Case study about rejuvenating a farmhouse

Nadine & Doug Scott Case Study

We met with Nadine, Doug and Rumble  the Yellow Labrador on a wet morning in November.  We sat in their wonderful home overlooking the Cambridgeshire countryside and were amazed by their story.

Doug, originally from Hertfordshire, and Nadine, from Cambridge, have lived in this idyllic village for 30 years and had always hankered to build their own home.

Doug now aged 80 is a retired chartered engineer who has worked all over the world in a variety of  manufacturing industries and, possibly as a consequence of that, has an amazing eye for detail. Nadine who is 75 retired some years ago but had worked at the Cambridge University Institute of  Astronomy for a number of astronomers who were to become household names. 

Land Cost:
June 2017
Building Regs, Building System & Potton Package
When they first moved to Holywell the couple purchased a listed farmhouse which was in a considerable state of disrepair, and needed complete restoration including structural work. Doug worked with an Architect friend and a Builder to carry out remedial work to the house, a large percentage of which Doug carried out himself.
Case study about rejuvenating a farmhouse

Over a period of time they converted a former barn into a carport with a studio above, and the piggery into a workshop, where Doug could indulge his engineering modeling hobby making working model steam engines and locomotives among other things!  During this time and with a longstanding interest in house design he also drew up a number of concept designs to get a feel for something they could theoretically build in the future.


The old farmhouse was not somewhere that would be practical to live in as the years went on. It would always require attention in some way or other and being old and cold was costing, in the worst case,  around £6,000 per year just for oil. They did not want to find themselves in a position where they would be forced to move and be faced with the possibility of leaving the village and their friends.

In 2015 they heard though local sources that a 1957 built chalet bungalow about 100 yards along the road from them was to be put up for sale on the open market.. The couple contacted the owner and immediately agreed to buy the property before it even went on the market.  They agreed a price of £465,000 for the property which sat on a mature site of 0.6 of an acre with the idea that they would redesign it to suit their future needs.

Potton have the experience and technical infrastructure to provide informed support which inspires great confidence to the inexperienced self-builder.

The house was unremarkable and, after looking at the building in silence for some time, their Architect finally said “I think it will have to come down” a decision that delighted Doug!

The couple then started to investigate possibilities even further, with Doug researching as much information as was available about timber frame construction from various industry trade bodies, reading the odd self-build magazine and visiting self-build shows and meeting many package suppliers, notably one of the major oak frame manufacturers as this was the route they most favoured. They also investigated timber frame and even visited a very well-known supplier in Scotland.


Whilst looking into these areas the couple were also looking at the comparisons between timber frame construction and "traditional construction".  Finally, after much research the decision was made to move forward with timber frame. "We had already experienced 30 years in a timber frame house, albeit a  400-year-old oak frame farmhouse.  We had also studied the thermal benefits of timber frame vs traditional build, so the decision was made" says Doug.

The couple then weighed up the benefits of working with a local company as opposed to one that was many miles away, "Potton had a good reputation and we knew they had been in the business for many years and had gained a lot of experience in the self-build market."
Potton-Home-Scott (21)

Now ready to proceed, Doug worked closely with the Architect. He had very firm ideas about what he wanted for the new home. This was to be their lifetime home and he meticulously incorporated features for future living, comfort and economic running.

He prepared a fully detailed design brief covering all areas of the build based on the dimensions and room sizes within the farmhouse and furniture sizes in order to allocate the appropriate amount of space in the new property, also to create features within the design.

Doug is passionate about the contribution that lighting can make to architecture and specified the position, angle, brightness and colour of every light to highlight and enhance the spaces within the house. Wiring for a full house sound system was installed during the build and this also included the home entertainment room which was to be off the sittting room, and most importantly a lift should the stairs become difficult in the years to come.

Once the initial design had been agreed between Doug and his Architect it was time to meet with Potton to finalise the timber frame design. "This was when we first met with Tom Allen from Potton" says Doug.

The three of them then sat down to go through the details "We found Tom very constructive, he was with us at every stage of the final design where his experience was very useful".

Following this, in September 2015 the Architect submitted the planning application. Planning approval proved to be unusually difficult as the house is in a conservation area and adjacent to a listed building.

However,  Doug made a scale model of the house sited on the plot which even included a planting scheme and a scaled vehicle parked on the drive!

Potton-Home-Scott (2)

The application was finally approved in January 2016.  During the waiting period Doug had designed the heating system which would include electric underfloor heating for a cold snap, an air source heat pump for hot water and the Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery system which incorporated an air source heat pump to provide the day to day heating.

Work started on site during April 2016 with a considerable amount of groundworks and earth moving to achieve the levels the couple required to maximise the views across the meadow.

Doug and Nadine decided to use the same builder for the project as they used on the old Farmhouse. They felt comfortable with him and his work and he had become somewhat of a friend over the years, so they agreed he would carry out the work on a time and materials basis.  He also completed the Potton designed workshop where Doug could continue his engineering and woodworking hobbies…with a beautiful view over the garden!

The Potton kit was delivered and erected on 5th May 2016, the builder then took over and the couple  moved into the house in June 2017, which was in Doug's words ‘far from complete’; the master bedroom and en-suite and the kitchen were useable, but the sitting room was the carpenter’s workshop and the site itself a quagmire

This, however, provided Doug and Nadine with the impetus to get all the detail work and special items they wanted manufactured and get the project completed.  Nadine was responsible for colour choice and interior design and Doug specified and sourced a number of the major elements of the build such as the MVHR system , the kitchen and, most importantly, the complex wiring "The service we received from the MVHR suppliers, our electrician and the kitchen supplier was excellent but the logistics of coordinating the work of builders,sub-contractors and the architect was challenging.  Fortunately the comfortable  and flexible relationship we had with Potton throughout the project was very supportive", says Doug, "Potton have the experience and technical infrastructure to provide informed support which inspires great confidence to the inexperienced self-builder".

We found Tom very constructive, he was with us at every stage of the final design where his experience was very useful

When asked about their budget, Doug's only comment was "we were reasonably flexible on that point and most probably went over it in most areas!”

Cost was accurately monitored and Doug accepts that the total build cost may exceed the current value of the property.  However they now sit in this highly insulated, fabulous luxury property containing all the ingredients for a lifetime home in the same village they have lived in for the last 30 years.

When asked if there was anything they would change if doing it again they agree wholeheartedly that there is absolutely nothing, "…we wanted a beautiful house that would look after us rather than vice-versa, and that's exactly what we now have".

On advice to anyone considering a self-build, Doug firmly believes that pre-planning as far ahead of the project commencing is the single most important thing for a successful build.

Proof of this can be seen in the photographs of this stunning home.


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