Debbie and Gerard Rogers were initially inspired to build when Gerard’s elderly mother needed to come and live with them.
When a plot of land came on to the market with outline planning permission for two houses Debbie and Gerard teamed up with friends who were also keen to design their own house, and agreed to build side by side.
“We’d seen Oakwrights exhibiting at a Homebuilding and Renovating Show, and instantly loved the idea of building an oak frame house,” explains Debbie.
“We worked with their designer Pete Tonks and had in-depth meetings with both the planning and conservation officers. Everything was looking really positive.”
- Name: Debbie and Gerard Rogers
- Build cost: £530,000 (£1,970/m²)
- Build time: 1 year 7 months
- Location: Cambridge
Planning drawings, photo montages, street scene perspectives and the design and access statement were all submitted, but due to staff and procedural changes at the local planning authority the application was initially refused and subsequently dismissed at appeal.
The planning process took several years, and the design of the house changed with the family’s circumstances. Two further revised planning applications were made, which eventually resulted in full planning approval being granted.
The house is based on Oakwrights’ Woodhouse design range, and the ground floor is predominantly open plan with a spacious hallway designed for large family gatherings.
It was important for Debbie and Gerard that their new home should serve them well into the future, and they worked with designer Pete using the Lifetime Homes standard to guide them. The standard was developed in the early 1990s with accessible and inclusive design at its core; it incorporates 16 design criteria that can be applied to new homes at minimal cost, and supports the changing needs of individuals and families throughout different stages of their lives.
The garden plot sits in a village Conservation Area bordering open countryside, and required an arboriculture survey to assess trees on the site, in addition to a topographical survey dealing with the levels, drainage, boundaries and access.
Clay soil and the proximity of trees on the quarter-acre plot meant that expensive piled foundations were required. Once the house’s plinth was built using handmade bricks it was time for the oak frame to be erected by Oakwrights’ team over a four-day period.
The couple opted to use the Posi-Joist flooring system for the first floor, as ceilings are fully vaulted upstairs and joists under the galleried section of landing needed to accommodate all electrical cables, plumbing pipework and ducting for the ventilation and heat recovery system.
With an eye on future energy bills too, Debbie and Gerard installed photovoltaic (PV) panels for generating electricity, in addition to solar thermal panels for hot water, and an air-source heat pump. A new planning application was, however, needed for the solar panels, as their location had not been previously specified.
Surrounding the oak frame is a highly insulated softwood stud frame that incorporates Oakwrights’ WrightWall and WrightRoof — an airtight encapsulation system with breathable cellulose insulation. The windows are a highly efficient composite made up of timber clad in aluminium.
Oakwrights crafted and erected the oak frame for the house, which is clad externally in untreated horizontal oak weatherboarding — chosen to suit the secluded semi-rural setting (the plot was once part of an orchard). Debbie rescued plants and reinstated flower beds to recreate a pretty cottage garden
A natural palette of materials including untreated oak weatherboarding and a slate roof combine to stunning effect. Beneath this outer shell lies Oakwrights’ WrightWall and WrightRoof encapsulation system, and of course, the beautiful oak frame — the latter is a highlight of the interiors
Soft grey kitchen cabinets have been combined with white Corian worktops; the kitchen was sourced from IKAS Kitchen Design Centre
The statement helical oak and steel staircase was imported from Italy and rises up from the spacious ground floor hallway, which was specifically designed so that the family could gather together for meals
The four bedrooms are separated by a galleried landing upstairs, offering views across the pretty cottage garden from the glass balustrade
“After spending so much time on site it was very strange to move in, and it took a few weeks before the house felt completely like home,” says Debbie. “We’ve now grown used to the large spaces, the light and the way the house connects to the outside. We wouldn’t consider moving — this was always intended to be a home for life.”
The kitchen space features both an island breakfast bar providing informal dining, while there’s also a generous dining area beneath a vaulted ceiling
The ground floor rooms, including a generous kitchen diner, living room, study, family room and utility radiate off from the hallway. In the living room, engineered oak flooring has been laid over underfloor heating
The master bedroom, which features a dressing room and en suite, occupies one end of the first floor. The vaulted ceilings and exposed oak frame add architectural interest throughout the first floor spaces