Built With Love: New Build Barn

We delivered a custom designed, new build barn for Nicky, Patricia, and their daughter Phoebe, which was featured in Self Build & Design magazine.

“At first glance, Nick and Patricia Forsyth’s new home looks like any other barn-style, timber-framed house but, as Nick explains, it has been designed and built specifically to meet the needs of their disabled daughter.

“In 2004 our lives changed dramatically with the birth of our daughter, Phoebe. At the time we were living in a small, period cottage and the idea of building our own house couldn’t have been further from our minds. My DIY skills were barely sufficient to put up a shelf (they’re still not much better!) let alone contemplate the finer points of underfloor heating or sewage treatment plants.

“But necessity is the mother of all invention and so when it became clear that Phoebe was disabled, we quickly realised that our best chance of obtaining a suitable family home was to design and build it ourselves. Access was to be a prime consideration. Phoebe will always need a wheelchair so any house needed to have easy access throughout with wide doors both inside and out and all accommodation on one level. We really liked the idea of an open-plan house and a timber frame meant that we could avoid the need for internal supporting walls thus giving a completely wide open and accessible living area.

“Once we had agreed on an oak-framed house, the design was very straightforward – a large kitchen area with bedrooms, utility room, wet room and specialised disabled bathroom on the ground floor. We loved the idea of a vaulted ceiling but to maximise space we included a further bedroom and bathroom upstairs together with a gallery overlooking the living area.The idea was that the upstairs area could one day serve as accommodation for a live-in carer for Phoebe.

“We knew we needed a specially adapted house but we were determined to create a modern, comfortable family home. The hospital look was never an option.

“As any would-be selfbuilder knows, finding a suitable plot and obtaining planning permission are probably the biggest hurdles in any project. We live in Hampshire and we decided that our best chance was to buy a bungalow and demolish it.

“We looked at a number of properties but they were all very expensive. We then came across a plot that was within our budget that already had planning permission for a three-bedroom house but, of course, there was a catch.

“There were a number of protected trees on the site which meant that the area on which to build was very small. We were, however, able to convince the planners that because of Phoebe’s disability, we needed a single storey property. They finally agreed that we could remove one large yew tree and on this basis we went ahead and bought the plot.

“Things moved quickly after this. We commissioned the architect who had designed the original three-bedroom house and they were able to draw up new plans and put forward the application for full planning permission.

“Our neighbours were concerned about the height and impact of the new house and we were obliged to enter into some fairly protracted negotiations in order to gain planning permission. We finally agreed to reduce the level of the site by half a metre. I remember thinking we had got off quite lightly but as it turned out, digging out and disposing of some 500m3 of spoil to landfill added more than £10,000 to the cost of the build ! A hard lesson learnt. But at least we were finally good to go.”

Nick’s Top Tips:

“Get a good architect. We had multiple contractors involved in the project so when occasional things went wrong it was easy for each one to blame the other. These situations needed careful management but, fortunately, our architect acted as project manager. The architect also managed the monthly payments to the contractors. Each month he would verify and quantify the work and issue a stage certificate. We would then pay that amount. It was a very professional system and without it we would probably have all fallen out very early on.”

Check out our Portfolio for a range of our new build projects, ideas, and inspiration.