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Philip & Victoria Coles

Philip and Victoria self-built their modern and energy-efficient new home using SIPs in the same village they had lived in for the past 20 years.

Philip & Victoria Coles - Case Study

Could you tell us any interesting facts or remarkable features about your project? We had spent 20 very happy years living in a picture-book thatched cottage in a traditional village in Wiltshire. When we decided to self-build, we wanted to stay in the same village and to create something that was completely different, new, beautiful, sustainable – and warm! There is a great range of buildings in the village – houses in different architectural styles have been built here for the last 500 years - so we feel we are just continuing that process. Some people inevitably aren’t that keen on what we’ve done, but the majority of our neighbours, from all different walks of life, have told us how much they love the house and how well it fits.

The before & after shots:



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Site map:

Philip and Victoria’s Experience at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre

How many times have you visited The National Self Build and Renovation Centre before? c.10-20.

What would you say is the most helpful feature or resource at the NSBRC? Everything – from educational resources to the quality suppliers – all in one place.

Did you use any exhibitors at the NSBRC? If so, who? Point 1 (SIPS), Nu-Heat (Air source heat pump and heating), Niko (home automation), Metal Solutions (GreenCoat colour coated steel on roof), Velux skylights and blinds), Hansgrohe (taps). Huge credit to Self Build and Design and Build-It magazines for their free copies – we subscribed for three years and they were invaluable.

What did you enjoy most about your visit to the NSBRC? We were complete self-build newbies and had no idea of all the different elements. The Centre and their shows helped us realise the scale and complication of what we wanted to do.

Would you recommend the NSBRC to a friend, and if so, what aspects of the Centre would you recommend and why? Besides the shows and courses, just taking time to wander round when there’s nothing going on provides greater knowledge and inspiration – crucial to the self-builder with little or no previous experience.

Timelapse Videos

Philip & Victoria’s Self Build Experience

What first inspired you to undertake project – what did you hope to achieve? Like so many, the programme Grand Designs showed us (25 years ago) that it was possible. We wanted to build a house that was entirely and selfishly for us, where we could spend the rest of our lives comfortably, sustainably and, yes, even a bit luxuriously!


What was the cost & size of the land? One third of an acre, with an existing (quite adequate!) bungalow.


How did you find the land? Do you have any tips for others currently searching for a plot? We knew the owners very well and they were kind enough to offer us first refusal when they decided to sell. They are our neighbours and we are still great friends.


Did you have any issues getting your planning permission granted or with building control? If so – why was this? We had virtually no issues with planning – there were a couple of minor points raised by the conservation officer, but these were dealt with swiftly and easily by our architect. No issues with building control.


Why did you choose your method of construction? We felt that SIPS suited our mindset – quick to go up, pre-insulated, incredibly flexible, it just felt right.


Did you use a project manager, or did you choose to self project manage? We decided to use a full service architectural route – design, planning, contract and project management, the lot. It cost a lot (an additional 15% on our budget) but was worth every penny and meant that we always had somewhere to turn for help. Through Milton Architects we also met and appointed our builder (Ben Clements of Clements Building Contractors) who was just the best thing to happen to any project, ever!


What was your budget and were you able to stick to it? Originally £500,000 with a £30,000 contingency (excluding architect costs). We spent just under £600,000 including a relatively small build overrun and all other costs and fees.


If you didn’t stick to your budget, what was the main reason for the overspend? Allowing ourselves a few stunning extras – a full height handmade door to the living room, bespoke kitchen and appliances, really good built in joinery. And the landscaping and groundworks at the end of the project soaked up the rest…


What is the value of the property now? We don’t know and are not sure we want to - we’re not selling…


Did you reclaim the VAT, and if so, how much were you able to reclaim? Our VAT reclaim was submitted in November 2021. We are still waiting to hear from HMRC because their VAT service has been so badly hit by Covid. If we are successful, about £1400 as all our main contractor’s invoices were zero rated.


What aspects of the process did you find stressful – and do you have any tips on how to avoid the pitfalls you encountered? Dealing with the utility companies was, without doubt, the worst bit. Both Openreach and SSE were staggeringly inefficient and unhelpful and we have no hesitation in naming and shaming. We planned everything meticulously but were, in the end, entirely at their mercy.


What did you find most enjoyable about working on your project? Just about everything, from the first ideas and discussions with Mike Milton, our architect, through the budgeting, planning and building. It has given us a huge amount of joy.


What is one of your favourite features about your project? Victoria - the external Venetian blind, which we were determined to have to counter solar gain and which was sourced in the UK, and made in the UK. A matter of pride!

Philip – the home automation system (Niko) and lighting design have exceeded expectations and definitely enhanced our lives – both were incredibly good value for the end result, and both were a delight to work with (Smart Control Technologies and Owl Lighting).


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle? In every possible way: self-building gave us a unique and privileged opportunity to design every element of our home - the lighting, the heating, all the different living and working spaces - to meet our current and, perhaps more crucially, our future living needs. Sustainability is very important to us and so energy efficiency and low impact construction were key factors in the design.

We gave Milton Architects a simple brief – the house had to be full of light, air and movement as well as comfortable, relaxed and welcoming. They more than delivered.


Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another project in the future? We’d love to… whether we the get the chance is a different matter.


If so, is there anything you would do differently? No.


What would your top tip be for other NSBRC Visitors about to embark on their first self build or home improvement journey? Make sure you soak up every bit of information at the Centre and, if you have the time, research everything. And keep an open mind.