5 Design Tips to Take From this New Self Build with Old Character

exterior of self build with stone and timber cladding
(Image credit: Laurence Liddy)

David and Penny Clapp chose to self build their dream home overlooking the sweeping estuary of the River Taw on the North Devon coast where David grew up. 

The energy-efficient eco house beautifully mixes old and new styles, blending into its surroundings. 

"David has an old picture of a barn in the village he remember from where he grew up," says Perry, managing director of Peregrine Mears Architects. That was the clue for us to pick up on the local vernacular and guided our concept for 'The Ark'". 

1. Get Inspired by Local Architecture 

stone and timber cladding on exterior of self build

(Image credit: Laurence Liddy)

The Ark's design marries a traditional Devon longhouse, inspired by the form and feel of the farm buildings found in the area, with a bold, modern twist. 

The result is two linked box-style constructions across a 205m2 footprint. “We wanted to use the right quality materials to give The Ark its sense of place, sitting as it does in such a lovely location,” Perry explains. “So the exterior is wrapped in a palette of high-quality, natural materials that won’t date: stone, slate and timber.”

Although both are built using the same brick-and-block construction, the single storey ‘farm building’ has been clad in a local stone, while the more contemporary ‘box’ section uses Cedar timber cladding to present it as if it’s a more recent addition.

2. A Characterful Home with Efficiency for the Future

self build with stone cladding

(Image credit: Laurence Liddy)

As The Ark is to be David and Penny’s forever home, it was important to them that it should be as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as they could manage. 

Crucially, the house is oriented so that all habitable rooms are set to the south, to maximise light and views and make the most of passive solar gain. Service areas and circulation spaces are on the cooler north side. The house also features solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, an air source heat pump, high levels of thermal insulation, passive ventilation and rainwater harvesting, meaning it only needs to draw minimal energy from the grid.  

3. Capture the Views Across the Countryside

The house flawlessly achieves a goal that many aspire to: to be the perfect example of a timeless home full of light and character. 

The traditional barn-inspired side of the property features panoramic views across the estuary, which have been maximised by large-format sliding doors from Camel Glass & Joinery spanning the back of the house. 

4. Mix Open-plan with More Intimate Spaces

The ground floor has a living room and kitchen/diner, and three bedrooms. This provides futureproofing for the couple’s accessibility needs, plus plenty of space for their grown-up children and grandchildren to visit. As Perry explains, the couple wanted their home to be “cosy for two people and accommodating enough at times for 15.”

Then there is the first floor sleeping wing, featuring a master bedroom with panoramic views across the estuary and the facing hills, with an en suite bathroom. This is David and Penny’s ‘lookout’ spot; a place to relax and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings.

5. Combine Modern Living with Traditional Charm

kitchen with large island with seating

(Image credit: Laurence Liddy)

A ‘modern rustic’ finish has been created by blending contemporary and traditional tastes, particularly in the choice of fixtures and fittings throughout the open-plan living space and into the sitting room (the pendant lights above the island and over the table are from Amos Lighting). 

The contemporary kitchen – supplied by Stosa – with large kitchen island brings a characterful atmosphere into the new home and serves to create a social space in the open-plan room.  

Amy Reeves

Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.