First-time self builders Caroline and Julian Owen wanted to enjoy informal family living in a traditional-style oak frame home. After living in a 500-year-old period home, energy efficiency was also important for the couple, so they opted for a ‘fabric first’ approach. The walls, for example, are encased in SIPs (structural insulated panels).

Externally, the house follows the threshing barn vernacular typical of East Anglia, with a sweeping roofline and low eaves. Internally, the spacious ground floor space follows a semi open plan design, while the smaller first floor houses four bedrooms. The fifth bedroom is downstairs and functions as a guest room.

The build ran for 12 months, with the couple taking a hands-on approach to project management. “Our home is large but has a very cosy feel,” says Caroline Owen. “It’s genuinely a haven from a hectic world.”

Project Notes

  • Project: Oak frame self build
  • Location: Cambridgeshire
  • Size: 380m²
  • Build time: Jul 2013-Jul 2014
  • Build cost: £941,000
  • Current value: £1.6m
Garden at side of oak frame self build

The orientation of the house makes good use of the mature trees, with the leaves shading and cooling the interiors in the summer 

Structural oak beams provide zoned areas in the large living space

Kitchen in oak frame self build

The semi open plan (or ‘broken plan’) design allows connection between the indoor spaces while offering clearly defined zones for family living

Bedroom in oak frame self build

The structural oak frame brings traditional character to the bedrooms

View of kitchen and dining area in oak frame self build

Twenty rooflights and extensive glazing bring light deep into the heart of the floorplan

View of garden in oak frame self build

The new house was constructed in the grounds of the couple’s former home. The planners required that the house was not visible from the street, so the designer kept the roofline low

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