After a five-year battle with cancer, Michelle Parsons and husband David took a carpe diem approach to building their own forest home
Names Michelle and David Parsons
Ages 49 and 46
Location Nr Billericay, Essex
Property A black timber-clad new-build
Project started July 2015
Project finished July 2016
Size 138sqm, plus 18sqm studio
Plot cost £200,000
Build cost £250,000
Sometimes you need courage to break with convention. Michelle Parsons, supported by her family, had already braved a five-year battle with cancer and won, so tackling an unusual self-build project in a bid to do something for themselves, their way, came naturally to them.
Husband and architect David, artist Michelle and their two daughters, Mabel and Daisy, wanted to build a private space that would fulfil their ambition for a calm, relaxing retreat where they could enjoy life and live it to the full. After three years of searching, they found the perfect spot – a former plotlands site surrounded by woodland near Billericay in Essex.
‘It’s a building that represents a change in our lifestyle and the next phase of our lives and already it’s working really well,’ says David. ‘We wake up in this amazing forest and you can hear the birds and you feel very in tune with your surroundings. It gives us the sanctuary we craved – it’s brilliant.’
As Kevin McCloud announced in the early stages of the TV show: ‘There’s nothing conventional about David’s bat box design in the woods.’ But David and Michelle were more than aware that it wasn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but that wasn’t really the point.
‘It’s very personal so I don’t think it would suit everyone, but it’s tailored precisely for us and I think it works,’ explains Michelle. Three intersecting, black timber-clad boxes form the house, with a fourth stand-alone box acting as Michelle’s artist’s studio. ‘It’s not blingy – it’s the antithesis of Essex,’ she stated on the programme. ‘It’s small, modest and we wanted it to be really, really private.’