When Denise and Matt got married over a decade ago, they set up their base on Matt’s family agricultural holdings and lived in the farmhouse that had been on the land for over 100 years.
The couple – who milk 150 cows - carried out an energy upgrade by adding insulation and solar thermal panels.
But to make it really work as a functioning family home, they knew they needed to do some substantial work. “The house was cosy and warm for us, but it was pretty dark because the windows were quite low,” explained Denise.
They already knew an engineer who did architectural design, so they contacted him to help with the overhaul. “A driving force behind the renovation was to turn it into a family home; we had two kids at the time,” said Denise.
“Chatting about the project, we realised how nervous we were about being so close to the farm; as soon as the children would get out the door, they were in close proximity to the livestock and to the machinery."
“My heart would skip a beat if I realised they’d made their way outside,” she admitted.
So, their engineer suggested building new instead. “He told us we had an ideal site to build on, as it was overlooking the farm but far enough to keep the children away.”
Building new also meant it would be easier to insulate. “We thought it would be difficult to get planning permission, but he told us it was worth putting it in to see if we’d get it, so he asked how many bedrooms we’d like and quickly threw together plans."
“We were stunned when, six months later, our application was approved.”
Reviving the project
This was in 2009. “Then the downturn hit and we postponed the build; I was keen to get started but the timing wasn’t right for us. It was only in 2015 that we revived the project,” added Denise.”
At this stage, they had sat down to revise the planning drawings. “We kept the shape but reconfigured the inside; we also only kept some of the stone that was originally specified to go all around the house, and we got rid of the cedar cladding due to upkeep.”
By 2015, Denise and Matt had four children. “We got to really know what we wanted; the older three were past the stage of destroying the place and presented new needs for the family.” They broke ground in August.
Heating courtesy of the milking parlour
Matt and Denise were very hands-on from the design stage. “When it came to deciding what heating system to go for, we were told oil wasn’t an option – too expensive to run and outdated – so we looked at heat pumps, air source and geothermal,” Denise outlined.
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Image source: Self Build