Persistence and hard graft paid off for this young couple who self-built their own home

This self build near York is a triumph thanks to one young couple's hard work and perserverance

The house that Lucy and Sam built

Lucy Hopkins had lived on her parents’ smallholding near Easingwold for most of her life and was keen to make her own home there. Her great grandfather bought the 50 acre plot almost 80 years ago and Lucy and her husband Sam hope to take the reins and manage it one day.

With her parents living in the 1930s house on the site, the only way to fulfil her dream was to build another property on the land that is also home to longhorn cattle, chickens and a woodland nature reserve.

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Lucy and Sam pinned their hopes on a large, ugly shed blighted by asbestos and crossed their fingers and everything else in the hope that they could get planning permission to create a new family home in its place. The odds were stacked against them and a refusal was recommended until their local councillor asked that the couple be allowed three minutes to put their case. “The refusal was overturned but even then it took several years from first applying for full planning permission to be granted,” says Lucy.

The old farm building that made way for a new home

Good design, sensitivity to the setting, and, as with many planning applications, a large helping of good luck, were all essential to their success. To be certain they had done everything possible, they also hired Helmsley-based KVA planning consultancy to advise them.

“It was worth investing in because we knew we had only one shot at getting permission and KVA helped us navigate the planning system. One of our points was that a house would be preferable to the ugly big shed and another was that we wanted to be here to carry on farming and to eventually take over the smallholding,” says Lucy.

Sam, who studied design as part of his building services engineering degree, was helped by a retired architect friend of the family to draw up detailed plans. The energy-efficient, three-bedroom/two-bathroom house he came up with has an oak-frame made by Thirsk-based Parker Oak. This is clad in structural insulated panels, aka SIPS, that were topped with sweet chestnut cladding.

While the road-facing front elevation looks relatively modest, the rear of the property is much more ‘Grand Designs’ with two magnificent glazed gables to make the most of the rural views. Sam also managed to meet the local planning authority’s ridge height restrictions by designing a tempered pitched roof with an 11-metre, glazed flat section running through the middle to keep the ridge height low while providing enough height in the upper floor rooms.

The timber frame being delivered

The couple moved in with Lucy’s parents and by the time construction started 18 months after permission was granted, the couple had £30,000 in savings and a self-build mortgage for £210,000. Sam was project manager and both he and Lucy were hands-on with help from her dad, John, a skilled bricklayer, tiler and joiner.

The couple spent the next year juggling full-time jobs while being hands-on with their building project, bringing in tradespeople only when necessary.

There were the inevitable issues, including having to pump out water from newly-dug trenches for the footings, and issues installing the septic tank but the 18-month build was a big success. We did as much of the work as we could to save money. Sam is very handy and learnt new skills and my dad was really helpful,” says Lucy.

In the end the total cost of the build was £267,000, which includes an air source heat pump, and the persistence and hard graft was well worth it. Lucy and Sam now have their own home on their family’s smallholding and their hand-built house has been valued at £375,000. “We have no intention of selling,” she says. “We hope to be here forever.”

The hard work paid off and the couple now have a beautiful home for life

*For those thinking of self-building or renovating, inspiration and advice is available at the ever popular Homebuilding & Renovating Shows. For more details of the events next year visit

The open plan living space
The new house from the front, road-facing side