Richard Compton and Fiona Hoey have built a luxurious and large oak frame hilltop home, designed to resemble a converted barn complex.
A collection of ugly asbestos farm buildings perched on top of a hill in West Sussex was the unlikely starting point for Richard and Fiona’s glamorous new home. The site, overlooking the valley of the River Arun, was once part of an old dairy farm.
“The farmer retired and sold on the land complete with planning permission for a 120m2 bungalow,” explains Richard. The couple’s architect and good friend, John Rippin, helped to devise a more appealing solution for the site, which involved demolishing the existing asbestos outbuildings and replacing them with a house built in the style of a traditional barn complex.
The first planning application was for a main house, with a separate barn-style garage, but Fiona pointed out that the living accommodation was composed of several large rooms with few service areas. It made sense to create a basement level, cut into the side of the hill, which would accommodate ancillary rooms, such as a utility and office. A separate planning application was then submitted to convert the garage barn into an indoor swimming pool, connected to the main house by a glazed link.
From the start, Richard and Fiona were keen to build using a structural oak frame. Westwind Oak’s designs appealed to the couple, who undertook a great deal of research before approaching the company.
A builder, recommended by John, was employed in phases and suggested various subcontractors for the project whilst Richard and Fiona collectively project managed the build and took responsibility for the budget, sourcing materials and co-ordinating trades.
A real high point of the project was the raising of the oak frame. “The builders had been working hard in rain for months,” Fiona recalls, “so to see the building’s skeleton rising up out of the ground felt like huge progress. We still look at the frame in awe because it’s so complex and beautiful.”
Fitting the Property
The couple didn’t want to cut corners when fitting out the house either. Windows and doors were hand-crafted and the couple chose the best flooring, kitchen and sanitaryware they could afford, and linked the underfloor heating to a ground-source heat pump.
One particular feature of the house is the romantic mezzanine master bedroom level, which is positioned to take in woodland views through a large window to one end of the building. “You can look out of the windows or up at the beams and feel privileged to live in such a lovely, relaxing place” explains Richard.