Charlie Luxton’s self build holiday home in Tregona, north Cornwall

Timing, planning and patience were key to the success of TV architectural designer Charlie Luxton’s holiday home.

By Sophie Vening | 7 March 2017

Timing, planning and patience were key to the success of TV architectural designer Charlie Luxton’s holiday home.

Charlie Luxtons self build holiday home in Tregona north Cornwall 5

Set in the picturesque Cornish countryside, a mere 15-minute walk from the beach, sits Charlie and Kate Luxton’s stunningly simple holiday retreat – a far cry from its former life as an agricultural barn.

Charlie, an architectural designer and presenter of Channel 4’s Building The Dream, his wife Kate and two children Maia, 11, and Toby, 9, live in Oxfordshire, and are regular visitors to the south-west coast. The Luxtons, along with Charlie’s brother Richard and his family, holiday there up to 12 times a year. ‘We all love surfing,’ explains Charlie, ‘so Kate, Richard and I thought it would be a good idea to get a small bolthole by the coast where we could stay when we visit, rather than keep renting somewhere every time we come down.’

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It was on one of these many trips that Charlie heard about a local property up for auction. ‘I decided to take a look at it,’ he says, ‘It was in a terrible condition and I knew it would go for over the odds at a London auction.’ As Charlie was driving away, just around the corner he saw an old man clearing out a barn. ‘I stopped to talk to him and found out that it was going up for auction too, only in the village hall, not London.’ The barn was really run down but, being located in a small hamlet in an ideal location close to the beach, Charlie could see the potential to create something with enough space for both families to stay in, with the option to let it out when not in use.

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In 2010, after nearly missing the auction when his car broke down en route, Charlie made it to the village hall to buy the plot for £48,000, which included the barn and a smaller annexed building. On initial inspection, the barn was beyond a mess. ‘It was covered in about two feet of sheep poo, with only its external walls remaining, and there were tyres all over the site,’ recalls Charlie. The two families were restricted in what they could do to the barn; it is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, so planning regulations dictated they had to work with the existing stone fabric. Charlie and his brother wanted to do all the renovation and building work using savings, rather than getting a self-build mortgage, which slowed the process down. The project took about six years as they did each stage as and when they had the funds.

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As Charlie is an expert in this field, however, he was more than capable of taking on the challenge of creating the ideal seaside retreat. Plus, because it was a second home, he didn’t mind playing the long game. At first he sought planning permission for a holiday house, but when the building next door was granted permission for a permanent residence, he got that as well. He wanted to be sure that he had the best possible workmen on site, so he decided to use his team of trusted contractors from Oxfordshire to work on the project. ‘We used local experts but brought people I had worked with before in as well. We had to cover the costs of getting the team down to Cornwall but the time and money spent was well worth it as we had a team we knew we could trust, so there were very few, if any, mistakes made,’ he says.