A charming contemporary single storey home in Oxford. Overcoming planning setbacks, complicated groundworks and financial constraints, Denis and Lynda Hayward have built a fantastic new home in their garden.

When Denis and Lynda bought their 1930s four bedroomed detached house on a third-of-an-acre plot in a popular residential area of Oxford back in 1997, they had no idea they would end up living in a smart, new pavilion-style house in the large garden.

“I’d always thought I could do a self-build, as we have renovated or worked on several houses in the past,” says Denis, a retired photographer. “But that was 30 years ago. Perhaps there was a secret ambition lurking there, but when we came here it was really for the garden and with no thought of doing a self-build.”

The Project

  • Name: Denis and Lynda Hayward
  • Build cost: £372,000 (£1,404/m²)
  • Build time: 1 year 4 months
  • Location: Oxford

The situation changed in 2004 when the couple were both approaching their sixties and finding the garden rather too big. “Although nine years previous when we had come to the house we had enjoyed the garden to the full, it had become too much for us,” says Denis.

In addition to this there was a strip of land 8.5 metres wide to the side of the house. It was very overgrown and out of keeping with the rest of the garden. “Everyone on our road seemed to be building extensions, so we thought that if we could build on this strip it would give us some relief from all the work and also provide some capital for the future,” explains Denis.

When the Haywards applied to Oxford City Council for outline permission to build a narrow house in the gap, it was refused. When the couple employed planning consultants to progress the idea something completely different was suggested. The Haywards were advised to apply for permission to build two houses on the rear part of the garden using the spare land at the side as an access drive.

After much back and forth, including another refusal, a scheme involving the construction of a single dwelling was eventually passed. This was, in part, down to the input of local architect Neil Perry of Anderson Orr. Lynda explains, “He was able to understand all our ideas, including the visuals Denis had carefully prepared. He added some of his own ideas to produce a luxury timber framed single storey house with an extended, overhanging roof that had a large footprint, three en suite bedrooms and a modest courtyard-style garden”.

The house now features a zinc roof system with a solar array for hot water in addition to zoned underfloor heating, a woodburning stove in a large interior chimney stack, and a high cathedral ceiling over the main living spaces. It comprises three rectangular sections subtly juxtaposed, which makes it feel more like an elegant pavilion building than a bungalow.

“We put a huge amount of labour into the build ourselves, especially at the finishing stages when we did all the decorating, interior tiling and insulation, and much of the bathroom fitting and underfloor heating,” says Denis, who project managed the build. “We employed builder Simon Perris,who was recommended by the timber framers, to do all the groundworks and foundations, but after that it was over to me. Over the years we have done a lot of research. I always knew I could project manage a self-build. I don’t feel a self-build like this is ‘real’ unless there is a lot of you in it — and there was! “The stress levels were enormous — far more than we anticipated,” he continues. “It mainly centred on finance, and whether we had employed people who were reliable and up to the job. However, the satisfaction is huge. This house is unique, and we are going to make good use of it.

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