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May 2008
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Britains Best Homes 2007

Featured in the January 2008 issue of Homebuilding & Renovating magazine

Daily Telegraph H&R Awards
This year’s Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards scheme – the premier competition for self-built, renovated or converted homes in the UK – garnered over 150 entries. Homes included everything from large traditionally styled manor houses to imaginative remodelling schemes of much smaller properties. Choosing the winners – all of which the judging team visited in person during September – was not easy.

Projects were judged on a range of criteria. These included:

--Value for money
--Design flair and creative vision
--Suitability of the design for the individual homeowners
--Level of input by the self-builders or renovators themselves
--Quality of interior fittings and finishings
--Sensibility to the individual site and location
--Overall quality of architectural design
--Examples shown of the self-build spirit

The winners presented on these pages – five of which we look at in full in this month’s issue, with the rest being featured in full in upcoming editions – are all outstanding examples in their individual categories.

This year our Overall Winner is the self-built home of Jim and Rebecca Dyer of Somerset. Not only have the couple managed to create a contemporary home that manages to push forward the genre with sensitivity to its site and a perceptible ‘natural’ feel, but the fact that it has been built for a dead-set average build cost of £1,200/m2 – compared to double that for many homes of similar style – makes it all the more remarkable.

The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards scheme is now in its 15th year and is acclaimed as Britain’s premier self-build competition. This year’s Awards were launched in June 2007, and from over 150 entries 20 shortlisted homes across all categories were visited by the judging team in September. The Awards winners are announced simultaneously in The Daily Telegraph and this issue of Homebuilding & Renovating.

This year our Overall Winners, Jim and Rebecca Dyer, will enjoy a prize of £5,000 to spend as they wish — perhaps on a well-deserved holiday.


Peter Harris
Peter Harris is the Managing Director of Centaur Special Interest Media, publisher of H&R magazine. He has renovated twice and built his own home in the 1990s, which he recently extended.
Angela Pertusini
After several years as the Editor of The Daily Telegraph’s award-winning property section, Angela Pertusini is now devoting herself full time to converting two flats in South London.
Jason Orme
Jason Orme has been the Editor of H&R magazine for several years and is now happily ignoring the property sections of local newspapers in his new self-built home in Worcestershire.
Michael Holmes
Michael Holmes is the Editor-in-Chief of Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living and Move or Improve? magazines, a television presenter of property programmes and author. He has just moved into his third self-built home in Oxfordshire.

Best Extension - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards 2007

Unassuming from the front, unbelievable from the back — a new template for ordinary bungalows.

We throw terms like ‘wow factor’ around with too much ease these days — and it’s only when you enter Martin Swatton’s ordinary 1930s bungalow in a very quiet little cul-de-sac in Eastbourne that you realise what ‘wow’ truly means. For Martin has completely opened up his bungalow onto a private, tranquil garden space in a type of project that is common to trendy London town houses and tasteful period homes but, in this context, sets a whole new template for what to do with the tens of thousands of, frankly, dull 1930s bungalows across the country. A combined open plan living/kitchen/dining area opens up onto the garden through graceful sliding doors, while the loft has also been turned into extra bedroom accommodation.
Click here for the full story.

Best Value for Money - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards
CARON PAIN - Norfolk

Part-time teaching assistant and fulltime single mum builds house for £20,000 under her £130,000 budget

Caron Pain’s self-build story is quite simply inspirational. She has built a large, well-appointed house in Norfolk in double-quick time and at an amazingly keen price. In fact, her cost control has been so good that she managed to come in £20,000 under her £130,000 budget. To keep costs down, Caron managed the whole project herself, buying in her own materials and finding her own labour (the highlight of which has to be a brilliant semi-retired decorator at £8/hour). With a land cost of £170,000, and a value on completion of £495,000, it has certainly paid dividends.
See the March 2008 issue of H&R for the full story.

Best Renovation - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards

Derelict Georgian home rebuilt

Situated just off London’s fashionable Brick Lane, architect Chris Dyson has almost completely rebuilt the one house that let down a whole street of charming Huguenot originals. Chris has transformed the building into a home that sits perfectly with its neighbours, despite having fallen into disrepair for 200 years. In keeping with the local flavour of the area, Chris has housed his offices in the former workshop space in the yard, recreating a tradition that dates back centuries.
Click here for the full story.


Award for Residential Design - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards
JAMES SNELL of Snell David Architects - Cambridgeshire

A beautifully detailed, thoroughly designed new Arts & Crafts-style family home

Architect James Snell is one of those designers whose work seems to be all over his little patch of the world. Driving through the small village in which he operates in Cambridgeshire, it’s easy to point out his (mainly modern-orientated) work. It’s always beautifully thought through, so it was no surprise that he was asked to design a new family home in a village in a delightful secluded setting. The result, however, is something a bit out of the ordinary for him — a traditional-style substantial home that wins our Residential Design Award because, in a manner of speaking, it is actually quite daring. As James himself admits, the first thing that the planners wanted to see on this site was something glaringly contemporary — but when he really assessed what the clients wanted, and analysed their tastes and the way they lived, he concluded that what would serve them much better would be something that nods more than a hat to the Arts & Crafts movement.

What makes it more impressive as an achievement of architectural design is that this is not James Snell’s natural habitat. He has gained a reputation for contemporary spaces and this project, as he admits himself, involved plenty of research. As the client was very busy, James played a big role in terms of project management.

How refreshing, though, to meet an architect like James who is willing to change and adapt to meet the specific needs of a client and a site rather than assuming that the client should be the one for budging. While it may not be the type of radical design that this Award has recognised in previous years, in its own unassuming way, this grand design is evidence of the very best residential design processes.
See the February 2008 issue of H&R for the full feature.

Best Timber Frame - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards

An ultra-efficient timber home imported from Germany

The term ‘eco home’ is bandied about with increasing abandon in the media and it seems that everyone is claiming to be green these days. The timber frame industry is no exception, so it’s refreshing to come across a system that genuinely progresses the art of green building. Andrew and Alison Nicholls’ new home on a glorious coastal site in North Cornwall – the bulk of which was built in just a few days – is imported almost entirely from Germany. The timber frame manufacturer, Baufritz, uses an ultra-efficient 400mm-thick wall system packed with wood-shaving insulation (sourced from waste from the manufacturing process); the build process results in brilliant airtightness levels and the whole house costs less than 25% of a typical house to heat.
See the March 2008 issue of H&R for the full story.

Best Eco House - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards

A new low-energy home on a recycled urban site

On a challenging, tiny triangular backland site in Brighton, Jackie Strube and Alan Stone – with a little help from local firm DRP Architects – have created an imaginative new home that proves eco homes are about more than just energy-saving features. Its low profile and sunken site ensures that it draws minimum attention to itself in this built-up area, while the green roof, rainwater harvesting, solar panels and sheep’s wool insulation ensure it has exemplary credentials.
See the April 2008 issue of H&R for the full story.

Best Traditional Home - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards

A brand new Georgian-style home built from scratch on a spectacular County Down site

You wouldn’t believe it’s new — but Johnny and Susan Cunningham’s Georgian-inspired home in County Down, standing on a beautiful hilltop site of some 26 acres, is just that. Architect Des Ewing ( ) has injected the project with a fine attention to detail and made the new home look as if it is formed out of the combination of an old stately home and adjacent barn linked together with a new curved structure. It’s not too difficult to be envious of a property that enjoys almost every available luxury, including a tennis court, but what impresses most is the extraordinary locally made joinery, impeccable internal finishes, including a glorious reclaimed parquet floor, and, above all, the stunning sweeping staircase.
See the full feature in a forthcoming issue.

Beat Small Home - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards

80m2 home built next door to the old one

At just 4m wide and a tiny 80m2 in total,Warren and Jocelyn Milne’s new home — built in the side garden of their former house in Slough, Berkshire, is undoubtedly small. Due to planning constraints, the new house had to mirror their former home next door — but Warren and Jocelyn really went to town with an imaginative interior layout.
Click here for the full story.



Best Conversion - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards

Old brick barn becomes contemporary-style home

When Conrad and Fiona Whelan decided to move out of London to the country, little did they imagine that they would take on a major building project. But they fell in love with an old brick barn in Suffolk and the resulting conversion project has left them with a charming modern home in an idyllic rural spot. Conrad and Fiona have managed to fill their barn with light thanks to the introduction of new doorways and rooflights, along with a striking open plan layout.
Click here for the full story.


Home of the Year - Daily Telegraph H&R Awards

A new contemporary-style home in Somerset designed to make the most of, and fit in with, its perfect setting

For those who find contemporary house design a little jarring – a little too ‘look at me!’ – Jim and Rebecca Dyer’s house is a refreshing reclamation of the art of building a new family home that is both daring, clever and innovative but at the same time subtle, sensitive and completely natural. The combination of western red cedar cladding and frameless glazing means that the home, which replaces a 1960s self-built bungalow on a striking natural site overlooking the Chew Valley in Somerset, fits in perfectly with its tree-laden surroundings. It won because it showed how contemporary spaces can also work as family areas; it was built on a sensibly modest £1,200/m2 budget; the determination of its owners to overcome a mighty planning battle; and, most of all, because it is the most serene, complementary contemporary home we’ve seen.
Click here for the full story.


1. Get Involved

It’s a fact that the homes that had been lovingly designed and built with the strong input of their future occupiers had a distinct character that set them apart from houses in which the owners had little direct involvement. Personality is such an intrinsic element of what makes a house successful, and the judges found that stamping a strong identity on the design – both interior and exterior – was the most effective way of getting over the problem that so many new homes have: a rather dull, lifeless, off-the-shelf feel.

2. Contemporary design doesn’t have to mean bland
What’s the new white? Well, pretty much everything. After a few too many years of seeing endless stark, white Modernist homes, this year’s stock of contemporary projects finally began to be bothered less about making a statement and more about earthier, natural materials – such as timber cladding – and softer, more sensitive looks.

3. Design every detail — and finish the house off!
One of the great mistakes so many selfbuilders make is to reach touching distance of the end of their project and then… give up. Finishing off a new house – getting the architrave right, final decoration, landscaping and so on – is so immensely important and essential to achieving a well-designed feel that it needs budgeting for and prioritising in the schedule. Another key to success in the very best houses is ensuring every detail is planned out well in advance. It’s the little things that people notice and have such a big impact on the overall experience.

4. A new era for renovation
This year saw the maturing of a new type of renovation/remodelling project. As postwar housing stock becomes older, more and more owners are looking to upgrade and improve their ‘ordinary’ homes. With no period charm to work with, renovators of these homes have a much freer reign to create amazing spaces. Expect to see a batch of 1960s-1980s houses transformed in the coming years and a renaissance of this unloved type of housing stock.

5. Small – and green – is beautiful
Are we starting to see the first glimpses that homes are beginning to be judged not purely on their size but on the quality of their design? Modestly sized homes have many benefits – they are cheaper to build, cheaper to run and much more sustainable, for a start – and the most successful homes in this year’s Awards, with the odd exception, were the ones that felt comfortable and provided an undefinable sense of ‘home’ (as opposed to ‘space’). The large open spaces we did see were invariably segmentalised and uncomfortable for the owners, although undoubtedly dramatic and architectural.

The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2008 will be launched in the newspaper and this magazine in June 2008. Entries are invited from anyone who has built, renovated or converted a home for themselves to live in, in the past three years. It’s free and easy to enter. If you wish to be sent a form in June 2008, please email us at with the words ‘Awards 2008’ in the subject box, and your full address.





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