Still dusting themselves off from their previous project – a self-build – and with their baby daughter born just months ago, Jayne Blakeman and Tim Morrison now have another achievement under their belts — they have transformed an old-fashioned 1960s bungalow into a five bedroom contemporary family home, for just £140,000.
Whilst it is easy to think that finding a boring old bungalow might not take too long, the problem lies in finding one that is in a nice enough spot to make it worthwhile — that is to say, what is the point in creating a contemporary masterpiece amongst otherwise boring houses?
“We looked at over a hundred properties before finding this one,” says Jayne. “We liked the area because of the eclectic mix of houses, but could immediately see that the bungalow that stood here wasn’t making the most of the site. We wanted to create something unique.”
The bungalow that Tim and Jayne bought had actually been a self-build back in the 1960s, and the original design was adapted from a book of plans. However, the generous site had much more potential – despite being steeply sloping and overgrown – and it was this that attracted the couple, who remained living in their previous house during the build.
“We came up with the design for the new house ourselves, doing the CAD work then collaborating with an architect to tweak the design until we were happy with it,” says Tim, who, along with Jayne, has experience as a property developer. “We started by thinking about how big we needed the house to be and then moved on to how it could work as a family home. We also knew that we wanted it to look like a completely new house to the untrained eye.”
Planning sailed through, and with his developer experience and a background in engineering, Tim took on the role of project manager.
Tim and Jayne admit that traditional design is “not our thing” and so set out to create a contemporary home, constructing the new upper storey of the house from blockwork. The combination of cedar cladding and white render that now forms the skin of the house “just seemed like an obvious choice”. Velfac windows, made up of an aluminium exterior with timber internally, complement the crisp design.
The couple planned to retain the majority of the bungalow, including the ground floor ceilings, but after a spell of torrential rain and wind coincided with the roof of the bungalow being removed, and blew the tarpaulin covering the building away, the original ceilings had to be replaced.
They were keen that the countryside views were fully exploited, so an upside-down layout – with the bedrooms on the ground floor and living spaces upstairs – was decided upon.
A striking double-height entrance hall greets you on entering the front door, with the first floor landing overlooking this space. The ground floor layout has been reconfigured, keeping the three existing bedrooms but turning the old kitchen and dining room into the master bedroom and en suite, and creating a new guest bedroom from the old lounge.
On the first floor the kitchen/dining/family room is where the family spend most of their time. A huge triangular window at the kitchen end of the room gives uninterrupted views out and floods the space with light, whilst folding sliding doors at the other end of the room open out to the elevated deck. To the other end of the bridge-like landing lies the living room, home to another triangular window.
Using a team of local tradesmen they had worked with on previous projects, Tim was on site constantly to field questions from the builders regarding some of the more unusual aspects of the construction, such as the triangular windows and first floor landing, with its steel beam construction. Tim and Jayne took on much of the work involved in the remodelling project themselves, with Tim fixing all of the cedar cladding, constructing the vast deck to the rear of the house and doing all of the second fix joinery. However, he admits that taking on so much at times made it hard to act as project manager. “Once you have more than four trades on site at once, there is just no way you can get on with your own DIY jobs,” he says. “You are too busy answering questions. But it was vital to be around.”
So how did the couple bring a project like this in at just £140,000? Along with the huge amount of DIY work, Jayne – who towards the end of the project was also nearing the end of her pregnancy – made it her mission to find the best possible prices for materials. The contemporary kitchen may look as though it has come from a high-end German manufacturer, but it was actually bought from a very reasonably priced UK-based manufacturer before being customised and fitted by Tim and Jayne. “The doors are just MDF which we sent off to a local guy who sprayed them for us, charging £10 a door,” reveals Jayne, who also sourced the quartz composite worktops online and arranged for a local timber merchant to supply the walnut for the island unit. For the Amtico flooring – chosen for its soundproofing qualities – they paid just £30/m2, compared to the £50/m2 it was being sold for in the showroom. All the glass balustrading and splashbacks were made by a local glazier before being fitted by Tim — Jayne even managed to save money on the clamps that hold the glass in place by searching online.
Strangely, the thing that most attracted them to the house – its elevated position overlooking countryside – also presented the most problems. The garden sloped very steeply, making it totally unusable. There were also a number of overgrown conifers blocking light. Tim and Jayne got stuck in with the diggers and dumpers, removing a huge amount of earth from the sloping ground and packing it in behind a retaining wall constructed from old sleepers. They have been left with a sizeable area of flat ground, accessed from the house by steps leading off the bridged deck.
“It is a great house to live in,” say the couple. “We were worried that the upside-down layout would mean going up and down stairs all day, but we really don’t find that.” Time to settle down to family life then? It seems not, as the couple prepare to move on to their next project. “We think that you don’t learn unless you look at what you did last time,” says Tim. In that case, we look forward to seeing the next project.