As self build partnerships go, Stephen and Philippa are probably as close to a ‘dream team’ as it gets. A qualified civil engineer, Stephen has spent decades constructing properties specialised to incorporate leading-edge, eco friendly and energy efficient solutions. And Philippa, a successful PR professional, benefits from years of experience in interior design — and also retains a very practical hand when it comes to making soft-furnishings. 

Their new six bedroom home is an exceptional achievement blending modern living, with responsibly sourced materials which work well with the countryside location. What’s more, their new home is just the other side of the garden fence from where they lived before.

The Project

  • Name: Stephen Evans and Philippa King
  • Build cost: £500,000 (£1,429/m²)
  • Build time: 8 months
  • Location: East Sussex

The Site

Stephen and Philippa were already living in a house they had built themselves, but when the plot next door came up for sale, they seized the opportunity to build mark two of their perfect home. An early 20th century home stood on the site, and had a series of unattractive extensions.

They got the house (and land) for a good price as they did not have to buy subject to survey since they were knocking it down. Fortunately, the friends who purchased Stephen and Philippa’s home, allowed them to remain living in it rent free for a year while constructing their new home.

Open plan ground floor layout

The ground floor space has an open plan flow with defined zones for different uses


Stephen worked up all the architectural drawings and plans himself. These were submitted for approval, and their second set of plans were approved in April 2012.

The six bedroom home’s design was influenced by the geography of the site. By digging down and building a basement level, they have created a 350m² internal floor area, without drastically extending the 180m² footprint of the original property.

The style has been influenced by its rural setting and design features they liked in their previous self build, such as a spacious outdoor veranda and a vaulted ceiling over the kitchen and dining area. By having built before, they could take their favourite elements from their last home and refine/expand them.

The contemporary building has been clad with natural and reclaimed materials to help it blend into the landscape. Reclaimed oak has been used for the framing and veranda, and the exterior is clad in untreated oak boards which have been allowed to weather.

Inside, the ground floor is laid in a mixture of engineered oak and reclaimed bricks from a local salvage yard, hand cut into slips. An eclectic interior design scheme featuring natural, rustic elements and midcentury fixtures creates a comfortable atmosphere.

The veranda


A suite of 21st century energy saving systems, including solar panels and an air source heat pump add to the home’s eco credentials.

The Build

After levelling the existing property, Stephen’s groundwork team began digging the lower ground level, using the spoil to landscape the surrounding plot. Then an insulated concrete formwork (ICF) system was employed to create the retaining walls. With basement and footings in place, the walls and roof above were constructed with structural insulated panels (SIPs) from Kingspan TEK.

Stephen’s expert management and a strong building team – lead by Philippa’s brother Martyn, from MRK construction – mean the project was completed in just seven months. They moved in just before Christmas with their two daughters, and are now enjoying a home that is cosy in winter, with stunning views and outdoor living on the veranda in summer.

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