Behind the façade of Geoffrey Hunter’s traditional, vernacular-style self-build lies a highly sustainable home — built for £140,000.
Buildings historian Geoffrey Hunter had some very specific ideas when it came to building his own home in the Norfolk village where he grew up. “Some people might find this house too traditional because it doesn’t have a fashionably open plan layout,” he admits. “I knew what I wanted, but I checked with an estate agent first because I didn’t want to build something which might be difficult to sell in the future.”
The long, narrow village smallholding upon which Geoffrey has self-built has been in his family for some time; his mother grew flowers commercially on the site for 20 years prior to it being used as a kitchen garden.
Geoffrey, who works for the Diocese of London caring for historic church buildings, was heavily influenced by properties in the immediate neighbourhood when it came to the design for his new home. The new house also stands in a Conservation Area and Geoffrey was keen for it to contribute to the character of the setting.
“I spoke to a local planning consultant, who designed a bland ‘executive’ home which gained outline planning permission straight away,” he continues. “I then totally changed the look and layout, choosing a distinctive local style of buff-coloured brick and pebbles, which emulates some of the buildings in the village.”
An award-winning builder from the area was invited to construct the new house, with Geoffrey subcontracting the various tradesmen in order to keep costs down. The blockwork home has been faced in brick, with coursed panels of flint pebbles to the front elevation and a decorative dentil course. Drip moulds above the windows are a real feature, and made from whole and half bricks which imitate a stone label mould. Inside, the brick mantle of the sitting room fireplace was also designed to match this effect, with the fireplace itself built from the same bricks as the exterior.
Not everything in the house is quite as it seems, however. The dark ‘stained’ window frames are actually black-grained PVCu. “I couldn’t afford to be too pedantic,” says Geoffrey, who was working to a budget of £140,000.
With such a tight budget to consider, Geoffrey and his family undertook all the decoration, painted the kitchen cabinets, insulated the loft area and fitted out the garage. His mother helped enormously and completed all of the kitchen and bathroom wall tiling, with Geoffrey creating an inexpensive high-level WC by cladding a plastic cistern with oak.
“I’ve had to make certain cutbacks and changes, such as simplifying the oak staircase, which I originally designed with a half landing,” he says, “but I didn’t scrimp on the important things. Floor tiles were end of line and I shopped carefully because I simply had no more money to spend. It was the only way I could afford to build a detached home like this in the village where I grew up.”