De­signed for Liv­ing, Liv­ing for De­sign

Aileen and Dave Downie have built a home that per­fectly re­flects them; bright and so­cia­ble with a fresh, open out­look.

Scottish Field - - ABODE -

Sea­soned self-builders Dave and Aileen Downie have just com­pleted their sixth project so it’s fair to say that they’ve learnt a thing or two over the years about self­build­ing with suc­cess. Their lat­est home is an im­pres­sive two-storey, up­side down tim­ber frame home in St. An­drews. Its cube-shaped boxy de­sign is clean and sim­ple, part clad with a fi­bre ce­ment façade which com­ple­ments silky Siberian Larch cladding. The min­i­mal­ism of its de­sign is echoed in­side with sim­ple, care­fully cu­rated in­te­ri­ors that are not over de­signed or over com­pli­cated. Dave and Aileen firmly be­lieve that if you are lucky enough to build your own home you should push the bound­aries of what’s pos­si­ble in terms of both per­for­mance and aes­thet­ics; how­ever, they don’t be­lieve in bells and whis­tles, ob­serv­ing that “it can be easy to get car­ried away with fancy new ways of build­ing and lots of toys”. In­stead they have cho­sen to de­sign a home that’s adapt­able, multi-func­tional and di­verse. Great care has been taken to fu­ture proof it. The cou­ple’s phi­los­o­phy from the out­set was to build their house from the in­side out, in­vest­ing heav­ily in its fab­ric; a strong rea­son why tim­ber frame was their struc­tural sys­tem of choice. An­other fac­tor in favour of tim­ber frame was the im­por­tance they placed on achiev­ing ther­mal ef­fi­ciency; they pri­ori­tised high lev­els of in­su­la­tion, both in the tim­ber frame and in the floors and ceil­ings. The cou­ple have also in­vested in ad­di­tional struc­tural el­e­ments that aren’t a pri­or­ity to­day, but might be to­mor­row or in­deed for fu­ture own­ers, for ex­am­ple, a struc­tural wall has been in­te­grated into the Plant Room along with changeover switches to al­low the house to be pow­ered by bat­ter­ies should they wish to do so in the fu­ture. Work­ing closely with lo­cal ar­chi­tect, Joanna Lock­hart, Aileen and Dave spent a great deal of time think­ing through views, ori­en­ta­tion and the po­si­tion­ing of the house. It has been built to­wards the back of the site to take ad­van­tage of south fac­ing light to the front. Nat­u­ral light has been max­imised in the so­cial ar­eas with large flat roof win­dows and slid­ing doors on to a bal­cony elim­i­nat­ing the need for ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing even on the most over­cast days. Nat­u­ral day­light com­bined with the warmer air ris­ing from down­stairs en­sures that heat­ing and light­ing costs are min­i­mal. “We love liv­ing in our new home” re­veals Aileen. “We love how bright and airy it is. We love walk­ing out on to our bal­cony, which has a glass canopy to pro­tect us – we do live in the UK af­ter all. We love the fact that it is easy and cheap to run and main­tain. We par­tic­u­larly love the fact that we had this op­por­tu­nity to build our own home in what is a lovely part of the coun­try” she adds. The Down­ies rec­og­nize that when it comes to en­sur­ing a suc­cess­ful project, hav­ing the sup­port of a good team is para­mount. “It is crit­i­cal to take ad­vice from the peo­ple who know what they are talk­ing about and for you to show, and hope­fully earn, the re­spect of the var­i­ous trades­peo­ple in­volved” ex­plains Aileen, adding “for the ship to be wa­ter­tight, or the house to be air­tight, you have to have a happy crew who re­ally want to de­liver a good job for you”. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant when it comes to your struc­tural sys­tem and it’s no co­in­ci­dence that this is the fifth tim­ber frame Aileen and Dave have pur­chased from Flem­ing Homes. “Work­ing with Flem­ing Homes on the tim­ber frame was a plea­sure. They didn’t try to talk us into spend­ing money we were un­com­fort­able with. They helped and ad­vised at ev­ery turn. They never once dodged a phone call and all the help of­fered was given in good hu­mour by a team who clearly love what they do and seek to give you the house of your dreams. Who could ask for more?” she fin­ishes. One of the best places to learn about self-build­ing is from peo­ple who have been there and done it be­fore. Six times in the case of Aileen and Dave. Here are their top tips for get­ting it right.

• Build a good team around you; ad­vice and guid­ance from pro­fes­sion­als who you trust is in­valu­able.

• Think about fu­ture proof­ing early in the de­sign process; not just for you, but for po­ten­tial fu­ture own­ers.

• Push the bound­aries of what’s pos­si­ble; this is your chance to build a home that meets your in­di­vid­ual needs.

• Find cre­ative ways to in­te­grate stor­age; it’s often at a pre­mium in new builds and adds prac­ti­cal­ity and func­tion­al­ity to your home.

• You can al­ways add or change fur­nish­ings and fit­tings but don’t leave your­self feel­ing you have cut costs on the fab­ric of the house it­self. This is where you will achieve cost ef­fi­cien­cies in the fu­ture and add ad­di­tional value to your self-build.

The heart of Blue­belle Cot­tage is the kitchen, fea­tur­ing a beau­ti­ful pal­ette of cream and wood fin­ishes, off­set with tra­di­tional pewter fin­ish han­dles. The gen­er­ous oak-style work­top makes it an invit­ing space for food prepa­ra­tion and clever use of all avail­able space means there are plenty of cup­boards for stor­age. ex­tremely Man­ag­ing chal­leng­ing a build project and that’s of your one own of the can rea­sons be The Wee House Com­pany is so pop­u­lar – they take the stress out of the self-build ex­pe­ri­ence. Ev­ery­thing from war­rant ap­ply­ing to ground for plan­ning works, con­struc­tion con­sent and and a build­ing ser­vice in­stal­la­tion is taken care of by their ded­i­cated team. The Wee House Com­pany founder, Jen­nifer Hig­gins said, “Our Wee Houses are de­signed and con­structed to achieve the high­est stan­dards in safety, sus­tain­abil­ity and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and we pride our­selves on our ex­cep­tional cus­tomer care.” “Our clients are re­ally var­ied. We’ve built homes for cou­ples look­ing to down­size, we’ve helped fam­i­lies stay close to­gether by build­ing in their gar­den plot and we’ve built Wee Houses which have be­come very suc­cess­ful hol­i­day lets. The houses are mort­gage el­i­gi­ble so it’s also an af­ford­able op­tion for first time buy­ers strug­gling to get on the prop­erty lad­der.” If you’ve al­ways dreamt of a loch side get­away, a ro­man­tic for­est re­treat or an is­land es­cape, it’s never been eas­ier – or quicker. The Wee House Com­pany can con­struct, trans­port and build a Wee House on your plot in as lit­tle as eight weeks! The com­pany have been de­sign­ing and build­ing small homes since 2013 and use over 50 com­bined years of ex­pe­ri­ence in con­struc­tion and smart de­sign to max­imise the func­tion­al­ity and live­abil­ity of a smaller floor area. For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.the­wee­house­c­om­pany.co.uk *Prices start from £99,000 for a 2 bed Wee House

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