Simon Palmer has followed in his parents’ footsteps by taking a hands-on role in building his own property, and the very site on which it sits was once home to his grandparents’ self-built bungalow.

Despite this self build pedigree, Simon and wife Debbie’s route to creating a home to share with sons Callum and Sam was not all plain sailing — thanks to a fire which would take them from a weathertight shell right back to the foundations.

The result of the determined couple’s endeavour is however a family home of contemporary styling, featuring white render and cedar cladding to the angular, street-facing façade. Skip to the remainder of the story.

The Project

  • Name: Simon and Debbie Palmer
  • Build cost: £225,000 (£750/m²)
  • Build time: 2 years 3 months
  • Location: Cornwall
A spacious self build family house

Small portholes in the Dooria front door are testament to the coastal location and hint at the sweeping curves inside

Andersen windows

All the Andersen windows and large sliding patio doors were sourced from Door Stop Ltd which enabled the couple to strike a better deal

The Palmer family

Simon and Debbie’s children, Callum and Sam, love the house as much as their parents do

Timber clad barrel at the rear of the property

The timber clad barrel to the rear of the property juxtaposes the harder straight lines of the build

Stunning curved wooden staircase

This stunning staircase was sourced through a Cornish agent from a Polish company


Many purchases, including these tiles from Porcelanosa, were made in bulk to negotiate a deal

Kitchen breakfast room

A kitchen/breakfast room overlooks the dramatic dining room which is housed in the barrel section of the Palmer’s home

Galleried landing

The galleried landing, with large dining room below, provides access to the master bedroom suite

The couple’s ideas for their new home first began to take shape in 2007 when the decision was taken to divide the inherited 1970s bungalow and spacious, sloping garden into two plots: one for the couple and the other for Simon’s sister, Lisa, and brother-in-law, Mike.

“We knew if we built the two properties together we could get much better deals on purchasing materials,” explains Simon. And so, local architect Chris Jones was engaged at the close of 2007 to design two complimentary modern homes.

Obtaining planning permission proved relatively straightforward, allowing work to begin on site in June 2008. The bungalow was duly demolished and grubbed up, clearing the way for the groundworkers to prepare the foundations. The existing garage was, however, maintained to provide a site office and useful storage space.

With his father on hand to manage proceedings during the day, Simon was on site every evening after work, before returning to the couple’s Plymouth-based flat. “Working full time and trying to do the build with a very young family was extremely hard on everyone,” he says.

By April 2009, the family’s hard work had paid off as less than 12 months after breaking ground, both houses were weathertight, ready for the local trades to begin first fix inside. “But on May 6th I was woken at 3.30am by a call from my brother-in-law telling us that our two houses were on fire.

I drove the 15 miles to be met by several fire engines and police,” Simon explains. “They’d managed to save my sister’s house with only minor damage to the roof slates, solar panels and render. Seeing our new home smouldering away was heartbreaking to say the least.”

Fortunately the £1,500 which the couple had invested in insurance proved its weight in gold, with their BuildStore inspector visiting the site two days later. Both the inspector and fire brigade’s report concluded that the fire had been started by arson. “We were left feeling really hurt that someone could do that to our dream home,” Simon adds.

“Because of the contamination from the fire we had to go back to the footings and rebuild virtually from scratch. It did however give us the opportunity to slightly alter the design,” says Simon. “We’d originally built a three storey glazed turret-like structure to the front elevation, which was going to serve as an office, but we decided to do away with this second time around.”

Timber frame was again used for a fast construction. Their home will also provide them with low running costs thanks to the photovoltaic panels, and a 5,000litre rainwater harvesting system, which now provides water for the washing machine, all four toilets as well as an ample supply for watering the landscaped garden.

“After everything that happened we have come out the other side stronger, happier and have a better house than we ever envisaged,” reflects Simon. “The children love it and so do we.”

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