Tom Eldrige built his rustic-modern home from scratch (Picture: Lindsay Philp/ Metro.co.uk)
When cameraman and keen surfer Tom Eldridge decided to design a country home from scratch, on a 3.5-acre plot in rural Cornwall, it was striking that elusive perfect balance of weathered character and contemporary luxury that was his biggest challenge.
‘After having already renovated several houses, I wanted to build a bespoke family home,’ Tom says. ‘But I didn’t want it to look too new and glossy. I hit on the solution — although a lot of people thought I was mad.’
Overcoming any impatience he felt at getting the project completed as quickly as possible, Tom’s answer was to leave the vast oak frame and trusses of the home exposed for 12 months, so it could naturally weather and age.
Today, three years after he bought the plot, the striking mellow-brown internal structure looks as if it could be a century old, and forms the backbone of the impressive double-height open-plan kitchen/dining/living space at the heart of the home.
‘I’m so pleased I took the time to let nature make its own marks on the frame,’ says Tom, who shares the 4,750sq ft five-bedroom home with his two children, Finley, seven, and Esme, six, and their blue merle border collie, Ragnar.
‘It was so satisfying to have designed the home myself, as well as do most of the building work. It meant taking 18 months off work, but lockdowns gave me the opportunity to really focus.’
Tom lives with his children Finley, 7, and Esme, 6, and their border collie, Ragnar (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
He built the home on the plot of a derelict house and barn (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
It was the amazing private location of the southwest-facing plot (near the market town of Wadebridge, 13 miles from surfing hot spot Constantine Bay and which came with an abandoned 1960s house and derelict barn) that convinced Tom it was the place to build.
‘It was just so amazing, with valley and countryside views stretching out before you for 10 miles. My aim was to build a modern country house that would seem as if it had always been there, and which would stand the test of time,’ he says.
Working to a construction budget of about £750,000, Tom drew up the floor plans for his dream home, which he named The Barnyard, then called in Truro-based Kast Architects to make them a reality.
The house, approached via a long track, was to have a two-storey wing on either side of the kitchen/living space, and to incorporate a playroom, family room and boot room, as well as a separate triple garage/studio.
So far, so practical. But it was the fact that Tom, with just one other builder, did so much of the grunt work himself that makes The Barnyard such a one-off.
The cosy sitting room (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
Practical storage space (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
The master bedroom is very spacious (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
‘I started layout on the foundations in June 2019, and completed it this May,’ Tom says. ‘I was often up the scaffolding, worked late on the house every night I could, designed the bathrooms myself and did all the interior wooden cladding. I only brought in local specialists for the roofing, carpentry and stonework.’
Carefully sourced materials juxtapose old and new. The home is topped, for example, with greyish-white reclaimed roof tiles from the nearby Delabole Slate Quarry, a favourite among heritage renovators across the UK, and the huge dining table and trestle benches are hewn from timber salvaged from the old house and barn.
The duck-egg blue kitchen units, from Christchurch-based handmadekitchens-direct.co.uk, are traditional enough, but the kitchen island is topped in ultra-modern micro cement.
‘As it sits directly opposite the huge stone fireplace, we needed something really substantial and weighty-looking, to balance it out,’ Tom explains. Superinsulated glazing and a ground-source heat pump add the requisite eco-features of any newly built home.
Layers of style have been created through the home via a Little Greene paint scheme (neutral white Slaked Lime features in most rooms), sculptural timber lighting by Tom Raffield and artwork by West Country talent Sammy Little and painters championed by Wadebridge gallery Circle Contemporary.
There’s a snug study (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
The huge stone fireplace is a focal point (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
The children’s playroom has a fun chalkboard wall (Picture: Lindsay Philp)
Tom’s favourite space, however, is the main bedroom suite, where nature takes centre stage: there are uninterrupted valley and rural views through the sash windows.
The kids, too, have been extravagantly catered for, with their own playroom, just off the main living space. Here, one entire wall is covered in chalkboard, and there’s a giant Lego desk, hand-built by Tom, for them to get creative.
Tom admits that when it came to the gardens, bordered by lush forest, he ran out of money. To help him out, his mother (with whom he stayed while the house was being built) grew 400 plants for him from seed.
The landscaped grounds are now stocked with lavender, a range of architectural grasses, and raspberries, cosmos and fuchsias. ‘I really am over the moon with the end result,’ Tom says, although there are still a few things not yet ticked off on his to-do list.
The two guest bedrooms still need decorating, the utility room needs final touches made and a cinema room is still in its final stages of completion.
It will, however, be up to The Barnyard’s next owner to complete them. Despite his passion for the project, Tom has put The Barnyard on the market, for offers over £1.85million, and is hoping to take advantage of the hordes of house hunters Cornwall has seen since the pandemic struck.
‘Life has changed since I first started designing the house,’ he says. ‘I’m now keen to take on another project — either a renovation or another new-build. There is so much going on in my imagination.’
Does he have any tips for wannabe housebuilders? ‘Plot is everything,’ Tom says. ‘And there’s nothing more satisfying than actually building a home that you’ve dreamed up in your own head.’
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