Through the keyhole: Wood works!

PUBLISHED: 15:59 29 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:59 29 July 2014

Glen Lyon, the timber house built by Adam Manthorpe and tucked into the East Devon Uplyme hills

Glen Lyon, the timber house built by Adam Manthorpe and tucked into the East Devon Uplyme hills


Escaping the rat race has proved a dream come true for one young family who are getting back to nature in their country house made of wood, as KATE WILLIAMS discovers

No ordinary builder, Adam Manthorpe has a passion for natural materials and an organic lifestyle, so when the opportunity arose to move to Devon and build his own timber home, the carpenter jumped at it.

Living in Brighton, where he was born and bred, Adam and his wife, Lydia, were hankering after a slice of the country life and to escape the rat race in the hope of creating a better life for themselves and their two young children.

After much searching and under pressure to enrol their daughter into school, they spotted a Woolaway bungalow in the Devon village of Uplyme, situated right on the border to Dorset’s Lyme Regis, where they had holidayed many times.

Not exactly the type of house they had in mind, the fabricated building was far from their dream home but Lydia had that ‘feeling’ when she sat quietly in the bungalow and Adam knew it was right.

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“He said he could build us a really beautiful house here,” Lydia smiles as she sips tea in her now stunning country kitchen in an amazing timber house which, just over a year ago, was very different.

“We never really intended to build a house,” explains Lydia. “We were looking for a smallholding originally. We found one but it fell through, then we came across this.”

A carpenter by trade and a conventional builder in Brighton, Adam has a love of wood as well as a drive to be different and push the boundaries. A course in building timber-framed houses gave him the edge to enable the creation of Glen Lyon — their family home in the country.

Razing the faceless Woolaway to the ground, Adam started as he meant to go on by re-using as many of the original materials as possible in the new build.

“I love to re-use and recycle materials,” he says. “So, I re-used as much of the concrete from the bungalow as I could for laying the foundations for this house.”

Everything is cut and made by hand instead of by machines like most other firms. Adam’s business, The Timber Framing Co, is focused on the raw material and creating something different, something unique.

Adam uses all local suppliers for timber and there is a whole host of different wood throughout the house, including oak, larch, pine, chestnut and even holly in the master bedroom, where Adam created a curtain rail from a branch he found in the garden.

The south-east facing property has an aesthetically pleasing façade with the timber taking centre stage and a large portion of specially thought-out glazing featuring prominently.

Adam is highly inspired by Scandinavian ideas where timber houses have been common-place for many years and technology and strategy of the placement of houses and which way they are facing has had a vitally important role in the design.

Special insulation has also been used to keep the building as warm as possible, making it very eco-friendly, another issue close to Adam’s heart.

Glen Lyon, which has been designed as a family home for the couple, their two children — Ava, five, and Ari, two — and their black Labrador, Monty, illuminates the warmth and welcoming atmosphere of family life on entrance. The porch leads directly into the vast open-plan kitchen and dining space, light and roomy and topped with comforting timber beams overhead.

Country chic oozes from every corner of the room with painted wooden furniture and natural fabrics draping the timber frame.

Specially made wooden kitchen units with a central island have been painted in Farrow & Ball French Grey, the country style complete with solid wood worktops and ceramic butler sink.

Originally going to be split by a hallway, the Manthorpes liked the open-plan space and decided to keep it, which they are now pleased about.

“This room is the hub of the home, such a lovely space,” says Lydia.

“Yeah, I love this room,” agrees Adam. “It’s a real family room. I always cook a Sunday roast every week, so I’ll be cooking, Lydia will be sat at the table on her laptop maybe and the children will be playing around us — all doing our own thing but still all together.

“When the weather’s nice we can open the doors at the front so the kids are in and out. We really wanted a feeling of bringing the outside in with the doors and windows.”

The sitting room is a smaller room, creating a cosy space to relax and the natural light from the front windows bringing an uplifting ambience. A log burner is waiting to be installed — when Adam gets a spare five minutes — but, until then, when heat is needed it is provided by elegant Victorian-style cast iron radiators.

Just off the sitting room hides the small office, where two walls are taken up by shelves. But they are no ordinary shelves, not in this house. Adam has cleverly produced bookcase shelves of timber with the bark showing on the outside edges, giving a stunning rustic finish. Such a simple idea but amazingly effective, proving what a creative mind the builder has.

“Oh, everyone seems to like those!” he laughs. “They are just another by-product of my work, I just haven’t planed off the bark.”

Upstairs, the children currently share a room which Adam has plans to split at a later stage. Although he likes to show off the roof timbers instead of building a loft to store a multitude of belongings no-one needs, this room has a ceiling. But it’s a special one. Of course.

“It’s going to be a den for the kids,” Adam explains. “There’s going to be a ladder up to it but Ari’s a bit little yet so that will have to wait.”

Although sharing very similar tastes in home furnishings, there are one or two things the pair don’t quite see eye-to-eye on.

Lydia says: “We wanted natural wool carpets in the children’s bedroom but they were so expensive and we want the kids to be able to have a free rein to a certain extent. So I got two rugs from Ikea, they’re great and were a really good price! We can always upgrade later.”

Adam smirks: “I like to have everything in natural material but these rugs are actually really nice and soft!”

The bathroom is a room of calm between the bedrooms with a free-standing bath as the focal point. Adam and Lydia have used traditional-style sanitary ware throughout the house, all by Heritage, to accentuate the character. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball Light Blue, emphasising the calming tones.

The real treat comes in the form of the master bedroom though. Adam and Lydia’s bedroom is a well-planned space of relaxation and serenity, engulfed in plumes of natural light filtering in through the archway of glass which looks out onto the balcony.

Luxurious white and cream natural bedding decorate the handmade sleigh bed with more than an ounce of sophistication but the stunning Heritage roll-top bath makes the bedroom really special.

When asked whose idea it was to have a bath in the bedroom, they answer simultaneously: “Both of us!”

“We all come in and have a bath and watch a film! It’s a very family-orientated room,” says Lydia.

The dressing room, hidden behind the bedroom, houses an en-suite loo with a basin set in a reclaimed, now painted and sanded, wooden unit that Adam found in a skip.

With a keen eye for design and far more than just a creative streak, Adam and Lydia have succeeded in creating their perfect natural dream home in the country, made out of wood.

For more information about Adam’s timber construction company, visit

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