An artist’s eye for light and space

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Natural light was top of Jim Orme’s wish list when he got the chance to build his own home.

Like any artist, he appreciates the benefits and nuances it brings, so his house in Pickering has an abundance of aluminium-framed solar glazing, allowing light and heat in without creating a greenhouse effect.

“The light and feeling of space were the starting points,” says Jim.

He also wanted an energy-efficient home and so the construction is a brick plinth with block walls featuring a deep cavity packed with insulation.

Another layer of insulation was laid on the exterior before being clad with locally-grown larch.

“It’s a good, strong construction although it looks like it’s built from timber, the wood is mostly decorative although in effect it is another insulating layer. It means the house is very economical to run,” says Jim, who installed underfloor heating and a large wood-burning stove.

The wood helps it blend with the landscape and pleased the North York Moors National Park planning officers.

Getting permission to build in a National Park is rare, but Jim and his wife Ann pooled their resources with son Nathan to buy a plot of land with two prefabricated, asbestos bungalows that were ripe for replacement.

It was the height of the property boom, so they sold their homes, entered a sealed bid and crossed their fingers

“It was strange how it happened. There was a lot of competition and on the day we were entering the bid, Nathan said: ‘I think we’d better up our bid by £500. We did and as it turned out the next best offer was just £400 below ours,” says Jim.

After clearing the land, drawing designs with the help of Escape Architecture in Pickering and applying for planning permission, father and son began building the two timber-clad houses.

“Nathan, who has his own groundworks company, laid the foundations and project managed and it was mainly him and a bricklayer who built the houses, with me labouring. It was hard work but I worked in the building trade when I first left school, so I did have some idea of what I was doing and it was exciting,” says Jim.

The two properties took 18 months to complete and Jim and Ann rented until their new home was ready.

It was worth the wait. Their house is stunning with an open-plan living area downstairs featuring double height spaces flooded with light from the glazed rear of the house and the part-glazed roof.

The ground floor also has a kitchen, two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The first floor houses the master bedroom suite and a large sitting room/office with a glass balcony overlooking the dining area and the garden. There are also views over the North York Moors Railway and the fields beyond.

“It’s great to live in and it is very light, just as we wanted,” says Jim.

The plot cost £100,000 and the build about £200,000, which included fitting and furnishing the interior.

Ann says: “We wanted a fresh start so everything we have was bought for this house, although we didn’t have a lot to spend because the budget was small by the time we reached the decorating stage.”

Luckily, Jim is both handy and creative. An artist and former Head of Fine Art at York College, his beautiful abstract paintings have added colour and interest to the white walls.

“I am interested in the history of things and the marks they leave, like the fossils on the coast. My work is about layers and surfaces and leaving traces of what’s gone before,” he says.

Jim has also renovated auction buys including an antiques chest and Windsor chair and loves making things.

The cabinet for the dining area was made by him, along with a large table lamp fashioned from a stack of bowling balls.

The garden is another triumph and includes a magnificent feature wall behind the pond made from painted panels decorated with a circular brass centre that turns out to be the top of an old pub table that Jim recycled.

“We wanted something that would draw your eye up the garden, and it looks great when the reeds grow up the panel in summer and the light reflects off the table top,” says Jim.

He now has a studio in the garden – a large but cosy workplace filled with paint, easels and a host of bits and bobs that will no doubt come in handy.

“I love making things, always have done,” he says.

“I suppose that’s one of the reasons I always wanted to build my own house.”

Find Jim’s work at and exhibiting at Eleven in Hull and at the Back of the Shop Gallery, Terrington March 5-26.