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A rural retirement

Richard and Madeleine Harman took a DIY approach to designing and building a beautiful chalet-style home to relax and unwind in
PHOTOS LIZZIE ORME

With retirement on the horizon, the Harmans were keen to create a better lifestyle for themselves – and they knew the best way to do it would be to build a state-of-the-art home that suited their needs both now and in the future.

The couple wanted an open-plan property that would connect indoors and out and, most importantly, to downsize in order to free up funds to help their five grown-up children get onto the property ladder. “We really fancied the idea of self building, and had started buying Build It magazine,” says Richard. “We’d had five kids in quick succession, and now they’d all been through university, we thought it was the right time.”

Plot buying woes

The pair imagined the tricky bit was going to be finding the right piece of land in an area of Hertfordshire they knew and loved – but after some time looking, an estate agent helped them to identify a potential garden site in a village not far from Hertford. There was a catch, however. The plot was attached to a house that was also for sale, and the owners wanted to dispose of that before they’d make the land available.

The Harmans decided their best option would be to put an offer in for both, but all did not go to plan. “Unfortunately, at the eleventh hour someone else bought the house,” says Richard. “The vendor then increased the cost of the plot by £50,000 over the original asking price. We were very upset, but after a week of reviewing our options we decided we still wanted to go ahead, even though it meant renting a house for the build period.”

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About Build It

Build It is Britain’s longest running self build magazine. Each issue is packed full of inspirational and informative readers’ homes, as well as expert advice on issues from budgets and planning to project management and design. This month: - Renovating floors in a period home - Rainwater goods cost guide - Choosing the right smart home security systems - Could an architect save you money?