Steve and Sharon dreamed of converting a barn, but their search proved fruitless — many fine barns ripe for conversion had already been snapped up and turned into homes. So, they instead decided to build their own from scratch.
The couple and their children, Harriet and Harvey, were living near Winchester in a bungalow which they had spent several years extending and improving.
As a builder, Steve was able to tackle much of the work himself, transforming the drab 1920s building into a comfortable family home. “Sharon thought I was mad when I first suggested knocking down the bungalow and building a new house on the plot,” Steve recalls.”
- Name: Steve and Sharon Hunt
- Build cost: £360,000 (£1,022/m²)
- Build time: 1 year 3 months
- Location: Hampshire
Steve and Sharon had often admired local properties designed by Huw Thomas, a Winchester-based architect well known for his work with listed and historic buildings. “I thought he would be the ideal man for the job,” says Steve. “We wanted a fairly open plan layout with plenty of light, high ceilings and rooms which would open onto the garden. Huw’s initial design was fantastic, and we then spent time working out the finer details.”
The new home is clad in horizontal cedar weatherboarding with a brick plinth and handmade plain clay roof tiles. Internally, the ‘barn effect’ was achieved by exposing the dramatic oak frame, with double-height spaces allowing views right up through the building.
“Choosing a company to build and erect the oak frame was a key decision,” Steve recalls. “We visited the Homebuilding & Renovating Show at the NEC and happened to spot a book called Oak-Framed Buildings, by Rupert Newman. I read it from cover to cover and decided that this man really knew his stuff.”
The Hunts purchased a three bedroom mobile home for £1,000 and duly moved into their temporary accommodation, which had been insulated with straw. “It was cramped and chilly,” says Sharon, who made do with cooking on a two-ring gas stove.
Demolishing their old home proved an emotional experience, and the family took one last walk around the bungalow before it was razed to the ground. Two months later, the Westwind Oak team arrived on site and spent the next two weeks erecting the frame. Eight men transformed a massive pile of timbers into the impressive frame, which was craned into position during cold and snowy weather.
Once the framers had left the site, Steve and his team of subcontractors were on hand to complete the structure. “I tackled the carpentry work and used a roofer, plumber and electrician, as well as a plasterer — who was horrified when I asked him to plaster the pumice chimney which rises up through the centre of the house,” Steve recalls.
This unusual cylindrical chimney serves a doublesided woodburning stove for the sitting and dining areas. Piercing the galleried landing above, it acts as a giant heat sink — while also creating an impressive feature and drawing the eye upwards. Limestone flooring (the couple’s biggest extravagance) was laid in a random English bond over underfloor heating throughout the ground floor, with oak floors upstairs.
“Watching our bungalow being demolished was upsetting, but Steve was right to convince us to take the risk and now we have a fantastic home on a perfect site,” admits Sharon. “It felt strange at first, looking out at the same old view through new windows, but in every way it really does feel like home, and the oak frame is absolutely stunning — particularly when it’s illuminated at night.”