Maurice and Christine Prové took on the role of project managers to build their glorious country home, which is a hybrid of masonry and oak frame. The highlight of the house is the entrance hall-cum-dining room, off which the other ground floor rooms radiate. The house also includes an open plan kitchen/breakfast area designed as a sunroom which opens onto a private patio.

Maurice and Christine started looking for renovation opportunities around eight years ago, but it wasn’t until 2004 that they came across an unusual site in a nearby Cambridgeshire village. It consisted of a former chapel, combined with a pair of cottages, which the previous owner had joined together albeit in an ad-hoc manner. Whilst the site had undoubted charm, it had been very poorly constructed.

Despite this, Maurice and Christine were convinced of its potential and with the help of Jed Crouch Design they set about drawing up an acceptable site plan. Their idea at the outset was to divide the property into two parts – the chapel and the cottages – and to develop them separately, living in one half whilst working on the other. If the plan worked as they hoped, the project would also become largely self-financing.

Planning was relatively uncontroversial. Within a few months of completing the purchase, they won permission to demolish the cottages and build a new house in their place, and to carry out extensive alterations to the chapel. While working on the chapel, Maurice and Christine gave a lot of thought to the sort of house they wanted to build.

They found David Snell’s Book of Home Plans particularly helpful and the houses in it that they really liked seemed mostly to be the work of Hereford-based Oakwrights. They sought the company out and made some initial enquiries. Despite apprehensions about the use of oak, largely due to the potential costs, their consultation with Oakwrights convinced them that a hybrid house – constructed of both brickwork and oak – was possible.

Oak plays a central role in the completed house which has four bedrooms, some fully vaulted with oak frame work. The centrepiece is a dramatic entrance-hall-cum dining room which boasts a two storey fully vaulted oak frame; a bridge above connects the two wings of the house. Leading off this space there is an open plan Shaker-style kitchen and oak frame breakfast room, which looks out over the extensive gardens to the rear.

Maurice managed to keep costs down by acting as project manager throughout the build and apart from the oak frame, the house was built using local contacts and trades. Coincidentally there were three other self builds running in the village at the same time and there was a good spirit of co-operation running between them, sharing subcontractors and suppliers.

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