Every inch of this beautiful self-build home has been created by its owner, a young craftsman. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Self-build usually means that someone has been lucky enough to find a plot of land and has commissioned a one-off home. It’s rare to find a true self-builder who has been hands-on in constructing and crafting almost every inch of a property.
Even more extraordinary is to find someone who has done this by the age of 25. It’s why Philip Coe is so remarkable.
A joiner by trade, he used a combination of his carpentry skills, YouTube tutorials and a book, The Housebuilders Bible, to create a contemporary home from the bones of an asbestos-clad AtCost shed.
Thanks to the DIY approach, the property in a village near York, cost just £80,000 to construct and fit out yet it looks a million dollars.
With original designs by an award-winning architect, Philip’s ideas and attention to detail and interior design by his partner, Flo, he turned the agricultural shed into a stunningly beautiful home.
The project took root when Philip’s parents offered him the chance to get on the property ladder by converting the building.
“They built their own home 18 years ago and the shed was on the land they bought. My dad used it for storage,” says Philip, who showed an interest in construction from an early age.
“I was eight when my parents’ house was being built and I loved ‘helping’ the workmen. I even asked the plumber if he would take me on as an apprentice.
“I never enjoyed the academic subjects at school but I liked woodwork. I’ve always loved working with my hands,” he says.
He and Flo, a stylist for Marks & Spencer, have recently set up their own business “Flocoe”, designing and making bespoke kitchens and furniture. But while building their house, Philip was still employed at a local joinery firm and Flo was studying away at university.
So for two years he worked on the house every evening and every weekend. He followed designs by Malton-based architect Ric Blenkharn, of Bramhall Blenkharn, who incorporated the concrete skeleton of the AtCost building into the plans.
Ric is known for his skill in making the best use of natural light, so the house has large areas of glazing and a double-height sitting area.
He also helped the Coes seek planning permission and the local authority agreed but with one caveat that proved an issue when looking for a mortgage.
“We got planning permission on condition that we could only sell to someone who lived or worked locally,” says Flo. “That and the fact we were both under 25 at the time made getting a mortgage difficult.”
The couple eventually found a way round the financial stumbling block by going back to the planning authority. It amended the wording to say that if the home was ever repossessed by the bank, the restrictive clause could be removed to make it easier for the lender to sell the property.
In the meantime, they had to make the best of £15,000 made up of savings plus temporary use of credit cards and Flo’s student loan.
“Waiting for the mortgage money did us a favour in the end because we had to find ways of cutting the budget,” says Philip.
He began by stripping the building back so only the concrete pillars remained. He then put in foundations and taught himself bricklaying so he could lay a breeze block plinth for the timber frame he was building. This was insulated and clad with larch.
Philip also constructed and installed the roof and supporting beams along with the internal walls. It was heavy work but his family helped and he managed to figure out ways of doing most of it solo, including making wall panels in small sections.
“I was there at weekends to supervise and to make sure he didn’t fall. It was pretty scary and it’s a good job health and safety weren’t involved or they would’ve stopped the work,” says Flo.
Rather than wait for the mortgage money, Philip cancelled plans for aluminium-framed windows and bi-fold doors and made them himself in wood. He had never done it before but after consulting a book and “a lot of Googling”, the result is first class and saved him and Flo £11,000. The couple also cut costs by swapping a zinc roof for a plastic-coated corrugated metal one.
Installing the underfloor heating and topping it with concrete proved challenging for Flo and Philip but they used it to save even more money by polishing the concrete rather than topping it with expensive floor tiles.
There was no compromise on the layout, which includes an open-plan living space with separate shower room and utility with a glass and oak staircase leading to a mezzanine study area, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Flo designed the kitchen, which was handmade by Philip and painted in Farrow and Ball’s Cinder Rose. He also made a sideboard, media unit and built-in storage, while Flo painted the whole property in calming whites and greys.
The outdoor barbecue area was her idea and includes furniture and decking made from scaffold planks, a homemade pizza oven and walls made from bottles and steel wire.
After all the scrimping, they allowed themselves the luxury of £2,800 Tom Dixon lights that hang down into the double-height space.
While working all hours on the project was hard, it paid off in more ways than one. AtCost House recently won an LABC supreme award for best conversion, the couple have a dream home and the success of their self-build gave them the confidence to set up their own business.
Philip, who is now 26, and Flo, 23, launched FloCoe Interiors to design and make “anything wooden” from bespoke kitchens to fitted and free-standing furniture. “The house is our portfolio,” says Flo.