Stewart Orr built his and wife Heather’s spectacular new contemporary-style timber frame home in the Highlands himself (with a bit of help from Dad).

Stewart and Heather live in a fabulous home with expansive views of mountains and changeable skies, which reflect in their tarn on a still day.

With its generous proportions and wood-clad finish this property could be in Canada, but in fact this is Scotland, and this incredible house is all Stewart’s own design and build.

Project Notes

  • Name: Heather and Stewart Orr
  • Build Cost: £250,000
  • Build time: 1 year 4 months
  • Region: Argyll & Bute

The Plot

In rural Scotland plots are not hard to come by, but it’s not often that a really special one comes up. Within a week of moving out of their existing home in September 2009, the couple were owners of exactly that – a large barn on 11 sprawling acres of farmland with a pond and Highland views.

“Plots around here usually go for about £100-£120,000 but this was on for £220,000,” says Heather. “We jumped at the chance because there was so much land, and we knew Stewart could build the house so we’d save on labour costs.”

Orr kitchen island and units

Planning Permission

The site had once been part of a rare breeds farm park and was classified as ‘open countryside’ so building was restricted. The Orrs’ plot had outline planning permission to demolish the existing barn and build a new house on the footprint.

Heather and Stewart were, however, able to convince the planners to allow them to keep the barn whilst they built the new house; a decision which was permitted to become permanent once a new head of planning was appointed.

Orr minimalist bathroom

The Build

Stewart built a 48m² timber frame chalet inside the barn in two weeks and kitted it out just like a compact house. They stacked insulation sheets on top of the roof to help keep it cosy, and this became home for the family for the next 16 months.

Orr curved staircase

Timber Frame

Stewart has been a joiner for 16 years, learning the trade through his Dad. So when the project got going in July, it made sense for them to work together. The pair assembled the timber frame kit on site and were so quick, the shell and roof skeleton for the 450m² house was erected within two weeks.

Stewart built the frame using timber to produce wall panels that were later filled with insulation. He also chose Posi-joists™ and glulam beams over steel because he could build them on site. The budget for the project was £240,000 funded by the sale of their house and a mortgage, whilst Stewart says he got good prices because he bought in bulk and used the barn for storage.

Stewart finished the house in August 2011, complete with pieces of handmade furniture and an impressive helical staircase, all designed and built himself. It’s an extraordinary achievement, regardless of being completed in such a short time frame, so it’s no wonder Heather is so proud of Stewart and his dad. “The house looks fantastic and works really well as a family home,” she says. “I’m astonished by what Stewart can turn his hand to!”

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