Having an award-winning architect for a son has helped Edna Wadham, and her husband Fred, turn an awkward sloping site into a dream home. Their high-tech looking aluminium structure is not only highly efficient but exceedingly comfortable (and cheap) to live in.

What’s more, they have managed to create the perfect country setting for a relaxing retirement — a large terraced garden and picture windows mean they can always enjoy the outside, come rain or shine.

We shortlisted this home in the Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2013.

The Project

  • Name: Fred and Edna Wadham
  • Build cost: £500,000 (£2,500/m²)
  • Build time: 2 years 10 months
  • Location: Gloucestershire

The Site

When Fred and Edna Wadham spotted a dilapidated bungalow on a half-acre River Severn estuary site, they knew this was where they wanted to build their new home. Set in a beautiful and scenic spot in Gloucestershire, their self build would have to make the most of the landscape.

The steeply sloped site would have been a deterrent to many but with the help of Edna’s son, Paul Archer, they designed a scheme which would work with the 6m height difference between the top of the site and the road.

The house features a lightweight ground floor timber frame sat on blockwork lower ground floor level

The house features a lightweight ground floor timber frame sat on blockwork lower ground floor level (which is partially built into the sloping site).

The Brief

Having lived in dark, draughty, traditional homes in the past, the couple wanted their new home to be the opposite. They asked Paul for a Californian-style house with green credentials. They also wanted the house to offer seamless indoor/outdoor living and be full of light.

Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure the interiors are flooded with natural light

Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure the interiors are flooded with natural light.

Design

Paul’s design for a modern, light and airy home – which takes advantage of the views – ticked all of the boxes. The open plan home was designed to be spread over two levels, with living space and a master bedroom on the ground floor, providing access to the garden.

The front door and guest rooms are on the lower ground floor which is sunken into the site along with a driveway. The upper floor is cantilevered over the drive providing a car port of sorts and a sheltered entrance.

The lower ground floor has been partially built into the site

The lower ground floor has been partially built into the site and is home to the bedrooms and utility spaces

The entire exterior has been clad in motorised aluminium panels. These are made from timber boards covered with mirrored aluminium, and can be operated so that they shut the house off for security and increased thermal performance. Of course, this futuristic style caused a stir with the planning department and neighbours — but they actually help the house blend into its environment, reflecting the trees and garden, and bedding it into the landscape.

Inside the light and flowing space has been furnished with modern décor and a polished concrete floor. The kitchen is nearly all white and helps to reflect yet more light within the home. Touches like the Stüv woodburning stove bring physical and visual warmth to the space.

White Ikea units and Corian worktops create a sleek modern kitchen

White Ikea units and Corian worktops create a sleek modern kitchen. This open plan space opens directly onto a garden terrace

Eco

The couple were insistent that the house be designed with a zero-carbon agenda. Ensuring the structure was well insulated was key, then a number of eco technologies were included making it one of the most self-sufficient houses we have seen.

Water is provided by a 93m-deep borehole, thermal solar panels provide 80 percent of the home’s hot water, and photovoltaic panels supply electricity meaning the house rarely needs the connection to mains gas, water or electricity. Fred and Edna also have a wood-fired Esse range which covers central heating and cooking needs.

Finally, a sedum roof helps biodiversity, water retention (which aids flood prevention), and it also eases the home into its setting.

Wood and solar are the primary energy sources in this energy efficient home

Wood and solar are the primary energy sources in this energy efficient home. A woodburning stove from Stüv and wood filled recess add a bit of practical Scandinavian style to the home

The Build

After demolishing the old bungalow, excavating the site, constructing the blockwork lower floor and putting up the lightweight timber frame upper floor, the main contractor went bust. This left Fred and Edna with a shell, covered in blue lining and far from finished.

They spent the next year camped out inside with Fred honing his carpentry skills to finish the aluminium cladding and fit out the interiors. Even though their complex build turned into a DIY project, they could not be happier with the end result, which is both cheap and pleasant to live in.

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