There is always someone here to look after the animals and our long term aim is mum and I will switch homes one day
It was love at first sight for the Cooke family when they set eyes on a spacious Edwardian villa boasting paddocks and a stable in the picturesque Kent countryside. “We saw the house when we were on a bike ride, my dad put a note through the door and that evening we heard back from the owner who said ‘make me an offer’,” reminisces daughter Holly.
Tucked away up a narrow lane, that home, which has now been in the family for 15 years, has a smart, new contemporary neighbour - Holly’s two-bedroom Norwegian Log annex, located at the edge of the large garden.
After her dad sadly died, Holly and her mum Christine realised combining resources would be logical given high local property prices and the rising cost of living. With four horses and cats to look after, having two pairs of hands onsite also made practical sense.
“To help with the horses, Holly was coming up from her flat twice a day. At the time she was living a mile away and that always has to be more co-ordinated. She’s always loved this property, and so that’s when we thought about adding an annex in the grounds,” explains Christine.
As keen skiers, they both love the vibe of a solid log chalet and researched firms supplying wood-built annexes. “Norwegian Log very quickly came to the top of the companies we looked at for a couple of reasons. The quality of the workmanship was just obvious and the fact they are modular, you can move walls around, as we have done here,” says Christine. “Holly also fell in love straight away when she saw this glass frontage. It’s a great feature and stops it feeling like a box. It immediately has a distinct front which is unique and very stylish.”
Having visited Norwegian Log’s Reading show homes, the pair went away to make their decision. “Norwegian Log left us to think about it, we didn’t feel at all pressured, it was not a pushy process. We’d had a couple of comparable quotes and one of the competitors was hounding me to make a decision. Ed from Norwegian Log didn’t, he just gave me the information and left me to think it through, which was just brilliant,” explains Christine.
Holly continues: “We didn’t want the annex to clash with the Edwardian house and we both love natural wood. We chose Norwegian Log because of the service, and the glass frontage which gives us so much light and is such a different shape. The gable almost matches mum’s house.”
Christine had previously looked at running holiday lets, and so had gained planning permission on the plot. “It was a pleasant surprise that we could apply for an annex under the Caravan Act as Holly is obviously a relative and it’s transportable. The planning process became extremely easy and as a bonus I was happy to hand that over to Norwegian Log to let them do that for me,” she says.
Holly sold her flat to help fund the new annex and added herself to Christine’s mortgage. “We have a joint mortgage and are tenants in common on the properties, so we are legally both protected and financially both contributing,” says Christine.
Running costs for the energy efficient annex are less than a third of the main house, and the pair have calculated that despite opting for luxury fixtures and fittings, plus extensive garden landscaping, its purchase cost is around 75% of a first time bricks and mortar build. “We wanted a quality home and something that would last multi-generations,” she adds.
“It was important I was still on the property ladder. When we switch, I can take over as much of the mortgage as possible, that will mean for mum she’ll be coming towards the end of her working life and retirement. I want kids and she can be an on-site nanny,” laughs Holly.
Her gorgeous contemporary home has views across the garden and neighbouring fields. The Lillehammer standard design has been tweaked to comprise a large open-plan living, study and kitchen area, two double bedrooms, family bathroom and a dressing room. “You can adapt and change this living space really easily, we’ve had 25 people for a party in here. I love it when we entertain. Everyone walks in and says ‘wow, this is amazing and so big’,” says Holly. “When the Norwegian Log team were assembling it, I couldn’t believe how quickly it went up. To begin with, I saw the footprint and thought it was too small, and now it’s way bigger than I originally thought. It’s like the Tardis!”
Christine added: “Our friends are always surprised how solid the floor and walls are. We loved seeing the huge pile of logs arrive by lorry, and watching the crew assembling the cabin literally log by log from the ground up. It only took 10 weeks, of course much faster than building a traditional bricks and mortar house.
With her mum just across the lawn, the pair regularly meet for breakfast and if one runs out of milk, chances are the other has spare in their fridge. Or they can enjoy a quiet gin and tonic in the evening and no-one has to drive home. “Now we’ve done it, life is so much easier,” explains Christine. “We both work full time, and we can go away independently as it means there’s always one person left on the property to look after all the animals.”
The new annex has also future-proofed their lives. “We have had the conversation about ‘when I’m not here, what would you do with it’ and I said ‘well go back to the holiday let plan’,” says Christine. “It’s perfect to convert to get a bit of extra income or ‘perhaps you’ll have a teenager by then who wants to move in and you’ll just keep on rotating it around the generations’ - from elderly parent back to teenage child, back to elderly parent. There are so many options with this being on the property but separate.”
Her daughter agrees: “This was always the forever plot and we have made it sustainable for the future. I absolutely love it, it just feels really homely and I am very happy here.”