Jennifer Nash’s new self-built home looks like an old barn, but its oak frame and open interiors exemplify the benefits of building from scratch.

“I wanted to restore a Georgian property,” smiles Jennifer, an experienced renovator, who instead went on to project manage the build of a barn-style home in a picturesque corner of Hampshire. Unfortunately Georgian renovation opportunities were few and far between in the area in which Jennifer lived and so she had a change of heart: “If I couldn’t renovate around here, then I thought why not build new?” she explains.

It wasn’t long before a potential plot presented itself a few hundred metres away, down a quiet rural lane. The site housed a small, dated bungalow and was brought to market two years after the owner passed away. Yet, with no planning permission to extend the bungalow, let alone build a new home, purchasing with a self-build in mind was a risk. “I felt quite sick when I found out my bid was the highest; had I paid too much for it?” Jennifer remortgaged her existing house to purchase the plot, with the subsequent sale providing funds towards the build.

Local structural engineer Mark Flower, with whom Jennifer had worked on her previous house, was appointed to prepare plans for a new home sensitive to the rural locality. “I didn’t want to build a new Georgian-style house: they can look pastiche. So with a farm opposite, a barn made sense instead. Once we’d decided on a barn, then oak frame was a natural progression” Jennifer explains.

The façade would take cues from the barns of the local vernacular, with black-stained softwood weatherboarding, a brick plinth laid in traditional Flemish bond, and handmade clay roof tiles. But extensive glazing would be introduced on the L-shaped south-facing rear, maximising on light and passive solar gain. The pièce de résistance, a glazed gable end with green oak frame projecting out, creating overhanging eaves.

Before applying for planning permission, Jennifer first presented her ideas to her neighbours and to her local parish council. This, together with the sensitive restoration of her previous home, worked in her favour. The proposal for the four bedroom home – containing almost three times the useable space of the bungalow – was granted planning after eight weeks, with just a few minor amendments.

The groundworks began in February 2006 with excavation work — required in order that the two storey house could be built no higher than the existing bungalow’s ridge height. Trench foundations were then introduced to the clay soil. The build was completed just 12 months later, with Jennifer on site daily acting as project manager.

The resulting house is full of character, with glazing and streamlined plastered walls sitting side-by-side with natural slate flooring and that post and beam green oak frame — crafted and erected on site by Oakwrights. The entrance porch opens into a utility/boot room which provides the perfect spot to pull off wellies before stepping into the voluminous central hall. To the rear, an open plan kitchen/dining/sitting room – off which radiates a storage pantry – is a space for all seasons. Large sliding doors can be pulled back in the summer, while a woodburning stove throws out heat, keeping the space cosy on colder days.

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