Luke Lowings and Maria Westerståhl built their quirky new home on a restricted, unusual-shaped plot in London for a tight budget of just £225,000.

Tracking down a viable plot of land in London is never the easiest task, and with a strictly limited budget Luke and his wife, Maria, struggled to find anywhere affordable to build their own home. For two years they spent weekends wandering the streets and noting down any small parcels of land where a house might potentially be shoe-horned in — until eventually their persistence paid off.

An unprepossessing wedge-shaped North London site containing three garages was being sold, complete with a demoralising history of planning refusals, for £150,000. “It was littered with building waste and the front wall had fallen into the street,” Luke recalls, “but for us it was perfect.”

Preliminary meetings between the couple and planners proved productive, and the decision was taken to risk buying the site before making a further planning application in order to keep the purchase price down.

“We were acutely aware that we couldn’t afford to rent our flat and pay a self-build mortgage for very long, so it was important that we could live on site as soon as possible,” says Luke. “The solution was to design a layout in two distinct halves, with a central courtyard, so that we could move into the smaller studio before the main house had been completed.”

The detached 80m2 two storey main house is a reverse-level layout, with two bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs and an open plan kitchen/living area above. Windows are a key element in the design, and have been carefully positioned so that light can enter from every direction, with views of the sky through a large 1,200mm2 rooflight in the kitchen. Both buildings have warm roof construction, with sedum planted on the roof of the single storey studio.

A concrete floor screed increases the thermal mass of the lightweight building, acting as a heat store, and zoned underfloor heating has been installed throughout the house. With space at a premium, high-level shelving and built-in furniture, such as the window seat toy box, proved perfect solutions for the family.

“We’ve had to be quite creative to fit everything in, and part of the kitchen actually cantilevers out over the boundary wall to gain another 200mm of space,” Luke reflects. “We took a risk buying this site without planning permission, but it was a risk which thankfully paid off. Building within such strict confines was challenging, but the central courtyard makes everything work and gives us a sociable outdoor area where everyone can spill out from the main house.”

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