06 Jul 2021

The Self-build Diaries: Clare and Joe Hughes


The idea of building their very own house first crossed the minds of Clare and Joe Hughes in 2013. When the pair decided it was time to move on from their previous home, they encountered a somewhat stagnant market and started to consider a route that would offer them the chance to put their stamp on a property.


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In search of a site with some surrounding land for their children, Finn and Theodora to enjoy, Clare and Joe set their hearts on a superb spot that boasted Clare’s sought-after “countryside appeal”. Here, we talk to Clare about the design of her luxurious four-bed detached self-build project and find out more about the build process.

“Joe is originally from Northern Ireland, so the inspiration was to have an Irish house where the heart of the home is the kitchen. It was vital that the site had countryside appeal and fit in with the surrounding area.

“We showed our architect sketches of how we wanted the house to look. He was terrific and, following lots of discussions, he designed our new home to perfection. We wanted the house to provide us with lots of natural light. Therefore, the rear of the property features large windows to allow for extra light to shine through.

“We found the plot itself through the property website, Rightmove. Initially, it was a riding school. With an existing house, outbuildings, stables, fields and a sand arena, it was perfect. After a year of looking at the property, we finally made an offer, and it was accepted. We applied for planning permission in 2015, and after a couple of objections, planning permission was finally granted in 2016.

“With regards to the build process, we didn’t face any challenging aspects – only the weather! Typically, every time the bricklayers were on site, it rained. Luckily, the weather cleared when the roofing company arrived.

“We decided to project manage the build ourselves; however, our architect was always happy to help with any queries we had. Joe works in the construction industry, so he has excellent knowledge of specifications and materials, which was a massive help.

“In all, it took just over three years to complete the build. That said, we didn’t rush, and I’m so glad we didn’t, as we changed our minds on so many things that we thought we wanted. Seeing each stage move on and the house slowly taking shape definitely changes your view on what you think may look good and what actually suits the space. For temporary living purposes, we purchase a new static home, which was situated on site. We own pet cows, goats and chickens, so we needed to be close by. It was beneficial living on site and seeing the house develop.

“The finished house is a four-bedroom detached build with an apartment above the garages. We opted for fewer bedrooms to make them larger. The property itself sits within eight acres of land surrounded by countryside. The external tumbled brick gives the appearance of a slightly older aesthetic, along with timber beams to the apex, which is softened by a pale cream render. We’ve had such positive feedback from the local community and lovely comments from others, which is always nice to hear.

“Our home is everything and more than we expected. After living in a static caravan for three years, we really appreciate the space. If I had to pick one favourite element about our home, it would be the sunroom; it’s so light with beautiful views. I wouldn’t change any designs, everything works perfectly for us. However, I am always looking at changing the interior decor – much to the disapproval of Joe!

“Outside, we have just started the landscaping. We wanted something relatively easy to maintain. So, at the rear garden, we opted for turf and put in an astroturf pitch for Finn, Theodora and their friends – we’re also looking to add a swimming pool at some stage. We’ll eventually plant trees and hedges. We have a great landscaping company who have worked on our home, so we know their advice is fantastic. The house looks more like home now the garden is starting to take shape. We are currently in the process of designing the entrance and the landscaping around that area too. The paths around the house and in the garden are all resin bound; and they really give the building a complementary finish. We so still need to add bits to the garden, but this is a work in progress. I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram, where I create mood boards for each project.

“I would do the whole thing again, in a heartbeat – I’m already saving photos for the next build! My advice to anyone looking to do a self-build is take your time, don’t rush it, think carefully and shop around, don’t always go with the first quote. Don’t cut corners; it certainly doesn’t pay and be realistic on budget.”

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