When Sally and Simon England’s first child was born, they decided to try and move from their house on the outskirts of Leicester to a larger property with a garden — preferably in a more rural location.
“We had our daughter Emily in July 2002, and immediately started looking for a family home in the countryside,” Sally explains. “Unfortunately there was nothing suitable in our price range, and we found that we couldn’t compete with professional builders and developers for land, so we sold our house and lived with my parents while we continued searching — thinking that this would put us in a stronger position to move quickly.”
Time passed, and the couple’s second child, Joe, was literally a day old when they bought a tiny 1970s house which required renovating. The entire property needed updating, and work included rewiring, fitting new windows, overhauling the kitchen and bathrooms and redecorating every room.
While this project was under way, the Englands also took the brave decision to purchase a building plot situated outside their original search area. “For years we’d been hunting for land or a renovation project in South Leicestershire, and when we decided to expand our area to Warwickshire we found ourselves in the lucky position of being able to buy a large plot in Wibtoft for £175,000,” says Simon.
The tiny village of about 20 houses and a church stands on the Leicestershire/ Warwickshire border, and the Englands’ 0.4-acre undeveloped greenfield plot is right in the middle of the village. Planning permission for a new house had been granted some time before, but was due to expire, and it was therefore important for Sally and Simon to move as quickly as possible.
The couple decided to amend the original design, rather than starting from scratch, in order to save both time and money, and Sally set about totally remodelling the interiors to suit their needs. Initially, they had fallen in love with the idea of building an oak framed and the planners accepted our amendments without any problem.”
The resulting three storey house has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a sitting room, dining room and a separate snug/TV room, as well as a study, a utility room and a dressing room leading off from the master bedroom.
“Simon knows lots of useful people through his work,” says Sally, “but although we’d tackled four renovations in the past few years, this was our first new build and it was a daunting prospect. It was made even more stressful because we had two very young children to care for. Simon continued to work full time during the build and we were also completing the renovation on our other house at the same time.”
“We worked with some great local subcontractors, who helped us to get the shell of the house up in six months,” explains Simon, who took on the role of project manager, and applied to become a registered NHBC builder based on his experience as a professional surveyor.
Tree roots from conifers in a neighbouring garden dictated that the footings should be dug deeper than first predicted, which resulted in additional and unexpected expense. Once the foundations, drainage and beam and block ground floor were completed, the bricklayers arrived and carpenters were employed to complete the first and second fix carpentry.
“I’d used some of the tradesmen before, such as the plumbers and electricians, and others were recommended to me,” says Simon. “The difficulty was making sure that people were on site at the right time, because most good builders are in high demand and the timing was pretty crucial.”
Once the studwork and plasterboarding had been completed it was then left up to the Englands to finish off the build, tackling jobs such as fitting the kitchen and bathrooms, tiling, painting, laying floors and landscaping the garden – which meant that they were able to keep the build cost down to under £200,000.
“The plan was that we had a certain amount of money and we had to make it stretch as far as possible. Once those funds dried up then the rest was up to us, and there were plenty of late nights,” says Sally, who undertook much of the decorating while Simon made cupboards, laid flooring and tiled the bathrooms.
The overall effect is of clean lines, high-quality finishes and spacious, well-proportioned rooms throughout, and the multi-room music system – with speakers concealed in the ceilings – has proved to be extremely popular with the whole family.
After 16 months of hard work the couple’s determination paid off, and they were finally able to move into their brand new home and begin building the oak framed garage, laying the driveway and landscaping the weed-filled garden, which proved to be a particularly back-breaking task.
“We could never have afforded to buy this house if we hadn’t built it ourselves,” says Sally. “Just by expanding the area we were searching in has given us a great family home in a beautiful location.”