Kate Powell has built a modern barn-style home in oak frame on a small, unprepossessing site.

Looking at Ash House today, it is difficult to imagine the neglected patch of land tucked behind a crumbling old stone wall that had sat there unnoticed for several decades. “Even I didn’t think the transformation would be so dramatic,” says Kate, who designed the new contemporary oak frame barn-style home in 2008. “Mark, my husband, had sadly died in an accident a few months before but we had already planned to build a house, so I felt driven to continue with our plans,” she explains.

An architectural designer by trade, Kate welcomed the sense of purpose the project gave her. “Self-building is an addictive pastime,” says Kate. “But this plot was also in a village I knew well, already had planning permission and was a price I could afford — so it just seemed sensible.”

Kate’s professional skills and experience were a real advantage throughout the project, especially with regard to the restrictions of the plot itself. An awkward shape, with tight access, the plot also presented dramatic level issues to address and significant site clearance.

Work started on site in the New Year, with the foundations dug and poured and the brick plinth laid. Meanwhile, the green oak frame was manufactured a few miles away. Pre-cut SIPs (structural insulated panels) were wrapped around the erected frame over a two-week period and the roof trusses were then fitted.

Kate cites the close working relationship with Border Oak, the project manager they provided and their subcontractors as crucial to completing the project on time and on budget. “I would definitely recommend finding tradesmen you feel understand you and your project.”

Thick, wedge-profile weatherboard, a country blend brick and handmade roof tiles were chosen to give the house a classic country appearance albeit with a twist on convention, created by features such as the larger than average windows and cantilevered balcony.

“I am very proud of what I have achieved,” smiles Kate. “It was an overwhelming project given the timing and I know that some people may have wondered if I was taking on too much on my own, but the building of Ash House has given me great pleasure and I can honestly say that it was worth the sleepless nights. And it has given me something else I didn’t expect — the confidence to move on to a new future.”

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