A Ge­or­gian-style eco home built with lov­ing mem­o­ries of Joan

Tea, ba­con butties and the mem­ory of some­one spe­cial made this self build home a suc­cess. Heather Dixon re­ports. Pic­tures Dave Bur­ton.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

EV­ERY hand made win­dow, metic­u­lously laid brick and care­fully painted wall in Mike Dil­lon’s Ge­or­gian-style house has been done with his wife Joan in mind. For on the day they were granted per­mis­sion to build the house that they had been plan­ning for years, Joan died.

“Joan be­came ill just as we started our de­tailed dis­cus­sions with the ar­chi­tect and fairly soon we knew how poorly she was. We agreed that what­ever hap­pened I should still go ahead and build the house,” says Mike.

“Joan’s fam­ily are farm­ers and they all have houses where we can all come to­gether as a fam­ily for Christ­mas and spe­cial oc­ca­sions. Joan wanted a house in which we too could wel­come all the fam­ily, so here was our chance to cre­ate one. When Joan died I put all my en­er­gies and fo­cus into the project. It was some­thing I could do for both of us, even though Joan wasn’t go­ing to be there to share it with me.”

Joan and Mike had al­ready agreed to cre­ate their new home in their large gar­den, stand­ing at right an­gles to the house where they had lived for ten years. It would be of a Ge­or­gian style to com­ple­ment other houses in the vil­lage and face the vil­lage green.

“Ini­tially we con­sid­ered cre­at­ing a house in the Arts and Crafts style, but it wouldn’t have worked in this Con­ser­va­tion Area set­ting,” said Mike, who worked closely with lo­cal plan­ning and con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers as well as ar­chi­tect Ian Har­ri­son to de­sign a home that would have the ap­pro­pri­ate kerb ap­peal. “Joan and I were both in­ter­ested in ar­chi­tec­ture so we spent a lot of time dis­cussing the type of bricks we wanted and even the colour of the mor­tar. We were pas­sion­ate about get­ting it ab­so­lutely right.”

Al­though the par­ish coun­cil op­posed the plans – for rea­sons which still baf­fle Mike – the vil­lage, near Northaller­ton, has been im­mensely sup­port­ive, with many com­ment­ing that the house looks like it has “al­ways been there”.

The half- acre plot is next to the ru­ins of a cas­tle so be­fore build­ing could be­gin the land was searched with a smooth blade dig­ger for items of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. When noth­ing was un­earthed, the foun­da­tions be­gan – out of sight be­hind a tow­er­ing 15ft ley­landi hedge which fronted the gar­den.

“We couldn’t take the ley­landi down un­til the birds had fin­ished nest­ing,” says Mike. ‘It helped to keep the site se­cure.’

Al­though he had no ex­pe­ri­ence in self-build­ing, he is prac­ti­cal and turned to friends in the vil­lage to help him or­gan­ise the var­i­ous stages. One was a builder with self-build ex­pe­ri­ence and another was a con­tracts man­ager who com­piled a sched­ule of works with in­dica­tive costs. Mike spent many hours trav­el­ling round the area look­ing at ex­am­ples of trades­men’s work as well as see­ing build­ings where his short­listed bricks, hand made win­dows and lime mor­tar had been used.

Then, sat­is­fied with what he saw, he ar­ranged a fixed price for the build­ing of the shell with cash in­cen­tives and bonuses for ex­cel­lent qual­ity work.

Mike also en­cour­aged a daily 15-minute “down tools” at 10am ev­ery morn­ing, so that all the trades peo­ple on site could en­joy a cup of tea and a ba­con buttie to­gether.

“It was a great way of team build­ing and en­cour­ag­ing ev­ery­one to get along,” said Mike. “As a re­sult there were no fall-outs. Ev­ery­one was happy to pitch in when re­quired and ev­ery trade was con­sid­er­ate of the oth­ers. They all knew I was not an ex­pert but that I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, so if there was a prob­lem they dis­cussed it with me and came up with so­lu­tions. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion was key.”

Mike made a point of pay­ing trades­men promptly as they “called-off” weekly pay­ments from the fixed price, al­ways trust­ing them to call off ap­pro­pri­ately as the work pro­gressed. His trust paid off as the project came in on-bud­get and with “su­perb” build qual­ity.

Once the foun­da­tions were laid the shell went up quickly. The house in­cludes high lev­els of in­su­la­tion; wa­ter based un­der floor heat­ing; an air source heat pump to min­imise Co2 emis­sions; so­lar pan­els on the south fac­ing garage roof; at­tic rather than tra­di­tional roof trusses to cre­ate more liv­ing space at the top of the house and reg­u­la­tory fire doors in ac­cor­dance with its three storey height.

Mike planned ev­ery­thing to the finest de­tail, in­clud­ing stor­age in the garage roof stor­age, Velux win­dows and 150cm Kingspan be­tween the trusses. To achieve the high­est vis­ual stan­dard of ex­te­rior de­tails he opted for tra­di­tional lead­work and her­itage-style rain­wa­ter goods, in­clud­ing cast-iron style hop­pers and down­pipes.

He chose be­spoke hard­wood pre-fin­ished slid­ing sash win­dows, voussiers win­dow heads and be­spoke stone cills,

“The build it­self was pretty well trou­ble free, al­though the win­dows took longer to de­liver than ex­pected. Hav­ing said that, each one is hand-crafted to a su­perb stan­dard, so the end re­sult was worth it,” says Mike.

He also re­searched the ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures of the pe­riod so he could in­clude cov­ing ap­pro­pri­ate to the Ge­or­gian era. He chose Span­ish slates for the roof, lime­stone and en­gi­neered oak floors and had the stair­case spe­cially built.

“I wanted to cre­ate an in­ter­nal space that re­tained the clas­sic pro­por­tions of a pe­riod house yet was con­tem­po­rary, stylish and airy,’ said Mike, who man­aged to save money by buy­ing his own site equip­ment, rather than hir­ing it, then sell­ing it on at the end of the build. It helped him stick to the £340,000 bud­get he an­tic­i­pated.

“As Joan and I had al­ways planned, it’s a house for the fam­ily and it’s great for en­ter­tain­ing in,’ he says. “I think Joan would have loved it.”

Mike took an eco-friendly ap­proach to the build us­ing high lev­els of in­su­la­tion and so­lar pan­els. The house came in on bud­get at £340,000. He says team build­ing and good com­mu­ni­ca­tions were key to the suc­cess of the project – helped along with tea and ba­con sand­wiches and prompt weekly pay­ments to the trades peo­ple in­volved.

Far­row and Ball paint colours and pe­riod-style fea­tures, such as cor­nic­ing and a be­spoke stair­case give the new-build its Ge­or­gian-style char­ac­ter. Many have com­mented it looks as though it has al­ways been there.

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