Brick By Brick: 'There's nothing we'd change'

Sean and Tracey Duggan built their dream home for a dream price. Debbie Jeffery meets them
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The Independent Online

Sean and Tracey Duggan started married life in a house they had bought as a shell and completely redesigned the inside. Within two years, they had bought a plot next door and built their second home from scratch. Finding a third project proved to be a long waiting game, but as soon as they saw a three-quarter acre site in an attractive village on the edge of York, they knew the search was over.

Sean and Tracey Duggan started married life in a house they had bought as a shell and completely redesigned the inside. Within two years, they had bought a plot next door and built their second home from scratch. Finding a third project proved to be a long waiting game, but as soon as they saw a three-quarter acre site in an attractive village on the edge of York, they knew the search was over.

"We were actively looking for 12 years for the right piece of land," says Tracey. "It was just by sheer luck that we came across this one. It's very rural, with views of fields at the back and the village green at the front and that's what appealed to us. It's also in the catchment area for the school we wanted for our daughters Eden and Ceara. It all just fell into place."

The plot, which is in a Conservation Area, falls within former farm land, and had to be cleared of old pig buildings, stables and an orchard. Its size was a real bonus and a rare find within easy reach of York. The Duggans were confident that the conservation officer at Selby Council would approve most of their ideas, including the use of handmade brick and slate, and successfully fought their corner on other elements of their design. They had seen new-build properties in the village with plastic rather than traditional cast-iron guttering, and electric-roller-shutters for the garages, instead of doors.

Permission granted, they were ready to go. Sean runs his own property development company and was able to keep labour costs to the minimum and use trusted contacts to carry out the site work. Significant savings were made on architect's drawings, completed by Sean's father, a retired builder, and plumbing, where Sean called in a favour from his brother, Craig. His own role was hands-on too. "Our first priority when we got the building plot was to create an area for the children in the back garden, so that when we came to work here at the weekends they had somewhere to play. We didn't build the house first, we built a tree house and a trampoline."

While the windows facing the green had to be wooden sliding sashes, they were free to use uPVC for the rest, carefully matching the design so the difference is scarcely noticeable. After careful research, they chose Old Clamp Blend bricks from York Handmade Brick Company for their random colour and mature appearance, and stone heads and cills to add to the visual appeal. The house roof is Chinese slate and they used Arcadia pantiles for the triple garage block. "I wanted the house roof to have character too; different heights and gables so it didn't look flat and uniform, as though you're saying: 'Yes, it's a new build.' I spent a lot of time on planning the overhang and the detail."

"We joined the National Trust and made a point of visiting stately homes, old vicarages and any interesting buildings looking for ideas we could use for ourselves." Many of the details, from the Georgian style glazed cabinets built into the dining room walls, to the depth of cornice, picture rails and style of door furniture, were inspired by their research.

In the living room they followed advice and laid Boen Parkett engineered board with a 4mm oak veneer, rather than solid oak, to avoid the risk of their new underfloor heating causing warping or splitting. In the hall and kitchen they opted for travertine. Their careful budget management, bargaining and research meant there was enough left over to indulge in a treat each: a Canadian hot tub for Tracey and plasma TV for Sean.

Everything meets their full approval and they would definitely recommend self-build as a way to achieve a high-quality home. "There's nothing in the house we would change. We have plenty of light, plenty of space and I love the quirkiness of the layout. I wouldn't rule out doing it again, but only if we were moving to somewhere with more land." Tracey says, "We waited so long to realise this ambition and now we're enjoying it to the full."

This article appears in full in the current issue of 'Homebuilding & Renovating', priced £3.50. A trial subscription of four issues for readers of 'The Independent' costs £10. Call 01527 834435 Monday to Friday 9am-5.30pm or visit www.homebuilding.co.uk/offers/indep

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