A picturesque, oak frame barn-style self-build home in Cambridgeshire. The new home features a timber clad exterior and a large area of south-facing glazing.

Alison Farrell-Price and Chris Price project managed the build of a charming barn-style home befitting their picturesque village but designed with modern living at its heart.

The couple spent seven years quietly formulating plans to build their own home, and a further three looking for their ideal plot. So when they opened a local paper and chanced upon a site for sale with magnificent views over private parkland, they were “90% sure” it was the plot for them before even stepping foot upon it.

Finding the Plot

“We had some fairly strict criteria,” explains Alison. “The plot had to have a south or south-west-facing garden overlooking countryside, but also be within a village setting with no through road or traffic noise. It was always going to be a tall order.” Nestled within a picturesque Cambridgeshire village in a Conservation Area, the former garden plot ticked all the right boxes.

That all-important south-facing aspect was crucial to the couple’s long-held ambitions to build an oak frame home filled with light. “We both love natural light, but also love old buildings, and had over time developed a concept for a home with a traditional exterior but with contemporary interiors and lots of glazing on the rear elevation,” explains Alison. “When we saw this plot I instantly went on Google Earth and saw that it met our requirements. I made an appointment to view it the next morning and made an offer that evening.”

The design

Alison and Chris had already decided upon commissioning Oakwrights to create their oak frame; they had been impressed by a portfolio which included homes which combine traditional detailing with contemporary glazing. So together with designer Pete Tonks, who came recommended by the oak frame specialist and who had also had prior dealings with the local authority, a vernacular scheme consisting of a weatherboarded barn-style home was developed. Inside, guests would be greeted by an internal oak frame and glorious views through extensive rear glazing. The sensitive design was met with approval from the planners and conservation officers.

Building work

Alison began by project managing the build of the barn, with its largely open ground floor and three comfortable first floor bedrooms. Work began on site with the demolition of the existing brick and blockwork house; much of the existing material was grubbed up to create hardcore for groundworks. A soil survey had revealed 8m of solid clay and coupled with the removal of a dense border of conifers – to free up additional space and bring further light into the plot – piled foundations were a must.

For the couple, who had previously lived within a 400-year-old thatched cottage complete with “all the inherent problems of a period property,” as Alison describes, insulation was imperative not simply for Building Regulations purposes, but in creating a new home with a low heat demand. They consequently specified Oakwrights’ LightWall system to encase the internal oak frame. This system consists of factory-made studwork panels with 9mm OSB to the outer face, leaving a service void or opportunity for further insulation. 75mm Kingspan TW55 rigid insulation boards fully enclose the stud frame to minimise cold bridging and a breathing membrane protects this. With most ceilings vaulted on the first floor, Alison opted to insulate – with 120mm-thick Kingspan Kooltherm K7 rigid insulation – between the rafters.

The couple’s new home, designed to resemble an old agricultural building, thus functions like a thoroughly modern structure.

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