When serial renovators Jane and Andy Hearn decided to follow their dream and move to the coast, they had no idea that they would face so many challenges before finally creating a stunning family home. “I’ve been renovating properties since I was 19, and can honestly say that this was the most stressful project I’ve ever encountered,” says Jane. “Thankfully, we got there in the end.”
Back in December 2005, the couple, who were living in Surrey, bought a holiday cottage in the picturesque coastal village of Bosham on the shores of Chichester Harbour. “Andy is a keen sailor and, gradually, we fell in love with the area,” says Jane.
Fact file: Jane & Andy Hearn
Location: West Sussex
Project: Renovation & extension
Construction method: Oak frame extension
Plot cost: £920,000
House size: 280m2 (extension added 52m2)
Build cost: £230,000
Total cost: £1,250,000
Build cost per m2: £821
Construction time: 32 weeks
Current value: £1,250,000
“Instead of just coming to Bosham for the weekend, we found ourselves spending four days out of seven in the village. Our daughters were both finishing secondary education and we wanted to start putting new roots down at the coast, long before we hit retirement age.”
Having searched painstakingly for a suitable renovation project, eventually, in 2008, a rather dated but spacious house, with a large plot and south-facing garden, came on the market. “We’d quickly discovered that properties in Bosham are extremely sought-after and get snapped up swiftly,” says Jane.
“Although this wasn’t a particularly attractive house and didn’t have the views overlooking the water that we’d initially hoped for, we liked the quiet, private road and could see that the property offered vast potential to transform it into a lovely home. We decided to sell our holiday cottage and paid the asking price to make sure we secured the sale.”
Rethinking the layout
After relocating, the pair lived in the house for six years, settling into the area and slowly formulating a raft of ideas about how to turn the property into a tailor-made home. They decided the ground floor would comprise a large hall, study, cloakroom and open-plan living/dining/kitchen area, along with a utility room. The couple felt that a large cupboard under the stairs would be ideal for extra storage space.
Upstairs, by repositioning walls and removing some built-in wardrobes, the Hearns could create four good-sized bedrooms (two of them ensuite), an airy landing and a family bathroom.
During that time, they saved hard towards their proposed transformation and also raised funds by developing several properties in Surrey and West Sussex. “Normally, as soon as the paint’s dry, the for sale sign goes up,” says Jane. “However, this one was different since we viewed it as our forever home. We had the luxury of being able to take a long time deliberating about the layout and fine-tuned it over and over again. We didn’t want to extend the mortgage and, in order not to borrow any money, we waited until the time was right. Eventually, in 2014, we were ready to go.”
A bigger budget
To transform the exterior at the front, the Hearns decided to go for a timeless look and embrace local materials by selecting flint blocks. They also gave a nod to their coastal surroundings by partially cladding the walls in timber weatherboarding, which was pre-sprayed in a pale green shade to match the new windows exactly.
At the rear of the house, Jane and Andy felt that adding a timber orangery from Prime Oak would inject some much-needed wow factor. To cover any problems, they took out an insurance policy for the project with Andy’s company, AIM Risk Services.
Although the couple’s initial budget was £150,000, it quickly leapt by another £80,000. “One of the reasons was that, having shown Prime Oak our original sketch for the orangery and visited one of their show homes, we agreed it ought to be double the size,” says Jane. “Also, since it was to be our long-term home, we chose a bespoke kitchen and bathrooms, plus high-quality fixtures and fittings.” With hopes of saving time and upheaval before the build began in earnest, the Hearns fitted two new bathrooms.
“As well as creating the orangery, replacing the windows and cladding the first floor elevation, the project entailed extending one bedroom and knocking together another bedroom and dressing room into one larger space,” says Jane.
“We also wanted to expand the utility room, move the living room fireplace, replumb, rewire, replaster and redecorate to give the house a fresh look and more contemporary feel. In December 2012, we liaised with local architect, John Bloomfield of Bloomfield Parker Architects, who drew up the plans and submitted them.”
Waiting for planning permission
Having decided to enlarge the orangery after the original plans were submitted, the size of the remodelled house then exceeded what would be allowed under permitted development – so the Hearns had to apply for planning permission, which took an extra four months.
The process wasn’t as straightforward as they had hoped: Bosham is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), and they had to adhere strictly to Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s planning guidelines.
“We had to be patient, but that delay in gaining planning consent was frustrating, since by that stage we were all set to forge ahead,” says Jane. “In hindsight, I would recommend that people sit down with the planning officer before they commit pen to paper to gauge exactly what they’ll be able to do. Also, I would advise people to bring samples of materials with them to any meetings.”
When work started in March, Jane hired a construction firm that she had used before and began managing the project herself. Laying trench foundations for the new orangery was straightforward and, initially, everything got off to a good start. However, when Jane’s father fell ill and she needed to rush to Lancashire to help care for him and support her mother, things took a turn for the worse.
“Since I couldn’t be there, lots of important decisions had to be made over the phone,” says Jane. “I soon twigged that the builders weren’t on site as often as they should have been. They’d also promised me that they knew what they were doing and could erect the oak orangery.
In reality, there was a lot more to putting it together than met the eye, as it was like a massive jigsaw puzzle. There were also issues with the doors not fitting properly.
“The whole project ended up taking six months longer than it should have done and, since the house was a building site when I returned from Lancashire after my father’s funeral, we ended up living in our neighbour’s annexe for four months.”
Having completed so many projects smoothly and efficiently, Jane felt devastated that, with what was planned to be her forever home, things took much longer and cost more money than she’d ever imagined.
The test of time
When contemplating the energy efficiency of their home, the Hearns decided to install solar panels, in addition to a log burning stove and electric underfloor heating in the orangery and kitchen.
The first floor and loft were reinsulated and a new Megaflo cylinder and gas boiler fitted. “Our energy bills have dropped by around £1,500 per year, despite the fact we’ve added about 25% to the floor space,” says Jane.
The couple say that the most rewarding aspect of the project has been achieving what they set out to do in terms of creating a modern home that will stand the test of time for the foreseeable future.
“At the end of the day, we are now living in a lovely home that meets all our needs and is a great place for our daughters, my mother and our friends to come to visit,” says Jane. “Although our plan is to stay, I love property and have a secret hankering to build either a contemporary dwelling on the waterfront, or transform an old farmhouse into a boutique-hotel-style home.
“For now, though, Andy and I are continuing to put the final touches to this house and I’ll keep getting my property development fix by giving a new lease of life to other homes in the area.”
Words: Janet McMeekin Photos: Phil Raby First published: February 2017