generous by adding around 2 metres to the back of the living/dining room, providing a pleasant, light area to sit in overlooking the large garden via sliding doors. Nikki says: “Now I’ve got it, I can't imagine it without it; it would not have been the same house.”

Construction phase & moving in

Another thing that Nikki had to adjust to was unexpected delays in the actual construction. Although the timber frame itself was bolted together by Potton “in a couple of days by two guys,” she says other aspects weren’t so smooth. Once construction of the footings was completed in July, there was a slight lag before the drains were laid and the rest of the job pro- ceeded, which disappointed Nikki as she’d “paid the deposit early.” Then despite the roof being on before the

December winter weather kicked in, because the rendering hadn’t been completed at the back, there was still scaffolding present, which in turn meant the sliding doors couldn’t go in. This all meant a miserable few cold and

damp weeks with a hole at the back of the house until the doors were installed in January. Nikki, who had been living with neighbours Rachel and Michael, decided to not only move her furniture in February, but herself, in March. “It was much to my project manager’s horror, but I was paying a lot for storage!” The chimney

and inglenook fireplace in the front living room had been built early on, before the frame went up, so Nikki was able to huddle by the fire despite having no central heating and needing to go next door for a shower. She praises the tradesmen, who knew each

other and were able to work well together. For example, the carpenter who finished and installed the doors throughout the property, includ- ing several cupboards complete with authentic- looking metal latches. “He was brilliant – arrived at an unearthly hour of the morning and lit the fire to warm all the wood in front of it.” Nikki is delighted with the inglenook fire-

place, which is something she had always wanted, although she admits the bricklayers hadn’t previously come across the pale Cambridgeshire bricks that she and the architect specified. The exterior of the house is also clad with a mix of pinkish and brown bricks matching the local vernacular on the ground floor, and a carefully chosen render on the first floor.

Interiors & landscaping

Internally the house’s key feature is the exposed timber frame, its rustic solidity enhancing and unifying the open plan living area and the upstairs. The knotty, mid-brown Douglas Fir, ‘shaped’ in the factory to look hand-hewn and finished with dark metal plates – is literally at the heart of this house’s charm. The kitchen and living areas are tied together

by very attractive honey-coloured limestone- effect ceramic floor tiles, which together with the underfloor heating provide a very warm and welcoming overall feel. Upstairs Karndean floor- ing has been used in the bathroom as well as on the landing, because of its waterproof as well as hardwearing credentials. Externally, the landscaping design meant a dig-

ger was needed to dig holes for small trees to the front. Native wild dogwood and hazel form a new hedge, although Nikki admits a rowan tree unfortunately “got clobbered by a digger!”

A source of savings

A NIBE air source heat pump is installed next to the back door – it was intended to be at the side of the utility, but part of complying with planning permission on the clearance meant it had to be moved. Despite blowing hot air in Nikki’s face when she opens the door due to its location, it operates quietly and efficiently, providing all the hot water for the underfloor heating throughout the property, as well as showers. Nikki is delighted that not only does she get “lashings of hot water” from the quietly whirring heat pump, she also gets £120 back from the Government every quarter. She has no other heating costs to worry about apart from a roughly £100 a month electricity bill, and the manifolds for the underfloor heating are all neatly tucked away in cupboards. It’s been so success- ful that Ofgem asked her to do an energy use


selfbuilder & homemaker


Experiencing some warmth in the house provided by the multi fuel burner in the living

room – it was lit most mornings at dawn

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