Westhall house, complete with dragon, proves a hit with judges and passers-by

It was inspired by a sketch from a Russian architect.

But while that speculative drawing was never made into a reality, a couple from Westhall near Halesworth turned it into their dream home.

And with bales of straw from their farm for walls, trees from Dunwich Forest creating a tower and even a dragon on the chimney, Nick Fisher and Jo Jordan have built themselves a unique prize-winning home to live in.

The couple spent years creating their home at Belle Grove Farm and their work was recognised when they were named the winner of the Homebuilding and Renovating Awards.

Mrs Jordan, 64, said: 'What amazed us was that when the judges came around to look they said it was 'the most unbelievable house you'll ever see'.'

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The timber-frame house was purposely built using locally-sourced materials, with corrugated iron from the couple's workshop as kitchen cupboard doors, bricks from the original farm house reused and a twisted elm trunk from a ditch as a centre piece.

The couple's farmhouse had been in need of modernisation so they decided to use Mr Fisher's building experience to create a new home to remember.

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Mrs Jordan, who was a solicitor, said: 'We thought why not have a bit of fun? You don't have to be too serious as long as it's functional at the end of the day.'

While they were trying to come up with ideas for the design, they came across a sketch in an architectural magazine: and that proved to be the inspiration.

Mr Fisher, 63, said: 'I said, tongue in cheek, we could always build something like this, but we thought there was no way Waveney District Council would allow a house with a creature on the chimney.'

However, with the help of an architectural model made by Nigel Perdy, from Halesworth, instead of drawings, the council approved the plans and that original model is now an equally impressive sight sitting in the house. A number of subcontractors were used throughout the project but the couple, who had previously built a house in Tanzania, did most of the work themselves, with the spectacular metal mesh dragon which oversees the property created by a man they met at the Hampton Court Flower Show.

Mr Fisher said: 'In the original sketch there was some sort of creature that was indeterminate, that gave a balance to the building and took away the element of height.

'At Hampton Court Flower Show we saw a big metal dragon and realised that was what it must be.'

Today the finished article attracts a lot of attention as well as awards, with visitors to their holiday cottages and passers-by asking questions and taking pictures of the house.

The Belle Grove holiday cottages are also vying for a gold award at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2012.

Mrs Jordan has written a book about the couple's time in Tanzania. African Approaches: Roads to a Far-Off Place will be released on May 10.

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