When Stuart and Diane Wilkie’s newly purchased old house proved beyond repair, they decided to build a fine oak frame home on the enviable site.

Stuart and his wife, Diane, had lived in Kent for 25 years and once Stuart sold his micro-electronics business and retired, he was eager to take on a new project. So when a local house the couple had both admired came onto the market, they were quick to make an offer, based on the magnificent views the site offered over the Kentish Weald.

“The house came with almost 10 acres of land, including two fields and a wood, but it was sunk into the hillside and wasn’t particularly attractive. There was a lot of damp and some subsidence, but at that point we were still thinking we might renovate and extend — until I fell through the floor” Stuart recalls.

The Project

  • Name: Stuart and Diane Wilkie
  • Build cost: £928,000 (£1,568/m²)
  • Build time: 2 years 6 months
  • Location: Kent

Planning the design

Thoughts swiftly turned to a traditional-style self-build and the Wilkies attended one of the Homebuilding & Renovating Shows where they talked with a number of oak frame specialists. After travelling to visit several of these companies they ultimately chose to work with Herefordshire-based Oakwrights, impressed by the team’s ‘can-do’ attitude and pragmatic approach.

“I sketched out the style of house and accommodation we wanted, and discussed these with our architectural designer, Pete Tonks, who incorporated our ideas into his own designs,” says Stuart. “Our daughter’s a planning consultant and she helped us through the process. Pete balanced the difficult planning restrictions, and our scheme went through on the first application.”

The house would feature four spacious bedrooms on the first floor, two of which would have direct access to a large balcony. While on the ground floor, visitors would be greeted by a double-height dining hall opening up to more intimate spaces, including an open plan living and more informal dining area, study and kitchen. A full basement was also designed in to provide valuable additional living space and storage.

With the final design agreed, Oakwrights set about crafting the frame, which was then delivered to the site. After three weeks the frame was up and a ‘topping out’ ceremony was held.

Building work

“I knew that the key to the success of the build would be choosing the right local craftspeople, which turned out to be surprisingly easy. Our bricklayer was recommended by a friend and his work was excellent, so I asked him to suggest other trades he’d be happy to work alongside” remarks Stuart, who also got involved in the work.

“I waxed all of the oak inside the house myself, too, and feel I know every inch of the place intimately,” he laughs. “Despite some jobs being quite laborious I enjoyed the whole process because we were creating something for ourselves. Even my 84-year-old mother walked around the scaffolding to look at the views — which were, of course, our whole reason for building a house here in the first place.”

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