Isobel Heyworth’s self-designed new home has been constructed using SIPs and is considered a benchmark for new houses in her Manchester suburb.

Isobel is a young woman with many strings to her bow. Already qualified as a doctor and currently training to become a GP, she also enjoys a sideline as an accomplished songwriter. If that’s not enough, she recently designed and built a stunning new home in Manchester, incorporating many unusual features.

Her self-build story started out as conventional house hunting, back in 2004. “I was generally unable to find properties which had any kind of a garden, but I was keen to have an outdoor space. Then I came across this site in Fallowfield and noticed it was for sale at auction. It was just an old falling-down L-shaped coach house, with a single skin wall. I liked it because the area was leafy and quiet, and the surrounding houses were mostly beautiful Victorian villas.”

Fallowfield is the centre of Manchester’s student population and the coach house had already been subject to a number of unsuccessful planning applications from developers, despite it being a very difficult site to develop as it had no drains or utilities. But the planners had indicated that a single residence would be looked upon favourably and, on this basis, Isobel went ahead and placed the winning bid at the auction in 2007.

Isobel’s idea was to demolish and rebuild the coach house, staying faithful to its original L-shape. “I decided I wanted to keep as close to the old building style as possible, so I retained the shape but added a basement which would integrate a patio at ground level. I aimed to keep the historic 60° roof pitch, too, and planned to reuse and source more slates to retain the existing decorative roof pattern.”

Isobel was aided at all times by her father, Robert, who is an engineer, and together they designed and specified the house and basement, opting to build the superstructure in SIPs (structural insulated panels) after meeting SIPS@Clays at the Homebuilding & Renovating Show, Harrogate. “They were wonderful — everything was millimetre perfect and fitted together without a glitch in just a week,” says Isobel.

For the basement and the remainder of the superstructure Isobel decided to use a design and build contract with local firm CSC Builders in Cheadle Hulme. The rest of the build went smoothly, the only problem being the tightness of the site, which made storing and moving materials very difficult for the contractors.

The remarkable thing about Isobel Heyworth’s self-build is that it is both striking and unusual and yet it fits perfectly into the surrounding Manchester street scene. It doesn’t shout, “I’m different,” but the more you look at it, the more you become aware of just how out of the ordinary it actually is. Not every new house delights the neighbours as much as the residents, but here’s one that undoubtedly does.

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