Cost of living: Oak beams

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The Independent Online

If you dream of rustic living, exposed beams are an appealing feature. Traditional styles imbue a home with warmth and character, while the modern variety can be sleek, minimal and suit any contemporary environment.

But given that a bespoke, new-build, timber-framed abode is likely to be on the pricey side, and the fact that the only existing properties blessed with exposed beams tend to be French chateaus, listed buildings and Cotswold cottages, they often present certain geographical and financial challenges to the average person. Luckily, there are a number of companies specialising in the design and manufacture of cosmetic timber frames for any form of shelter.

Don't be perturbed by the "cosmetic" prefix, these beams look identical to the structural kind, are made from oak and are extremely impressive and unidentifiable as anything other than original. They are not, however, required to fulfil the same weight-bearing role as their predecessors, meaning they can be thinner and consequently far cheaper. Oak Masters, which creates both structural and cosmetic beams, has designers who will work with your architects and create exactly what you're after using oak from sustainable sources.

On an environmental note, why not use reclaimed and restored timber? Oak Beam UK supplies salvaged and air-dried oak beams and they will treat and finish any you might have lying around your home.

What it costs:

Cosmetic oak beams for an average sized living room – between £2,000 to £3,000.

New-build timber structure – prices vary depending on size. Contact Oak Masters (01444 455 455;

Reclaimed, unfinished oak beams, from £35 per cubic foot, plus VAT.

To finish add 50 per cent of cost (01285 869 222;