Posted on: 19th December 2016


I’m lucky at work, magazines of beautiful, inspiring homes find their way to my desk and I can legitimately spend a little time flicking through articles.  It’s always nice to see a new magazine but equally, a thumb though some of the older ones is just as rewarding.  There’s always several copies of Grand Designs floating around which take me back to a time when I bumped into Kevin McCloud in the Devon yard of Carpenter Oak, dressed in his striped shirt, jacket and jeans, like he’d just walked off set.

Carpenter Oak appeared several times over the first few series of Grand Designs, a period where oak frame houses were brought to the masses through our TV screens.  Now the programme is more diverse, as is life in general and it would be nice to feature again with a new and exciting project.

At present I’m looking at an article ‘The Grand Guide: Oak,’ written by Charlie Ryrie with some striking images photographed by Andrew Montgomery (Grand Designs, July 2004, Issue 5).

Ryrie writes ‘We love oak not just because it is durable, practical and becomes increasingly beautiful with age, but because it evokes a different era when life seemed more solidly rooted and altogether more secure’.

It’s a comforting synergy, the roots of living oak creating a solid base for the tree and the oak in our homes providing a solid structure for which to place our own roots.  A reassuring solidarity in turbulent 2016.

Mike Hope, partner at Roderick James Architects is quoted in the article ‘…..people want oak.  They want the texture the grain, the colour and the durability.  Combining oak with different materials frees it from the limits it imposes, and brings new flexibility’.

A reminder that traditional methods and materials don’t have to mean traditional buildings.  Carpenter Oak has completed several projects that use steelwork, opening up almost endless possibilities to make extraordinary spaces.

Why Build with Oak? Ryrie gives a short guide in his article, here are some points that I have drawn from his:

  • It’s quick – up to 60% of structures can be prefabricated off site.
  • Easily transportable so suitable for remote sites.
  • Long lasting
  • Energy efficient
  • Safer in fire than concrete
  • Versatile
  • Oak is resistant to corrosion.

My personal favourite quality of oak is that it’s sustainable, Ryrie reminds us that ‘An oak frame will last hundreds of years and hence outlive the time the oak has taken to grow.  By using native oak, we encourage it’s replanting because of increased demand.  If all homes built in Britain since 1945 had been modern timber-frame standard, we would now have saved more than 300 million tonnes of CO2 emissions’ (and that was back in 2004).

If you would like to read Ryrie’s full article and view Montgomery’s photographs you don’t need to dig around for the 2004 issue, I have for you a handy pdf version, enjoy:


Grand Guide: Oak