Self-building can become an addiction and Jayne and Norman Peterson are proof that “grand designing” is a habit that’s hard to break.
It started early when they shunned first-time buying and became first-time builders instead. “We have never bought a house together. We saw a plot for sale in 1990 and decided to have a go at building,” says Jayne.
So far they have built four of their own homes, three in Bramham and one in Boston Spa. Their current property is their favourite and it has exerted a powerful pull. High Carlton, a Georgian-style house on Tenter Hill in Bramham, has just come on the market for £1.15million with Dacre, Son and Hartley but it has been their home for the past 16 years.
“It’s the longest we have stayed anywhere. We love it to the point where I wonder why we’re selling it,” says Jayne. “We just think there’s another project in us and now is the time to do it before we get too old.”
High Carlton was considered by the team at TVs Grand Designs but they rejected it as they felt there wouldn’t be enough drama. They were right. Thanks to the Peterson’s experience, knowledge and contacts, the build was straightforward with no hiccups.
The only issue was getting planning permission. They bought the land in 1997 with outline permission for a much smaller 1,400 sq ft house and they had a two-year wait to get what they wanted, which was a 5,000 sq ft property. Part of the success was in digging down three metres so they could get the height they needed. The look wasn’t an issue as the couple designed the property themselves to fit with the historic homes that sit behind it.
“I didn’t want a white box or anything too modern. It wouldn’t have been right for the area and, anyway, I like traditional architecture,” says Jayne.
To avoid a simple pastiche, the building was designed to look and feel as though it had evolved over the centuries. The frontage is classic Georgian built in limestone from a local quarry. The main reception rooms all boast the best of 18th century style, including high ceilings and sash windows, while the centre of the house has late 19th century Arts and Crafts elements, including a turret to hold the staircase. At the rear, there is a two-storey section in brick from the York Handmade Brick Company. This houses the contemporary living kitchen and the garden room with bedrooms above.
“The beauty of self-building is that you can get all the things that you wouldn’t get in the average new-build. The front door is extra wide so we could be sure of getting the furniture in easily and the house is of solid construction with solid internal walls and block and beam floors so there is no noise transference between rooms. I also designed in a walk-in pantry,” says Jayne, who project managed everything from hiring and co-ordinating contractors to sourcing materials.
“When we did our first house we did a lot of the work ourselves but these days we get contractors in and it can be stressful especially if you have a couple of contractors who don’t get on. People skills are important and you have to plan everything carefully right down to where you want plug sockets. You also need a contingency of at least 20 per cent.”
Sourcing products was another time-consuming job as when she and Norman built their home, internet shopping was in its infancy so they had trips to London to buy some of their furniture and fittings, including the Philippe Starck bath.
The house now has a hall with staircase made in sycamore by Peter Thompson of York. The company also made the sycamore kitchen cabinets. The drawing room features an original Georgian fire from Robert Aagaard in Knaresborugh, a 1920s chandelier and Zoffany wallpaper. The dining kitchen, garden room and family room are the hub of the home and there is also a study, utility and boiler room on the ground floor.
Arranged over the first and second floors, each of the five double bedrooms is a self-contained suite with its own bathroom, while the master bedroom boasts its own dressing room and extra-large bathroom with the Philippe Starck bath as a centrepiece. Outside, there is a gated driveway and a double integral garage. The gardens include lawns, sun terraces and a private rear courtyard garden.
There is underfloor heating throughout, which was relatively new to Britain at the time, although the Petersons knew of it from Germany, where it has been used for many years. It is topped with either limestone floors from Lapicida or hardwood flooring.
Jayne and Norman are now busy looking for another plot, which has become more difficult thanks to the growing interest in self-build. “We’ll be very sad to leave this place but we love self-building and I’m getting excited about the next project,” she says. I want to do something a bit more baroque and I’d like it to be a zero bills Passivhaus.”
*For details of High Carlton tel: 01937 586177, www.dacres.co.uk
* If you dream of self-building it helps to do your homework. Homebuilding and Renovating magazine is a great source of inspiration with everything from case studies on real homes to advice and information on construction, materials and trends. Events like the Homebuilding and Renovating Shows, www.homebuildingshow.co.uk , Build It Live, www.builditlive.co.uk and Grand Designs Live, www.granddesignslive.com are all helpful. If you are interested in building a Passivhaus, the team at Yorkshire’s Green Building Store, near Huddersfield, www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk are experts in this construction method.