15 Jun 2021

The Self Build Diaries: Sam and Joanna Fletcher

This month, we talk to first-time self-builder and self-proclaimed Scandi/industrial design addict Joanna Fletcher. If you’re following Joanna on Instagram, you’ll be all too familiar with her and husband, Sam’s, positively inspirational home transformation and flair for clean-lined, super-stylish interiors. Here, we go back to the start of the Fletcher’s self-build journey and find out how it all began.

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RK: What inspired you to embark on your own project rather than buying?
JF: It has been a life ambition. The prospect of building our own home offered us the opportunity to create something unique with a house that is perfectly suited to our family’s needs.

RK: What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?
JF: The new property is a modern reinterpretation of the previous 1950s post-Modern dwelling that stood on the site.

RK: How did you approach finalising your design brief?
JF: In all honesty, we had a very clear idea of the brief and materials we wanted to use.

RK: How and why did you choose this plot?
JF: I initially saw the property (one of four identical houses) over 20 years ago. At the time, I was taken back by the contemporary design – the houses’ large windows and mono-pitched roof designs. Overall, it was very different to the traditional red-brick terraces that you see across Lancashire.

RK: How long did it take to gain planning permission?
JF: It took nine months altogether.

RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?
JF: The site is located on a steep valley site that had to be excavated. We removed over 1000 tons of rubble and created the sub-ground floor level, which is formed from a reinforced slab and thick concrete retaining walls wrapped in a tanking system. The rear of the sub-ground floor level is entirely underground and set back into the slope.

The ground floor and first floor are constructed from structural insulated panels (SIPs). A particular challenge was the junction between the two different structures/materials and forming the roof deck and rainwater drainage.

RK: How did you approach material and product specification?
JF: We wanted a simple palette of materials and colours, including:

•  Burnt larch cladding

•  COR-TEN steel

•  Black satin aluminium for the windows, fascias and soffits

•  Wetherby render in white with a touch of grey.

RK: Did you install any renewable systems?
JF: No. The previous property was already connected to mains gas and electricity, so we opted to retain this. However, we did design the underfloor heating (UFH) system so that we could switch to air source in the future.

RK: How long did the project take?
JF: It took just under 12 months for the initial build to complete and for us to move in. We are currently working on the landscaping and lower ground floor rooms.

RK: Did you remain within the original budget?
JF: No. The site, complex build and bespoke nature of fixtures and fittings (stairs, kitchen, doors etc.) meant we went significantly over budget.

RK: How does the property respond to its surrounding landscape?
JF: It slots really well into the sloping site. The use of glass and black burnt cladding fits in nicely.

RK: What does the local community think of the new property?
JF: Feedback has been very positive with people stopping to take photos.

RK: What’s your favourite thing about your new home?
JF: The vistas across the Ribble Valley are breathtaking – no matter the weather!

RK: Is there anything that you would have done differently?
JF: Lots, but it was – and still is – a huge learning curve.

RK: Would you do the whole thing again?
JF: Absolutely – if the right plot came up!

RK: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to self-build?
JF: Check people’s work thoroughly, and don’t be afraid to question anything you feel doesn’t look right. Try and learn from the trades so that you can absorb as much information about the build as possible. And, importantly, keep strong and believe in yourself! It’s certainly not an easy journey, and you will make mistakes. However, try and let those mistakes make you stronger.

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