Ben Warren’s new contemporary home has taken the concept of a plain white box and reinvented it, resulting in a house that combines different materials as well as varying levels of scale and mass.

The bungalow in question was run down, built around 1930 and had stood empty for 10 years. With a limited budget, Ben’s initial plan was to refurbish the bungalow and work with what was there. “However, it made more sense to knock it down and start again,”

When it came to finding an architect for the project, Ben turned to Nick Elkins of Stan Bolt: Architect, for inspirational advice. The design in question needed to satisfy Ben’s desire to build something contemporary, while doing justice to the plot, which stands within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty — and be doable for Ben’s limited budget of £150,000 for the shell stage.

The design comprises a series of boxes linked together by glazed sections. A cedar-clad, two-storey central section of timber frame construction houses the open plan living, dining and kitchen spaces, with the master bedroom suite above, and softens the rendered block-built sections either side, while also tying the design into its environment.

Project Notes

  • Name: Ben Warren
  • Project: Contemporary self-build
  • Location: East Devon
  • Build Time: 18 months
  • Size: 217m²
  • Plot Cost: £300,000 (2004)
  • Build Cost: £300,000 (£1,382/m²)
  • Value: £950,000


A flat roof was chosen to help the new house blend into its surroundings. Expanses of glazing, both internally and externally, ensure light flows throughout the house and give glimpses to the outside spaces — while the combination of wraparound windows, swathes of sliding doors and narrow horizontal and vertical glazed sections all work together to ensure the house has character in abundance.

Contemporary self-build in Devon countryside


The original bungalow was in a bad state of repair and did not make the most of the stunning setting.

dilapidated bungalow

Front Elevation

The house is made up of three main sections. Two concrete block rendered sections flank the central timber framed, cedar-clad two storey section, which is linked to the taller of the two blocks by a fully glazed section.

Render and timber clad exterior of Devon self-build

Living Spaces

Open plan double height living space

With a suspended ‘timber box’ containing the master bedroom above the first floor, part of the living space is double height. A combination of limestone flooring and natural oak has been used to give a sense of warmth, while a change in floor levels takes you into the more private spaces.

Living space separated from staircase by glass wall

Ground Floor Layout

On the ground floor, two bedrooms lead out on to the terrace, while the open plan kitchen/dining/living space also has access to the garden via a wall of sliding doors.

Render and timber clad self-build terrace


Made of pre-cast white concrete, the staircase has been built into the masonry wall and is separated from the glass balustrade by a tiny gap.

Contemporary cantilevered staircase


The kitchen, from Alno, was ex-display and is made up of ash and beech units topped with granite worktops. Ben was keen that each of these sociable spaces flowed into one another. The limestone tiles work well with the underfloor heating.

Contemporary open plan kitchen diner

Master Bedroom

Contemporary maser bedroom with balcony

The master bedroom is contained within the oak veneered floating pod. From here, a glass walkway takes you through to an en suite and dressing room. A balcony leads from the master bedroom bringing in light and affording spectacular views.

Glazed walkway
Glazed link between bedroom and dressing space

Ground Floor Bedrooms

Both of the bedrooms on the ground floor have access to external spaces and feature fun coloured glass ‘walls’.

Guest bedroom with coloured glass walls

Contemporary Bathrooms

All the sanitaryware was ex-display, with Ben and Nick taking on the fitting themselves.

Contemporary bathroom
contemporary bathroom

Our Sponsors