Modelled on a Dutch barn style house, this steel framed home has plenty of space for three generations of family to get together

 Inspired by the traditional houses of the Lincolnshire area, Nathan and Amye’s new home is wrapped in blue-black fibre cement tiles. Photography:  Andy Haslam

Inspired by the traditional houses of the Lincolnshire area, Nathan and Amye's new home is wrapped in blue black cement tiles. Image: Andy Haslam

Building houses is second nature for property developer, estate agent and entrepreneur Nathan Marshall. But although he is completely familiar with constructing housing estates, tackling a complex steel framed home tailor made for his own family was unknown territory.

Tailor made architecture

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Using the vast double height hallway as a dining area allows room for the extended family to eat together. Colourful dining chairs were bought for the space.

Nathan, 40, and Amye, 30, who is a teacher, had originally been on the lookout for a barn conversion.‘I had my heart set on a dark, sleek, simple building that would fit in with the rural Lincolnshire agricultural setting,’ says Nathan. Finding the right property became something of an obsession and, though they viewed lots of sites, nothing felt right. ‘There were always so many things we wanted to change,’ says Amye.

When a local building plot came up for sale, Nathan spotted the chance to create their perfect house from scratch. The only snag was that planning permission had previously been denied. ‘I’ve never been shy of a challenge, so we bought the land anyway exactly what the risks would be,’ he says.

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The ground floor is open plan except for the utility room, pantry, cloakroom and study, which are accessed via barn style sliding doors.

The plot is next to one of the Dutch barn style houses that are characteristic of this area of Lincolnshire. With distinctive mansard roofs, steeply sloping gables and dormer windows, they are a legacy of the Land Settlement Association, a government scheme set up during the Great Depression of the 1930s to give unemployed workers from industrialised areas the chance to relocate to rural smallholdings and work the land.

Chartered architectural technologist Kris Baxter of Studio 11 Architecture grew up in the area and knew the houses well, so when Nathan and Amye asked him to devise a scheme that might find favour with the planners, he knew exactly where to look for inspiration. ‘I pulled features from these houses into the design as they are intrinsic to the landscape,’ says Kris. ‘It was nice to celebrate them in a contemporary context.’

Scaling down 

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An armadillo like covering of dark tiles reduces the apparent scale of the house.One of the building’s two brick faced chimney stacks rises up through the gable.

He proposed a multi angled steel framed structure to give the silhouette of a mansard, but with a glazed gable and a giant brick chimney at each end. To lessen the building’s impact in the flat Fenland countryside, the exterior – from the apex of the roof right down to ground level – would be clad in blue black fibre cement tiles.

Electric avenue

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Amye and Nathan’s big kitchen island provides them with plenty of work surface space for preparing food and includes a seating area for relaxed meals.

‘The dark colour brings down the scale of the building,’ says Kris, whose design also included a separate wing for Nathan’s children, Noah, 14, and Ava, 12, and a detached annexe for his mother Rosie and stepfather Albert.The structure incorporated huge amounts of insulation, a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR), system, and a solar photovoltaic (PV) array at the bottom system, along with a ground source heat pump.These installations will ensure that the house generates more electricity than it could ever use. All this impressed the planners, who approved the scheme in March 2019, and work began six months later with Nathan as project manager.

Multigenerational living

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The kitchen works well for large family get togethers because the space flows into the living and dining areas. 

One of the earliest challenges they faced came when they realised that the marshy soil wouldn’t support the immense weight and point loads of the steel frame, so 35 piles had to be driven 13m down into the silt. ‘A timber framed house would have required much simpler foundations,’ admits Nathan.‘But we would have ended up with lots of visible supports inside the house. This steel frame required much more engineering, but we really wanted the openness it would give to the interior.’

A warm welcome

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A woodburning stove stands in the centre of one of the building’s glazed gables and a painting by pop surrealist Robert Oxley hangs on the chimney breast.

The arrival of the couple’s baby daughter Niamh halfway through the project drove work forward as quickly as possible, but then Covid-19 struck. ‘Work did continue during lockdown, but it was hard to obtain materials so we were delayed by two months,’ Nathan explains. Amazingly, the couple managed to squeeze in their long planned wedding before finally moving in the house during November 2020.

Enormous interiors

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A bespoke wood and steel staircase leads up to the first floor landing, which is lit by four large rooflights.

The vaulted interior is, they admit, an enormous space, but it’s room they need when all three generations of thefamily get together. ‘We have watched this house grow from the ground up,’ says Amye. ‘It’s huge and open, but we don’t see that on a day-to-day basis. What we see is our baby, our dog, our furniture and our photographs, and that just makes it feel like home.’

In black and white

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Nathan and Amye's bedroom has a high ceiling open to the apex of the roof and a custom made platform bed.

Many interior elements had to be sourced while the shops were closed, but this didn’t hold them back. ‘We were very clear about the look we wanted, which made picking things like the flooring and kitchen really easy,’ says Amye.

The joyously multicoloured dining chairs were a risky choice, but are now the focus of the ground floor living space. ‘They’re a bit of fun in a house that is so black on the outside and so white on the inside,’ says Amye.‘They are completely mood enhancing – the colours make us smile as soon as we walk through the front door.’ 

What do you think of this barn style self build? Find the full story in the Grand Designs May issue, available to read online for free

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