07 Apr 2021

The Self-build Diaries: Nick and Tara Jordan


After 10 years of city life in London and renovating their previous home in Hackney, Nick and Tara Jordan wanted to relocate to the countryside and take on a bigger project. With backgrounds in architecture and interiors, the pair saw potential in two barns in rural Hampshire. One laborious year later, and Hackney House was born – a truly inspirational, contemporary barn conversion that’s perfect for 21st-century living. Here, i-Build Editor, Rebecca Kemp, talks to Nick about the renovation journey he and Tara undertook to achieve this first-class agricultural-cum-contemporary architectural marvel.


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RK:Had you always wanted to pursue your own project?
NJ: Working in the design industry, I am used to creating interiors for clients, but we both have a real passion for design and architecture. Our property development journey began by renovating a small two-bed flat on the south coast, followed by converting our home in London’s Hackney, so the next step for us was to build and create something new.

RK: How and why did you choose this property to renovate?
NJ: We decided to look for a property in Hampshire as it was an equal distance from family in Oxfordshire and on the south coast. As soon as we drove up to the stables, we saw the potential – even though it was a bigger undertaking than we were looking for. We recognised the opportunity and ceased it!

RK: What style and age is the original building?
NJ: The original building consisted of two separate breezeblock stables that were built in the 1950s. As the existing stables were located within an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), we had to work with the existing structure. So, we focused on how best to transform them.

RK: How did you combine the original building’s style with the extension?
NJ: As we are located in AONB territory, we were inspired by the agricultural architecture found locally – particularly by barns on two local farms. This informed the property’s aesthetic language and materials, such as the use of black larch cladding and corrugated roofing.

RK: What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?
NJ: Externally, we wanted to create a piece of architecture that slots seamlessly into the local landscape. Internally, we wanted to create a light, open family home that connected to the architecture. So we continued the use of natural, informal finishes inside to create one cohesive look.

RK: How did you approach finalising your design brief?
NJ: As soon as we had our offer accepted, we began to sketch out layouts and had a clear idea of transforming the stables into our family home. It came together very quickly, and rather than finalising a design brief; we kept going back to the initial vision to ensure we were going in the right direction.

RK: How long did it take to gain planning permission?
NJ: Planning permission was already granted on the stables when we bought them. We made some changes under a Section 73 application to make some of the original detailing more contemporary and add more glazing to improve light and space.

RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?
NJ: The most challenging part of the build was the financial side. We were confident about the design elements; however, the red tape and complexities of mortgage stage payments, structural warranties, increasing costs and remaining on budget and programme resulted in many sleepless nights!

RK: Did you project manage the build yourself?
NJ: Initially, we had a project manager to kickstart the build, but we eventually took over and completed the build ourselves.

RK: Did you work with an architect at any point in the process?
NJ: I have over 15 years’ experience designing interiors for clients, and I have just founded my own interiors and development company, Studio Jordan (www.studio-jordan.com – coming soon), so I designed all aspects of the build myself.  Luckily I could lean on the expertise of architects, structural engineers and M&E consultants I have worked with previously; to form one coordinated design scheme ready for construction.

RK: How did you approach material and product specification?
NJ: We worked with a number of suppliers I have worked with professionally for years, such as Parkside Tiles, Wever Ducre, Lusso Stone, Joinery Fabricators etc. The biggest challenge was tailoring the scheme to our budget. I have been fortunate to work on large luxury residential projects with budgets to match. For us, however, it was about being creative with details and materials – plywood became a firm favourite!

RK: Are there any particular materials that you would recommend?
NJ: I would recommend keeping to a restricted material palette. At Hackney House, we have used a simple combination of polished concrete, plywood, brassware fittings, black metalwork and muted paint colours. This stripped-back aesthetic can then be highlighted using considered lighting or uplifting understated materials using detailing, such as routing outlines in a simple plywood sheet – simple tricks which can make all the difference.

RK: How long did the project take?
NJ: The project from start to completion was 12 months. Initially, we were hoping to complete the build in nine months; however, we lost some time over the winter months. We moved in after seven months once the build was watertight and livable.

RK: Did you remain within the original budget?
NJ: We managed to bring the build in on budget, but we did have to take on more and more ourselves as the project progressed – from project managing to making all the bespoke joinery.

RK: How does the building respond to its surrounding landscape?
NJ: The way we designed the house was all about connecting with the surrounding landscape. As a result, we opted for large window apertures, which all frame the local landscape.

RK: What does the local community think of the refurbishment?
NJ: We’ve had very positive feedback from the neighbours. Located in the countryside, we often have cyclists passing who aren’t afraid to view their opinions, both good and bad!

RK: What do you love most about your new home?
NJ: The connection to the landscape and the light, open space is perfect for our family living. My favourite room is the open-plan living, dining and kitchen area – it’s a remarkable multifunctional space that is great for relaxing and entertaining.

RK: Is there anything that you would have done differently?
NJ: I would try and bring in more trades to support towards the end of the build; however, the budget dictated that we needed to finish it ourselves.

RK: Would you do the whole thing again?
NJ: Yes, but not for a while!

RK: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to renovate or self-build?
NJ: Be organised, be in control of your finances and don’t give up, you will get there, and it will be worth it.

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