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.
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