Set in beautiful countryside, this spacious modern barn was built on a surprisingly low budget.

Courtyard view of house

The house is in beautiful countryside, near Ballygowan, Northern Ireland. Image: Bradley Quinn

A need for more space was one of the driving factors behind architect Micah Jones and his wife Elaine’s self-build adventure, which featured on Grand Designs in 2017.  The couple had planned to convert an old barn into their family home but after structural issues came to light, they gained permission to build a new house on the same footprint.

Micah’s design was devised to give the couple’s three children space to play and grow as they grew older. ‘Our house in Belfast was absolutely tiny’, he explained. ‘We needed room for the boys to grow into as they became teenagers, and somewhere they could roam freely outside – just as I had done as a child. We wanted to move from our first to our forever house in one go.’

External view of house

The roof is made of corrugated fibre cement. Image: Bradley Quinn

Room to grow

The 240 square metre house that Micah and Elaine built has four bedrooms and two bathrooms with plenty of light and airy living space. To take full advantage of the superb views to the rear of the property the living rooms are on the first floor with the bedrooms on the ground floor. ‘Our vision was for it to be flexible, robust, and simple. On the exterior we wanted to use materials that would weather and get better with age,’ said Micah

Watch the episode: County Down, 2017

Cutting costs

There was a major concern though – the couple’s limited budget. To save money, the family lived in a caravan on the site during the build, but the main solution was to adapt cost-effective materials such as cross-laminated timber (CLT).

Delivery of the timber was somewhat problematic as it was carried on a 40ft lorry, which had to negotiate the long and narrow lane to the site – with a final push from a digger. Once unloaded, it became apparent that the contractors had never worked with the material before. ‘CLT was a first for Northern Ireland and for us,’ Micah explained. ‘No one working on the house had even seen it before.’

Read more: Self build costs: How to pay for your self build

Micah worked on the site every day in consultation with the main contractor and his small but dedicated team, to ensure any problems were solved without delaying the build. ‘CLT is a beautiful material and so versatile. The walls, roof, stairs and some built-in furniture are made from CLT – and it creates an incredibly warm and cosy space,’ he said.

Kitchen area with bar and table

No materials were wasted. The breakfast bar was built from timber offcuts from window and door openings. Image: Bradley Quinn

Money saving

To make their money stretch even further, the couple employed clever cost-saving ideas throughout their home.

Timber offcuts from the construction of the window and door openings were not allowed to go to waste and were used to build the staircase, and breakfast bar in the kitchen.

Inexpensive Ikea kitchen cabinets were upgraded with a concrete worksurface that Micah made himself. ‘It’s a beautiful surface that only cost £35,’ he said. Even the wall tiles, painted by the family when they were living in the caravan, are leftover pieces of the exterior larch cladding.

Keeping a close eye on every aspect of the build costs limited the couple’s final spend to an impressively low £245,000.

Family outside of property, showcasing windows

Micah, Elaine and their three children. Image: Bradley Quinn

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Sustainability focus

Micah and Elaine were committed to enhancing the building’s energy-efficiency and sustainability. ‘It has been super insulated, triple-glazed, and air tightness was high on the agenda,’ Micah said. A mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery (MVHR) provides warm, filtered fresh air. ‘It’s so simple, but it saves energy and it’s a lovely atmosphere to live in.’

The house’s orientation, it runs north to south along its length, was also a benefit. In the morning, light floods into the front of the building and in the afternoon and evening it reaches the back. The couple incorporated as much glazing as possible to the southern end of the building – including in the triangular apex – to take advantage of both the solar gain and the stunning views.

Living room

The living room includes a mix of bespoke furniture and charity shop finds, and a contemporary wood-burning stov. Image: Bradley Quinn

 For more Grand Designs homes and self build inspiration, Read the Grand Designs magazine digital edition for free.

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