It was the right location, but the wrong house – an ugly bungalow in a dark corner. We bought it with a plan to replace it with a house in a more central position,’ the owner says.
The couple wanted a characterful property made with natural materials that would sit comfortably in its New Forest setting. ‘We found Oakwrights, a company that specialises in oak-framed buildings, and saw a photograph of its showhouse in Herefordshire – it was perfect, with lots of beams and a warm atmosphere,’ says the owner.
‘We were actually able to go and stay in the showhouse, and I loved it so much, I didn’t want to leave. We knew then that we wanted to build something similar.’ So rather than opt for bungalow extension ideas, they decided to build the house of their dreams on the same plot.
Architect John Williams, who works in conjunction with Oakwrights, designed the house and dealt with the local planning department. ‘We sold our house and were able to live in the bungalow while work on the oak-framed building took place,’ says the owner.
‘We were allowed to build a new property with the provision that we knocked down the old bungalow within three months of moving into the new house.’
The work took 15 months in total, including building a basement beneath the house. The frame was cut off-site in Herefordshire, then erected over four days. ‘Putting up the oak frame was a quick process,’ says the owner.
‘Oakwrights also supplied the SIPs (structural insulated panels) that made up the walls and the roof. These took time to put in place but the advantage is that, because we have highly insulated fabric in the house, we need little heating and have much lower fuel bills.’
Open-plan living area
As the property isn’t large, the couple chose an open-plan design to make it feel more spacious. ‘We also wanted maximum light and to have views of the plot, so we planned plenty of windows and doors,’ says the owner.
For the decor, she chose wood and leather furniture to complement the mellow tones of the wooden beams and flooring. ‘We wanted the interior to look homely,’ she says. ‘We chose individual pieces of furniture and older, distressed pieces to create an eclectic look.’
‘When we’re in the dining room with the doors open, it’s if we are in the garden,’ says the owner. ‘And when we open the sitting room door, we could be beneath a pergola. In the living room blue mid-century style sofas add a pop of colour and retro style
Get the look
Buy now: Shimla pendant lights, £150 each, Nkuku
Buy now: Walls painted in Pointing, £46.50 for 2.5l, Farrow & Ball
Buy now: Connection two seater sofa, £749, DFS
In the simple kitchen, white Shaker-style units keep the look light and airy and a smart range cooker, wooden knobs and wood worktops give the space that classic country look.
Get the look
Buy now: Stoves Richmond range cooker, £2,094, Ao.com
Buy now: Walls painted in Mizzle, £46.50 for 2.5L, Farrow & Ball
Upstairs in the house’s two bedrooms, a neutral backdrop allows the beauty of the wooden beams and flooring to shine.
Get the look
Buy now: Recycled wool blanket, £20, National Trust
Buy now: Hektar foor lamp, £45, Ikea
Buy now: The Remington Leather lounge chair, £845, Perch & Parrow is similar
Tongue-and-groove panelling adds a classic rustic touch in the country-style bathroom.
Get the look
Buy now: The Cambridge roll-top bath, £399.97, Soak.com is similar
Buy now: Panelling painted in Mizzle, Farrow & Ball
Buy now: For a similar stool, try the wooden stool, £125, Shimu
It is five years since the couple moved into their home. ‘We’re absolutely thrilled with it and so glad we made the decision to build,’ says the owner. ‘We’re still part of the village we love, but our new home is just right for our new, downsized life.’