Project management is about being well organised and having an eye for detail,” says Ian Newby — and he should know. Ian and his wife, Sue, have been responsible for project managing large marketing campaigns for major multi-national companies such as IBM and Hitachi.

The sale of their company in 2005 freed the couple to turn their attention to a new venture, and self-building was top of the list. “We’d been looking for a plot for several years and this piece of land came onto the market at just the right time,” says Sue.

The couple’s third-of-an-acre plot is situated in a North Yorkshire village in the Howardian Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), set in a private courtyard with two other houses which had been built 14 years ago. The land was purchased complete with planning permission for a house in the same traditional style as its neighbours, using natural York stone with a thatched roof.

Building from scratch was a totally new experience for Ian and Sue and so they visited the Homebuilding & Renovating Show at the NEC. “It was there that we met with Oakwrights and realised we were able to fulfill our ideas of incorporating an oak frame into our existing design to give it the added character we were looking for,” recalls Ian.

On the inside, the couple wanted a more contemporary feel and achieved this by creating an open plan kitchen/dining/family room and a study alcove. There are very few internal doors on the ground floor, and the utility room is located in a single storey element with a clay pantile roof.

Oakwrights undertook much of the build, providing both the design changes to the original plans and the Building Regulations drawings, as well as manufacturing and erecting the oak post and beam frame. Despite this, Ian and Sue were able to put their project management skills to good use – “Sue took charge of the finances and most of the interior design decisions, while I was more involved with the structural shell and buying building materials” says Ian.

“It was definitely a hands-on build, and although there were occasional disagreements, the subcontractors generally worked well together as a team,” says Ian. “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of building our own home and would certainly consider doing it again. It’s been great for us as a couple, and gave us the chance to use our project management skills in a totally different way.”


“Sadly, Ian died earlier this year but he was very proud and enthusiastic of the house we built together, and I know he would wish that I share our self build experiences with you. We were in the process of looking for another plot on which to self-build again or a property that could be remodelled to provide the open plan living space we so enjoyed in our first self-build, and I hope that I will be able to fulfil that dream one day on my own.”

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