Episode 20 To Build or Not to Build


Episode 20

Series following some of the UK's 20,000 self-builders. Hilary Maddren and her partner John Robson build a new home inside the walls of a 200-year-old derelict barn on Teeside.


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Transcript


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We dream of owning the perfect home, but finding a place that suits

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your wallet and way of life isn't easy. Well, I have a solution.

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Stop searching for something to buy and consider somewhere to build.

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Every year 20,000 people make the journey of a lifetime

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and opt to build their own home, and we'll be following some of them

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as they go from foundations to finishing touches.

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I've built it in my head a thousand times. It's exceeded all expectations.

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Along the way our brave self-builders will experience amazing highs.

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Yes, we've done it!

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And some frustrating lows.

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I didn't expect the level of hatred that I feel that has been thrown at us about having a house built.

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But if they can overcome these trials and tribulations,

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they'll end up with the home they've always desired.

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So if you're looking for your perfect pad, the question is simple.

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To Build Or Not To Build?

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Coming up, the listed barn in northeast England

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that's getting a truly modern makeover.

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So it's a brand-new modern house, all wrapped up in history, isn't it?

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-That's it.

-Gorgeous!

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How self-building an amazing home can leave you lost for words.

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I was gobsmacked.

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It was just fantastic, and I'd never realised that it would be

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the wow factor that it actually is.

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My sawing technique leaves me hacked off at building school.

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If you've paid for a full saw,

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I'd use all of it rather than just a third of it.

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Today, I'm in Elton on Teesside to meet a couple who are planning

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to convert an 18th-century barn into a contemporary new home.

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Now, barn conversions are nothing new, but this one is definitely different.

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To make it work, they're going to self-build a completely new house

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inside the historic structure.

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Florist Hilary Maddren knows a thing or two about immaculate presentation,

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but it's not just her wedding bouquets that are perfectly arranged.

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The 200-year-old farmhouse she shares with her partner, John Robson, is equally beautiful.

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The couple bought the five-bedroomed Grade II listed cottage six years ago, and have spent

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a considerable amount of time and money completely renovating the property.

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But just when all the hard work had finished,

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they decided to tackle another blooming big project.

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As I approached your house, I thought, "What a beautiful house."

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I've come inside - what a beautiful house. Why do you want to move?

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Something a bit smaller.

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We're just finding this probably a little bit too big for the two of us.

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Honestly, that's the reason? You're downsizing into your own self-build?

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Yes and no. The new house is possibly going to be about the same size as this.

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Ha, I love this! "Oh, it's the old downsize...

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"We're downsizing into exactly the same."

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-Yes.

-Hopefully it's going to be a different style of living.

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This is a traditional farmhouse,

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this is going to be contemporary, open-plan living.

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So we're going from one extreme to the other.

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So the drop down is really a shift sideways, about 40 metres sideways.

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Hilary and John originally planned to turn the derelict, roofless,

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Grade II listed barn in their backyard into a walled garden.

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Now though, they've decided to ditch the landscaping

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and give it a totally new lease of life.

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But self-building is very rarely a bed of roses, so are the florist

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and her partner mad to move?

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Who's to blame then? Because someone must've gone, "You know that barn,

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"I think we could turn that into something nice"?

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I think it was possibly him.

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I think it was possibly you!

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The average house price here in Elton is £350,000.

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To make this project a reality is going to take a similar investment,

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which Hilary and John hope to recoup from the sale of their current home.

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While the barn's exterior walls will remain, they're adding two

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additional floors and the whole ground floor will be open-plan.

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The atrium skylight and wrap-around conservatory will provide

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a contemporary contrast to the ageing brick facade.

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Hilary and John are expecting the build to take between 10

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and 12 months, and to reduce the stress, they've employed

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a project management team to oversee construction.

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To get the go-ahead for their modern build,

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Hilary and John had to think inside as well as outside the box.

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Well, this is it.

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Wow! Believe it or not, this is really my kind of thing.

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Honestly. But I've got a question for you immediately.

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This is a renovation, it's not a new-build.

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-Well, it is and it isn't.

-It depends who you talk to.

-Go on.

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We've actually got a brand-new lightweight metal structure

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going inside, and then these four walls will be tied

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into the metal structure so we have a new house, complete new modern house.

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-So it's a brand-new modern house all wrapped up in history, basically, isn't it?

-That's it.

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A building's listed status means it's of special architectural or

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historical importance, and this often means features can't be altered.

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In this case, the four exterior walls.

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So the key is to work closely with the local authority's

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conservation officer, to find out exactly what you can and can't do.

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This can sometimes be a long and drawn out process, especially

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if your plans are quite radical, but fortunately in Hilary

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and John's case their application was accepted with minimal fuss.

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Well, to be honest, the listed building people have been very, very good with us.

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Basically, they've said to us they would like to go down the contemporary line,

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keep as much of the external features as they possibly can.

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That's brilliant. So they have given you carte blanche to turn this into

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-the juxtaposition of the old and the new.

-Yeah.

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-Right, come on. Take me around your new house if you would, please. What's down this end?

-Right...

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Self-building takes a lot of imagination.

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Hilary, paint the picture if you please.

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OK, so this is our new front door - in a way.

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So we will come in here,

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and we will walk down, and the rest of it's open-plan.

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We have dining, sitting, kitchen areas.

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-Is the tree staying?

-Yeah.

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So this now, is our open-plan atrium,

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so we're open three storeys right to the roof,

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a couple of oak beams going in there and a big glass roof.

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-Oh, so there's nothing between us and the roof at that point?

-Nothing.

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Would you walk us through to the kitchen diner, please, madam?

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-Love to!

-Here we go... (Barking.)

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Kitchen. This is the island.

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-That's the island?

-This is my island here.

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So where we were standing in the other house,

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-we're now standing in the same spot here?

-Yeah, this is it. Yeah.

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Do you think it takes a certain type of person to have

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the imagination to see that in a derelict barn?

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I think so. THEY LAUGH

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My guess is, at this moment, you would make more money

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if you sold this derelict barn with the planning permission it's got

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than when you've completed it, is that right?

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-Absolutely.

-So why don't you do that?

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-Well, there's no adventure in it, is there?

-Good lad. That's what I like.

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Self-builders - all barking mad!

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There you go - as we stand amongst the trees in the kitchen.

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But it's standing in the bathroom that poses the first real problem before building work even begins.

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We have mocked up the wooden frame,

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marking out the size of the en suite bathrooms for the two attic bedrooms,

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only to find out that unfortunately the architect has

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placed toilets where it's impossible to sit on and stand up again.

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As you can see, John's head is sticking through the roof.

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And it's not just toilet trouble...

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I can't get in the bath.

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Cos the bath's going to finish round about here.

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SHE LAUGHS You could get in the bath if you were on your hands and knees,

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and you could throw yourself over the side into the water.

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This could have been a massive issue if they'd not spotted it early,

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but by bringing their plans to life,

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Hilary and John haven't been caught short. The bathroom is redesigned

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and the potentially major problem has been averted.

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Before Hilary and John can begin building their new home,

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the old overgrown barn needs an industrial clear-out.

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I've got to admit at my age there's not many things that get you really, really excited -

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and 7:00 on Monday morning, a couple of low loaders arrived

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with a whole load of boys' toys on them,

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and it was just so exciting, it was untrue.

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It was like Christmas when you're tiny.

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'This is it. This is building work.

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'We have arrived.'

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And you just saw this transformation.

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I just kept...being silly and clapping.

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It's just so exciting.

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'Whoo!'

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They've actually removed 126 tonne of earth from

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the interior of the barn, so they had to go down obviously quite a bit.

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Work is finally on the way, but John isn't happy.

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He's worried about the size of the conservatory.

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We were up at 2:00 the other morning.

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Not sleeping about it.

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In his underwear, prancing round the kitchen with the tape measure

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going, "Oh my God, this conservatory is going to be far too small."

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That's a bit too much information, Hilary.

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But while John's having sleepless nights,

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she's not worried about size.

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Just look how sunny it's going to be.

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Look how small it is.

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I don't know. I just think if it was another metre longer that way.

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I just think another metre is going to be a lot more expense.

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Still, nothing we can do about it now.

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No, there's not, John, and with building work about to begin Hilary's got history on her mind.

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The men that'll have built this 200 years ago,

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will have never dreamed in their wildest dreams that all

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this time later that somebody would dream of living in this barn,

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but all they've done is keep the hay in it, keep their animals in it

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and we're going to make it into this 21st-century, fabulous home.

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The future looks bright, but there is one dark cloud on the horizon.

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Hilary and John need to sell the farmhouse as they simply can't

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afford to pay a mortgage on two properties.

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There's always that underlying problem that if we can't sell the farmhouse,

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there's the possibility that we may have to sell this,

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but we just seem to have put so much, two years of dreaming about this that

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it would be absolutely heartbreaking if we did have to sell it, really...

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I'm getting choked up.

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I don't want to.

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When it comes to Hollywood glitz and glamour,

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Burnham in Buckinghamshire is no stranger,

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as it's just a stone's throw away from the famous Pinewood Studios.

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But while the movie megastars come and go filming the latest blockbuster,

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the village is also setting for a self-build home with real showbiz style of its own.

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The leafy Home Counties village of Burnham definitely has

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celebrity A-lister appeal.

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So when professional property renovator Alexa Collins had

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the chance to build her own home,

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she created a house that's a real show stopper.

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And this huge five-bed, four-bathroom family house certainly

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wouldn't look out of place in Beverly Hills.

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I was gobsmacked. It was just fantastic.

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I'd never realised that it would be the wow factor that it actually is.

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Alexa lives with her young daughter

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and jointly owns the house with her brother, and the design needed to be

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extremely flexible to accommodate their wildly differing lifestyles.

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We have an unusual dynamic.

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My brother lives abroad and he has a wife and four children.

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I'm here most of the time just with my daughter who's eight.

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But when we're together, we need to expand and change that space.

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The whole thing was designed around this central open space,

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which gives such a luxurious feeling, and also it works for us

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because even if my daughter's upstairs and I'm downstairs,

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we can be in the same space together,

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and it's just my favourite part of the house.

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But what makes this family house even more special

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is that the plot was where Alexa and her brother lived as children.

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I grew up playing in this garden.

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We moved here when I was 11. My mum died about ten years ago.

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My dad has Alzheimer's and isn't around any more.

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So we had to decide what to do with the house - do we adapt it, do we just sell it?

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In the end we decided that what we would do,

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is we would knock it down and build a new one.

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The plot deserved to have a good house built on it.

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A special house. And I think that I've done that.

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Although much-loved, the original family home had become tired and in need of refurbishment.

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From demolishing the old house, Alexa set herself a 12-month deadline

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and a budget of £350,000 to build the new house.

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To keep costs under control,

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she used her experience in property renovation to get some great bargains.

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I've done the kitchen and the utility room for under £15,000.

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Everything is negotiable these days. Go out and get a deal and ask for 20% or 30% off.

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You might not get it, but you will get a discount.

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But things didn't always go according to plan.

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One of Alexa's other major headaches was the glass balustrade

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central to the house's theme of light and openness.

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I had to do all the specification work myself, which was really, really scary.

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Throughout the whole of the project, I was on site pretty much every day.

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The day this balustrade arrived,

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I checked the boxes to know that it was all there

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and it was all in one piece, and then I couldn't bear to watch it.

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If it was wrong, it would have been so wrong, and it would have been my fault.

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The stunning interior finishes meant that Alexa spent significantly more than she budgeted for,

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and the final bill came in at a hefty £500,000.

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I went with my gut instinct on a number of things

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without getting exact quotes,

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and I was woefully under on some major things,

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like the electrics and the plumbing, and also on the fabulous lighting.

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That wasn't in the budget at all.

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The high quality finish might have blown her budget, but it was worth it.

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The house is now valued at an impressive £1 million plus.

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But doubling her investment wasn't Alexa's motivation to self-build.

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It was about keeping her family tree firmly rooted in the place she grew up.

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I sit here sometimes - this is where my mum used to sit -

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and I think about whether they would like it, whether my parents would like it,

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and I know my mum would absolutely adore the whole thing, with it being so modern.

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It would probably be a bit too modern for my dad's tastes,

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but then there's a very traditional snug at the front

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where he could sit with his Financial Times with the fire lit,

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even in the middle of summer, shut the door,

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and know that his grandchildren are playing outside, but that no-one was going to bother him.

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So I think that they would absolutely love the space.

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In Teesside, Hilary and John are transforming the 200-year-old roofless barn

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in their back garden into a 21st-century home.

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The barn is a Grade II listed property,

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so while the four walls must remain,

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they're building a steel frame inside them, creating a four-bed, three-storey house.

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It's effectively a building within a building.

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We're really excited.

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We might not look it, but we are really, really excited, aren't we?

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-We are, yes.

-We come out every night.

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John comes out with his gloves on and his hammer

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and takes a few more bricks out and cleans a few bricks up,

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-and feels like he's actually...

-Doing my bit.

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Doing something quite constructive.

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Hilary and John were tempted to co-ordinate the build themselves,

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but instead they've employed two project managers, Tracey and Jeff.

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With it being listed, it does make it a little bit more difficult.

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We have to make sure that we are sympathetic to the building that was there,

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and stick to the guidelines we've been given to work in.

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You can see the walls on the original barn were between two and three bricks solid,

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so where we've had to create new openings, it's been

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exceptionally hard work for some of the lads,

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because although it LOOKS like it's run down

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and starting to fall to bits, it's not -

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it's a very solid structure for its age on proper foundations.

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That's the past, but, with concrete laid,

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Hilary and John can start to picture the future and their open-plan ground floor.

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-HILARY:

-So where John's stood now, that is the start of the lounge.

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The lounge-cum-open-plan dining room.

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And then, as he walks over to the other bar on the line, that shows you the outside line

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of where the staircase will run from there.

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He looks like an air stewardess!

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It's month three,

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and it's definitely the biggest day of the build so far.

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Today, we are expecting delivery of the steel frame.

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But the weather is working against them.

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The dirt track leading to the site has been turned into a swamp.

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But the track leading up to the barn, as you can see,

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is severely wet and rutted.

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To make the path manageable for the steel delivery wagon,

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50 tonnes of hardcore are brought in,

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hitting the budget to the tune of £700.

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But, with the steel now on site, spirits aren't dampened for long.

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Well, this is really quite exciting, because this is the first fixing

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of the first bit of internal steel, so this is how you can see it's taking shape.

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The steel-framed panels have all been manufactured to order.

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For supervisor Jonathan and his team, construction is usually pretty straightforward.

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All the work is in the setting out, making the panels in the factory

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and once they come here, they stand up and screw together. It's like Meccano. It's not difficult...

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as long as it's plumb.

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"As long as it's plumb."

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There lies the issue. A very big issue.

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The barn walls aren't straight, unlike the frame which is machine-made to precise dimensions.

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So the meeting of the old and the new isn't as realistic as it is romantic.

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I feel a bit sorry for the guys, cos they're normally used to putting up this nice, square,

0:21:040:21:09

metal framework, to build something new

0:21:090:21:13

or to go inside a new building.

0:21:130:21:16

And I think they've really been tested, because this building,

0:21:160:21:20

albeit it looks like four square walls in a rectangular shape,

0:21:200:21:25

it was built 200 years ago by a load of farm labourers.

0:21:250:21:29

-About 15 mil out. They don't build 'em like they used to!

-No.

0:21:300:21:35

The wonky walls mean this job is nothing like as straightforward as expected,

0:21:350:21:41

and the problem has led to a design U-turn when it comes to some brick pillars.

0:21:410:21:46

Because of the way the walls go, and the depth of them varies in places,

0:21:460:21:50

we were actually going to lose quite a bit of space

0:21:500:21:54

on the overall width and length, so the pillars are now back to square one,

0:21:540:22:00

back to the original thinking of

0:22:000:22:01

they're being repointed and they're going to be features.

0:22:010:22:04

So while they were originally going to be covered over, they'll now be on display.

0:22:040:22:08

It's the first rule of house design -

0:22:080:22:10

take a problem and turn it into a feature.

0:22:100:22:13

And with complications starting to crawl out of the steel work,

0:22:150:22:18

Hilary and John are glad to have their project managers to take the strain.

0:22:180:22:22

And then we'll sign off the next floor...?

0:22:220:22:24

Project managers come at a price, usually between 7% and 15% of the build cost,

0:22:240:22:31

but the cash their organisational skills can save you

0:22:310:22:34

has to be weighed up against their invoice, as does the amount of hassle they can prevent.

0:22:340:22:39

You don't hear about any problems

0:22:390:22:41

until after they've been talked through with the relevant people

0:22:410:22:45

and sorted out, so we only hear about things afterwards.

0:22:450:22:48

It's build month four, and while the steel struggles have been sorted,

0:22:510:22:54

there's another major issue -

0:22:540:22:56

lifting the specially made wooden roof joists.

0:22:560:22:59

With a crane already on site for the steel staircase,

0:23:010:23:04

the plan is to save money and lift the oak roof beams, as well.

0:23:040:23:08

But with Hilary and John obliviously enjoying a holiday in the sun,

0:23:090:23:13

the wind is causing project manager Jeff a huge health-and-safety headache.

0:23:130:23:18

We're not confident with the lift in these conditions.

0:23:180:23:22

There is some movement in the truss, and what we don't want

0:23:220:23:25

is the truss to break apart mid-air, obviously.

0:23:250:23:27

Safety-wise, it's just a no-go. It's too unstable.

0:23:270:23:32

It is a breezy day, and we just don't want anything to go wrong.

0:23:320:23:36

It'll cost Hilary and John an extra £200

0:23:380:23:41

for a crane to lift the oak another day when it's a little less breezy.

0:23:410:23:45

Five months after my first visit, I'm back to see how it's all going.

0:23:520:23:55

I think, of all the places I've been to see, this was the one - I don't know why -

0:23:580:24:02

that I was most looking forward to coming back to see.

0:24:020:24:05

How's it been going?

0:24:050:24:06

They're really progressing very well. Up to the roof level.

0:24:060:24:10

First fix plumbing's in. Without the roof on.

0:24:100:24:13

-We're all a bit back to front...

-See, I knew you were mad!

0:24:130:24:16

We booked a holiday, just to go away for a week.

0:24:170:24:22

We did think we might come back to the roof being on, and it wasn't.

0:24:220:24:26

-But we're getting there.

-But the windows were in.

-The windows were in!

0:24:260:24:30

No roof, but windows.

0:24:300:24:31

So, just to remind you as well,

0:24:340:24:37

the last time I stood here there was literally...

0:24:370:24:40

We were wading our way through nettles and trees and stuff. So what a change.

0:24:400:24:45

-So this is like the kind of central living space, is it?

-This is going to be the living area.

0:24:450:24:50

How much of this is going to be open above us? Will we just see the flying staircase above us?

0:24:500:24:54

The idea is that, when it's all finished,

0:24:540:24:58

this'll look like it's...floating, I suppose is the best way I could describe it.

0:24:580:25:02

In this very spot, I distinctly remember we stood here

0:25:050:25:09

and you told me where the kitchen stuff was going to be.

0:25:090:25:12

-This is my island.

-This is it.

-I did have trees and what have you here.

0:25:120:25:17

-That's right.

-But we have a massive big island going in here.

-Fantastic.

0:25:170:25:22

This is exciting. I can hear excitement in your voice.

0:25:220:25:24

I've got to calm myself down a bit because you just get really, really excited.

0:25:240:25:31

We were going to have this as a kitchen and a sitting area,

0:25:310:25:34

so we were going to have a two-way fireplace,

0:25:340:25:36

-but we think now we're just going to make this a big kitchen with a dining table.

-OK.

0:25:360:25:43

It's probably going to be a one-sided fire,

0:25:430:25:45

which he's delighted about because it's saved us £2,000.

0:25:450:25:48

There you go. That works. That's how to claw it back. Yeah.

0:25:480:25:51

Brilliant. Let Hilary change her mind and hopefully it'll be a cheap change of mind.

0:25:510:25:56

-That's how it works.

-Yeah, but sometimes it works in reverse.

0:25:560:26:00

More often than not will be my guess!

0:26:000:26:02

Next stop, the rooms with a view in the roof.

0:26:050:26:09

-And this space is just fantastic up here.

-This is a glass wall at the end. We've got glass doors,

0:26:090:26:13

a glass panel either side then you step out on to a little balcony.

0:26:130:26:17

We thought this might be our summer bedroom

0:26:170:26:19

and the one below will be our winter bedroom.

0:26:190:26:23

That is possibly the most ostentatious thing I ever heard in my life.

0:26:230:26:30

-A summer and a winter bedroom!

-Yeah.

0:26:300:26:31

It'll be nice in the summer to sit on the balcony and have a glass of wine and just look out.

0:26:310:26:36

-A bit more cosy in winter.

-Yeah.

0:26:360:26:38

So much for downsizing. Having different bedrooms for different seasons

0:26:380:26:41

means their new home towers over their old farmhouse. But of course,

0:26:410:26:46

-the future of this place is tied in with the future of that place.

-Yes.

0:26:460:26:50

Where would you be if you couldn't find a buyer for that?

0:26:500:26:54

We will have to seriously think about putting this on the market and selling this.

0:26:540:26:58

We have to sell one or the other.

0:26:580:27:00

We'll just have so much money tied up in these two properties...

0:27:000:27:03

That you have got to release it somewhere.

0:27:030:27:05

-That doesn't bear thinking about it, does it?

-No.

0:27:050:27:08

Hilary and John are waiting until the new house has a roof before putting the farmhouse on the market.

0:27:100:27:15

It'll therefore look more attractive to potential buyers,

0:27:150:27:19

but the depressed housing market is a big concern.

0:27:190:27:22

-So basically, if all goes well, but...

-Fingers crossed.

0:27:220:27:28

If their future is to be under this new roof,

0:27:310:27:33

they certainly need to sell the old place sooner rather than later.

0:27:330:27:38

If you're self-building, then being a dab hand at DIY

0:27:450:27:49

is a good way to save money. But you'll definitely need the know-how.

0:27:490:27:54

I'm taking a crash course of classes at building college.

0:27:540:27:57

Today, it's joinery and, touch wood, I'll hopefully impress the teacher.

0:28:010:28:06

In the joinery department, Mark, what have you got me doing today?

0:28:140:28:17

-Today, you are going to fit architrave around the staff room.

-Ah.

0:28:170:28:20

Architrave provides the finishing touch to any door

0:28:230:28:26

as it covers the unsightly gap between the door frame and the wall.

0:28:260:28:30

I have fitted, it must be 50 pieces of architrave in my time,

0:28:310:28:37

and I have never got it right on one single occasion.

0:28:370:28:41

So how long would it take you to do this?

0:28:410:28:45

-Five minutes.

-Five minutes?

0:28:450:28:47

-So I'd give you ten minutes.

-Ten minutes.

0:28:470:28:51

Thanks, Mark. I can see this going very badly wrong again. Right,

0:28:510:28:56

-I better get on it, hadn't I?

-You certainly had.

0:28:560:28:59

'Because I have previous experience, Mark's letting me go it alone.

0:28:590:29:02

'Hopefully, he'll point out where I've been going wrong. First, I need to measure and mark the points

0:29:020:29:08

'where the architrave will sit.'

0:29:080:29:09

And that line's got to meet up. That's the way.

0:29:090:29:13

'The biggest challenge is get the edges to fit snugly.

0:29:130:29:16

'Then the key is cutting 45-degree angles in the wood and for that, you need a combination square.'

0:29:160:29:21

And then you want to mark across it 45.

0:29:210:29:24

'I think we all know where I've been making mistakes in the past!'

0:29:240:29:28

It's like a chimp's tea party!

0:29:290:29:31

'Now, seeing as Mark is an expert, I really should listen.'

0:29:330:29:37

If that's moving, you may want to clamp that down

0:29:370:29:39

so you can worry more about cutting than you are holding it steady.

0:29:390:29:44

I'll do the next one like that. It's taken on board.

0:29:440:29:47

'But I'm just a bit lazy.'

0:29:470:29:49

I kind of see what you mean.

0:29:530:29:55

Also, with your saw, if you paid for a full saw,

0:29:550:29:59

I'd use all of it rather than just a third of it.

0:29:590:30:03

You also get straighter cuts if you use a full blade,

0:30:030:30:06

which we may find...

0:30:060:30:08

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm in a hurry, I can't hear you!

0:30:080:30:11

Now, I would advice you, Simon, to leave your nails proud

0:30:140:30:18

because the way you're hitting it,

0:30:180:30:21

you're damaging the architrave, which is meant to be a finish.

0:30:210:30:25

And they'll be finished off with a nail punch.

0:30:260:30:29

I know I shouldn't bite my nails, can't help it!

0:30:310:30:34

Two minutes left now, Simon.

0:30:360:30:38

You better get a move on.

0:30:380:30:39

Looks like you're getting the hang of this.

0:30:390:30:42

'A rare compliment from Mark.

0:30:420:30:43

'I might have finally got architrave nailed...

0:30:430:30:47

'..but then again...!'

0:30:480:30:49

Nothing a bit of filler won't sort out.

0:30:510:30:53

The last 30 seconds, Simon.

0:30:530:30:55

With seconds left, a bit of guesswork is required.

0:30:560:30:58

Really got to move quickly here.

0:30:580:31:01

No time for your fancy mitering.

0:31:010:31:04

-Right, I'm afraid, that's it.

-Done.

0:31:100:31:14

'And it turns out, freestyle cutting is my forte.'

0:31:140:31:17

Do you know, for a rushed 45, that's not far off.

0:31:170:31:21

In fact, I did it better without the square.

0:31:220:31:27

That's where you're going wrong at home, you're trying to do it.

0:31:270:31:31

It's not all positive feedback though, there are of course

0:31:310:31:34

the usual hammer blows to the woodwork and my pride.

0:31:340:31:38

You've left a few marks in the timber and damaged your frame

0:31:380:31:43

and your architrave with the hammer.

0:31:430:31:45

Go on, then.

0:31:450:31:47

Give me the dreaded mark out of ten.

0:31:470:31:50

Well, I would've said seven, but because of damage you've left, six.

0:31:500:31:55

Six? From you?

0:31:590:32:01

That is cause for celebration, cheers, mate.

0:32:010:32:04

That's fantastic!

0:32:040:32:05

Well, what can you expect, from a bodger?

0:32:090:32:12

In Teesside, Hilary and John

0:32:210:32:23

are building a futuristic home inside a 200 year-old barn.

0:32:230:32:27

Six months in, the build is more or less on schedule.

0:32:290:32:32

As for the budget, a change of heart has hit them in the pocket.

0:32:320:32:35

I'm sat here on this really, really nice oak staircase.

0:32:380:32:42

Absolutely beautiful staircase.

0:32:420:32:45

It's been made to quite specific specifications by the architect,

0:32:450:32:50

but unfortunately, I don't like it.

0:32:500:32:53

All the rest of the staircase is a completely different design

0:32:530:32:57

and it just doesn't work.

0:32:570:32:59

It really, really doesn't work.

0:32:590:33:01

So, I made the big decision.

0:33:010:33:03

We're actually going to take this staircase out

0:33:030:33:06

and Steel Frame Company are making a staircase now,

0:33:060:33:10

that is going to match, imitate everything else.

0:33:100:33:13

Changes this late in the build always have cost implications,

0:33:140:33:18

so to avoid expensive mistakes,

0:33:180:33:20

it's important to carefully comb through all the fine details of your plans

0:33:200:33:25

and spot a problem like this before it's too late.

0:33:250:33:28

According to Hilary,

0:33:310:33:33

the decision to switch her stairs has cost £1,200.

0:33:330:33:37

But she's knocked a bit off for imaginative recycling.

0:33:370:33:42

Because we're going to reuse the staircase somewhere else,

0:33:420:33:45

the actual...

0:33:450:33:47

You have to look at it.

0:33:470:33:48

Tell them where we're going to use it.

0:33:480:33:51

We have to look at it that what we're actually doing is what we wanted in the first place

0:33:510:33:55

-so that is not the extra cost.

-Tell them where we're going to use it.

0:33:550:33:58

The answer Hilary is avoiding,

0:33:580:34:01

is that the very expensive hand-crafted wooden staircase

0:34:010:34:05

is actually heading for their current home,

0:34:050:34:07

the neighbouring farmhouse, in the garage.

0:34:070:34:11

Which is, at the moment, a pull-down wooden attic ladder.

0:34:110:34:17

So instead, it's going to have a hand-made oak staircase, but it will look really nice.

0:34:170:34:21

I think we should re-shoot this

0:34:210:34:24

because every time we film and talk about it, it comes down in price.

0:34:240:34:29

So, if we keep re-shooting, I might feel a bit happier!

0:34:290:34:33

Into build month eight, and the house is starting to look like a home.

0:34:380:34:43

Decorating is under way and Hilary and John are hard at work.

0:34:430:34:47

Things are just all, like, really coming together now.

0:34:470:34:51

But is Hilary getting just a bit too fussy?

0:34:530:34:56

I just noticed that there was a bit of a delve up here.

0:34:560:35:01

I'm just straightening up around the socket.

0:35:010:35:04

They're just not square.

0:35:040:35:05

As the sockets are going on, they need filling in.

0:35:050:35:10

It's just become an obsession with her.

0:35:100:35:13

She's driving me nuts.

0:35:130:35:14

Hilary is fixated with the smallest details,

0:35:170:35:19

but there's a much bigger concern just round the corner.

0:35:190:35:23

They still face the prospect of having to sell this new-build

0:35:230:35:26

if they can't shift the farmhouse.

0:35:260:35:28

It's been on the market for six weeks now

0:35:280:35:31

and we've had three offers which we've turned down.

0:35:310:35:34

They were very low offers.

0:35:340:35:37

We're just hoping we haven't cooked our goose.

0:35:370:35:40

So come March or April, if nothing's happening,

0:35:400:35:44

then we will start panicking a bit, but we might rent the farmhouse.

0:35:440:35:49

It would break our hearts now to have to sell this.

0:35:490:35:51

We've become so attached, it's so personal.

0:35:510:35:53

11 months since work started, Hilary and John are moved in

0:36:010:36:05

and I'm back at the barn to see how things have turned out.

0:36:050:36:07

The "Sold" sign outside their farmhouse is an encouraging start.

0:36:070:36:13

I know you're not supposed to have favourites,

0:36:130:36:15

but when I first looked round John and Hilary's derelict barn, I got very excited.

0:36:150:36:19

I can't wait to see how it's turned out

0:36:190:36:21

and it's already looking fabulous.

0:36:210:36:24

It's incredible to think that when I first came here ten months ago,

0:36:290:36:33

this was just a ramshackle old barn.

0:36:330:36:34

Talk about a transformation.

0:36:380:36:40

And there's clearly been no expense spared inside the house.

0:36:470:36:51

Hilary's attention to detail has really paid off.

0:36:550:36:58

Oh, this is it. This is it. That's kind of modest, isn't it?

0:37:000:37:05

This is a fantastic space. This is just amazing.

0:37:050:37:12

Do you pinch yourself?

0:37:120:37:15

I did last week when I walked in from doing the shopping

0:37:150:37:18

and I walked in the front door

0:37:180:37:19

and this lovely kind of "oh" feeling - "This is our home.

0:37:190:37:24

"This is our house". It just looked fab.

0:37:240:37:27

Just as Hilary and John intended, this is every inch the 21st-century home.

0:37:310:37:37

The 200-year-old exposed brick work columns which they originally intended to cover up,

0:37:370:37:45

are a subtle reminder of the building's past,

0:37:450:37:48

but there is nothing dated about Hilary and John's fabulous kitchen.

0:37:480:37:53

Hilary, I'm just going to remind you

0:37:530:37:56

that you stood more or less exactly where you're standing,

0:37:560:38:00

and said, "My kitchen island is going to be here",

0:38:000:38:04

and there was a tree between us and weeds and rubble.

0:38:040:38:08

-Nettles.

-And people must have thought you were mad at that point.

0:38:080:38:12

And here it is.

0:38:120:38:14

-We knew it would be here all along, didn't we?

-We did. We did. Very confident.

0:38:140:38:19

You forget that this

0:38:190:38:22

is a box within a box.

0:38:220:38:24

That's amazing. Because the illusion is complete in here, isn't it?

0:38:250:38:31

-Yes.

-Amazing. Absolutely gorgeous.

0:38:310:38:33

More. More. Come on, let's go. Let's go!

0:38:330:38:36

The interior looks stunning, but there are a few finishing touches to add,

0:38:390:38:42

the all-glass sun room and the landscaping will be finished later in the year.

0:38:420:38:47

Back inside, and Hilary's decision to replace the very traditional staircase

0:38:470:38:51

with this modern white-rendered version might have been expensive,

0:38:510:38:54

but it helps retain the overall contemporary design of the house.

0:38:540:38:58

Hilary and John originally told me they were downsizing,

0:39:040:39:08

but this new place has four bedrooms across two floors

0:39:080:39:12

while their en-suite bathroom is one of four in the house.

0:39:120:39:15

This was the most expensive,

0:39:150:39:17

-and the guest bedroom was next. And then...

-As you work up the house!

0:39:170:39:21

-..they get cheaper!

-And less people will see them!

0:39:210:39:25

But there hasn't been much compromise anywhere else.

0:39:280:39:31

Selling the farmhouse eased the financial pressure and allowed Hilary

0:39:310:39:35

to spend a little more of their £350,000 build budget

0:39:350:39:39

on the luxurious fixtures and fittings.

0:39:390:39:41

We were hoping to bring it in at a lot less,

0:39:410:39:44

but I think once we realised - it's a bit of a shock to John, this -

0:39:440:39:48

but once we realised...

0:39:480:39:51

You've never added up all these figures, have you?

0:39:510:39:54

No, I've left it to Hilary and just buried my hand head in the sand, basically.

0:39:540:39:59

Hilary and John already owned their plot,

0:39:590:40:02

which gave them a financial advantage when it came to building.

0:40:020:40:05

Their total outlay on the build came in at £400,000,

0:40:050:40:09

which means they've overspent by £50,000.

0:40:090:40:13

So was transforming this historic barn into a modern home worth it?

0:40:130:40:18

We've had this place valued,

0:40:180:40:20

and... I know, this is the first time I've seen Hilary looking nervous.

0:40:200:40:26

..and this place has been given a market value of £695,000.

0:40:260:40:32

SHE GASPS

0:40:320:40:34

-Really?

-Really?

0:40:340:40:37

-I would have been happy if we'd have broken even.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:40:370:40:41

That's a huge saving of £295,000.

0:40:430:40:46

And breathe, Hilary.

0:40:460:40:48

That's good. Yeah.

0:40:480:40:51

I was panicking, yeah, because... Yeah.

0:40:510:40:55

I know why you were panicking. Because you haven't compromised one penny!

0:40:550:40:58

But it's not just about facts and figures.

0:41:000:41:02

Hilary and John clearly love this home

0:41:020:41:05

and they've enjoyed the self-build experience, most of the time!

0:41:050:41:09

The worst parts of this

0:41:110:41:13

were when John and I had to make a decision together, the two of us.

0:41:130:41:16

-You're serious, as well, aren't you?

-I'm serious, yeah.

0:41:160:41:19

We have had domestics in every tile shop,

0:41:190:41:24

every flooring shop.

0:41:240:41:26

The things we had to specifically go and choose, design and pick.

0:41:260:41:31

-Every lighting store, there has been...

-There's been trouble.

0:41:310:41:35

There has been massive, massive trouble. Massive trouble between us.

0:41:350:41:39

-I lost every one.

-Of course!

0:41:390:41:40

And look out, John, it seems Hilary has caught the self-building bug

0:41:400:41:46

and might have itchy feet already.

0:41:460:41:48

-I've heard she is looking for a piece of land.

-Yeah, we've seen a plot of land.

-Seriously?

-Yeah.

0:41:490:41:54

You'd do this again?

0:41:540:41:55

Yes, because we have come through the other end now

0:41:550:41:59

and we're in this lovely house and we love it.

0:41:590:42:02

The only thing I can liken it to is childbirth.

0:42:020:42:04

At the time, it's absolutely horrendous,

0:42:040:42:07

but somehow you forget all of that and you suddenly start thinking,

0:42:070:42:11

"It was easy. We could do it again."

0:42:110:42:13

But after all that slightly obsessive attention to detail,

0:42:160:42:21

Hilary and John are going to enjoy this place for a little while yet.

0:42:210:42:25

If they do take the plunge again, though,

0:42:250:42:28

surely nothing will be harder than fitting a modern home inside a wonky old barn?

0:42:280:42:33

Now, listen, as a little keepsake to help you remember us and to help you remember this process,

0:42:370:42:42

we've got you something.

0:42:420:42:44

There you go. We thought, as you had an old house that didn't have any straight walls,

0:42:440:42:48

you might like a spirit level.

0:42:480:42:50

That is absolutely amazing. Fantastic.

0:42:500:42:52

So you can now go around and make sure everything is level!

0:42:520:42:59

I just want to check that that light is...

0:42:590:43:01

-You do as well, don't you?

-I do.

-You do!

0:43:010:43:04

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:200:43:22

E-mail [email protected]

0:43:220:43:24

Hilary Maddren and her partner John Robson build a brand new home inside the walls of a 200-year-old derelict barn on Teeside. Plus, the woman who knocked down her childhood home and replaced it with a stunning six-bed detached house in Buckinghamshire and presenter Simon O'Brien cannot see the wood for the trees when it comes to carpentry at building college.


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