Renovating a house is a big undertaking, but self-building a completely new home can be a whole other venture! For Steve and Susanne, having sold their former family home of 19 years, they made the decision to build a new oak frame house on the neighbouring land. Situated in the beautiful North Essex countryside on the outskirts of a small village, the location was perfect, surrounded by miles of open countryside and footpaths. Work began at the start of 2021, and it took around 14 months to complete the entire project. Fast forward to Summer 2022, we had the opportunity to visit and photograph this beautiful house and to share with you a glimpse of Steve and Susanne’s self-build!
The house itself is a solid oak frame building from Oakwrights and was designed and built with sustainability in mind - presenting a beautiful eco-barn with plenty of glass, open plan living and vaulted ceilings. Being their first ever renovation project, Steve and Susanne’s approach to the build was to create a home with a feeling of ‘country contemporary’, borrowing features and characteristics of an original barn with use of warm oak, in combination with large floor-to-ceiling sleek windows and a neutral interior colour palette.
The use of natural materials was a key component for Steve and Susanne as they wanted there to be a sense of harmony across the entire build, “throughout the house we wanted to use as much natural product as possible”. When it came to choosing the flooring, they knew they wanted the same tiles throughout the ground floor and kitchen and decided on natural stone being a perfect hardwearing, yet beautiful material for their home. “We chose the Versailles limestone flooring for its unique texture and understated look - every tile seems to tell a different story. Quorn Stone had a fabulous Hertfordshire tile showroom with floors set in a variety of tiles, which was far better than most showrooms that just have masses of tiles on the shelves!”.
The kitchen itself was handmade by a local craftsman, Mark Laban Furniture, with the cabinets painted in Little Greene ‘French Grey’ and kitchen island in Little Greene ‘Vulcan’, providing a little contrast against the Versailles limestone kitchen flooring. A subtle and beautiful stone, the Versailles limestone tile has a softly aged finish yielding a pale wash tone with delicate fossil details and markings. This textured stone strikes a wonderful balance between modern and old which makes it a versatile choice for both country and contemporary properties – offering a large format 600xFL (FreeLength) limestone tile for kitchens and entire ground floors that is also suitable for outdoors!
Towards the end of our visit, we asked what the most difficult part of the build was, Steve described how “the foundations proved very difficult and complex as the ground was made up and unstable. Although we are at the top of a hill overlooking a valley, there are natural springs in the area! Besides that, we hadn’t quite reconciled the fact that we had to make decisions on everything from the structure to every last fixture and fitting.”. Now with the build complete and all the finishing touches carried out - we congratulate them on all they have achieved in this lovely new home! This project has very much become Steve and Susanne’s dream oak house and Harry the dog certainly approves of the tiles!
Q&A with Steve & Susanne
Where do you like to shop for interior pieces?
Susanne is a big fan of Neptune, The White Company and CharlesTed
What three words would you use to summarise your style?
Comfortable, country, contemporary.
Where are your island stools from?
Neptune Home, ‘Shoreditch High Back Bar Stool’
What paint colour did you use for the walls?
Farrow & Ball ‘Skimming Stone’
What about your home could you not live without?
The views, light and open plan space
What is your favourite thing to do in your new home?
We love to cook and entertain family and friends… not cook them, entertain them!
For more behind the scenes from Steve and Susanne’s project, you can find them on Instagram @ourdreamoakhouse