The house in the hollow becomes a dream home
When Ian and Rebecca Anderson throw open the living room curtains in the morning, they are greeted by the sight of a tumbling waterfall only a stone’s throw from their patio doors and wild birds in the Scots pines and broad-leaf trees beyond.
It was the appeal of this delightful aspect which persuaded them to embark on the daunting project of building their own home – and that was a decision they have not regretted for a second.
Rebecca, 31, said: “It is so beautiful having the burn rushing past the house, so soothing. The house is built on the side of a hollow, so it slopes down towards the river and looks over towards the far bank.”
For the Borders couple and their two young children, the site was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Ian was a third generation tenant farmer on Woodburn Farm – named after the river which runs by their house – at Roberton, six miles west of Hawick and the land became available through the landowner.
Their first instinct was to build a bungalow for the express purpose of holiday letting while Ian continued to run his livestock farm. But as the couple discussed the project, they began to see it as a chance for Ian to change direction from a career which had occupied him since he left school at 16.
So they decided to live in the house themselves, funding the purchase price of the half acre plot – and some of the build costs – by the sale of the livestock and machinery on the farm. They also sold a flat Ian had bought and renovated in Hawick to add to their cash resources.
But while the site was an opportunity, it was also a considerable challenge because of its position in a pronounced dip on the side of a hill, and that was where Scotframe, the leading timber frame specialists, came in.
Ian had seen and been impressed by the quality and finish of homes which Scotframe had supplied in nearby Roberton and he and Rebecca started to investigate the Inverurie-based company’s huge range of off-the-shelf designs and styles.
In the end, however, they decided to ask Scotframe to create a unique, bespoke home for them which would overcome the difficulties of the sloping plot and also meet their particular requirements.
Rebecca said: “We originally obtained planning permission for a straightforward bungalow but, since we were laying the foundations anyway, we decided to convert the huge attic space as well. So now, though it officially is a three-bedroom bungalow with an attic conversion, it is actually a five-bedroom family house.
“Scotframe also helped us to change the balance of the house, creating smaller bedrooms all on one level downstairs and much bigger, open living and kitchen areas with a change in level between them. The light floods in to the living area through the patio doors and lets us take full advantage of the lovely views.”
Although Ian project managed the build himself and an architect was involved, Rebecca said that their main source of advice and guidance turned out to be Scotframe.
She said: “I know that Scotframe’s only responsibility was to supply and deliver the kit – which they did on time and on budget – but they went out of their way to do so much more. They seemed to know all about building rules and regulations and about how we could achieve what we wanted within the official guidelines.”
Although the planning process ran relatively smoothly for the Andersons, the cumulative minutiae of building control regulations proved to be complex and time-consuming to deal with.
The house had to be fully compliant with disability regulations although there were no disabled people living there; light switches had to be at a low level and electrical sockets at a high level; foundations and drains had to comply with strict guidelines; and even low level windows had to have safety catches and safety glass if they were more than one metre above the ground.
With Scotframe’s technical and regulatory assistance, any outstanding issues with the building control department were finally resolved and Ian was able to get on with fitting the kitchen, laying the oak floors, painting and fixing the wooden cladding on the outside walls.
He even sourced a water supply on a nearby hill and laid a pipe down towards the house and the couple are now working on a two kilowatt micro-hydro turbine which will run off the burn and supply the house with electricity.
Rebecca said: “I am so glad that we were able to work with Scotframe. They were professional, flexible, helpful and technically faultless. Because of them, we now have a dream home. Without them, it could have been something of a nightmare.”