Marion and Derek Cottrell have turned a 1960s bungalow into a charming new shaker-style cottage.

Derek and Marion’s home is not a new build, as it first appears, but instead an imaginative major remodelling of a 1960s bungalow in a smart village near Reading. “We’d done plenty of work on our previous homes,” explains Marion, “but this was more ambitious altogether.” Ambitious not just in its scope – despite largely maintaining the basis of the old bungalow, Derek and Marion have practically tripled its floor area (from 60m2 to 165m2) through extension and the addition of an extra storey – but also in its design, with the aim of recreating a simple Shaker-style cottage look. This is combined with a high-end eco spec, including rainwater harvesting and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

The most ambitious part of all, however, was the approach that Derek and Marion took. An enthusiastic and modestly experienced DIYer, Derek not only took on the role of designing the house himself from scratch but, with help from Marion, committed 12 hours every Saturday and Sunday to getting stuck into many tasks on site, from keeping the site clean to internal carpentry, decorating and even researching then installing the MVHR system himself. Derek claims that one of the toughest jobs involved laying the oak flooring (a job which is only now nearing completion!) — “It was terrible for my knees!”

So how does someone without experience set about the often complex process of designing a new house? “Well, we read up a lot and of course we have been reading HB&R for the last 20 years — which has been both an inspiration and an invaluable resource,” says Derek. “And I also knew that it was important to have good models. You can learn a lot from good existing houses”.

The project was significant in scale, and Derek and Marion admit that the decision between working with what was there and knocking down and starting again was a challenging one. “At one stage we had reduced the existing house back to a couple of external walls and the slab,” admits Derek. “We rebuilt every internal wall, put a new first floor structure in and a new roof. With the benefit of hindsight we would have knocked it down, but at the time it seemed sensible and less wasteful to work with what was there.”

Although this is far from a make-do-and-mend project, Derek and Marion have managed to carry out the renovation cost-effectively. The high levels of DIY input undoubtedly helped, but Marion’s expert materials sourcing reaped significant rewards. One great example was the kitchen, where the couple have created a fashionable cottage-style scheme which mixes a range of unit styles with high-end worktops. In actual fact, it cost far less to put together than it first appears, with Marion sourcing base units from Jewson and having the doors made and spray-painted by a local craftsman. The floor-standing larder units with oak doors are from IKEA, offset with sleek built-in appliances and a work surface that looks for all the world like it’s Corian but is in fact a very impressive laminate — ‘Encore’ by Bushboard. “Everyone’s really impressed with the kitchen, and it goes to show that you don’t have to spend £10,000s to create something stylish,” says Marion.

Although the project was undoubtedly hard work, the couple don’t regret it one bit. As Marion explains, “It’s great to live in a house where the design is completely ‘us’. We’ve completely transformed a rather dated bungalow, and we love the feeling of space we now have. And although once the house was done, we swore like many a self-builder and renovator ‘never again’, a rare opportunity has come our way which we’re now looking into. We’ve really caught the bug.”

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