The House in the Hollow: a sustainable self-build in the Northern Irish countryside
Looking back, it all started when Gareth and his wife welcomed their first son. They soon realised they would need more space, once he grew into a toddler. As an architectural technician, Gareth had always dreamed of building his own house – which came in handy, considering that the couple didn’t have more than £160,000 to spend.
In order to fund the self-build, they put their current house on the market in August of 2017. This meant they now had to finish the new home as quickly as possible. Luckily, Gareth found the perfect property only a few months later. Located in the rural countryside of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the plot included a driveway, a preinstalled waterpipe, and an electric pole in reach: enough for Gareth to get to work.
G-Pulse editors: When you began the planning process in 2017, it was not too long ago that your son had been born. How does family life look like right now?
Gareth: We’re a family of five, to be exact – including my wife Lindsey, our five-year old son Archie, and our two dogs Buddy and Ivy. We’ve been living in our new house for two years now and really enjoy being so close to nature in every season. Of course, there’s still a lot of work to do – but it already feels like a true home to us.
G-Pulse editors: Let’s go back to the early stages: what was on top of your personal wish list when you started planning?Gareth: Lindsey and I were looking for a rural site, with plenty of space for Archie and the dogs. We envisioned an open floor plan with a spacious kitchen, dining, and living area at the centre of our home. Sustainability was also a major concern for us. Apart from using natural materials and finishes, we wanted to keep the building as energy efficient as possible.
G-Pulse editors: What measures did you take to make your house more sustainable?
Gareth: We took a fabric-first approach, concentrating on the building envelope to reduce our energy expenditure. The house’s structure and windows nearly meet the standard of a “passive” home. We paid special attention to air tightness and installed an MVHR unit to recycle indoor heat. All in all, this keeps our running costs as low as £300 per year.
G-Pulse editors: Which materials did you choose for your house, and why?
Gareth: Since we wanted to build a nature-based home, we decided to go for a timber-frame structure. Our facade was fully clad in cedar shingles
We love how their uneven, rustic finish blends in with the surrounding scenery. The walls and roof were pumped with cellulose insulation.
G-Pulse editors: What were your inspirations when it came to decorating and furnishing the interior?
Gareth: We didn’t have a specific style in mind, but we were definitely inspired by Scandinavian architecture and design. As the house slowly took shape, we also got a lot of ideas from similar homes on Instagram. For the finishing touches on our walls, we installed Gira Esprit switches in linoleum-plywood. Their aesthetics immediately caught our eye: a certain simplicity and attention to detail, combined with natural materials. The switches have a stylish and contemporary, yet understated appeal – exactly what we were looking for.
15 colour variants, innovative design, sustainable materials: Gira Esprit switches meet the highest quality standards.
Gira switches made from linoleum-plywood
Two materials in one sustainable design line: Gira Esprit switches with linoleum-plywood frames.
G-Pulse editors: What was the biggest challenge you faced during your project?
Gareth: It was really hard working full-time, all the while organising sub-contractors and tackling as much as possible ourselves to keep the costs down. Looking back, there are some parts of the building we would have done differently – the utility room could be a bit larger, for example. But most of these decisions only came about because we were rushing things at the last minute.
G-Pulse editors: As an architectural technician, you could save a considerable amount of money by doing a lot of work yourself.
Do you have any tips for builders without a professional background?
Gareth: I would advise everyone to not rush anything, especially during the planning phase. Take your time to research all the different elements that go into building a home early on. It’s easy to get carried away and jump straight into drawing up the final sketches – but if you don’t think everything through down to the last detail, you will most likely have to make a lot of costly changes later on. The more time you spend planning, the more money you can save in the long run.
G-Pulse editors: Thank you so much for sharing your story, Gareth! We’re excited to see how your home will continue to take shape in the future.
What’s your favourite part about the House in the Hollow? Would you like to live in a wooden home like this? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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