Grand Designs: House of the Year round up – homes made from ‘exquisitely crafted materials’
Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud was joined by architect Damion Burrows and design expert and writer Michelle Ogundehin to explore five homes across the country that battled it out to be included on the RIBA shortlist. Each week, the experts will be exploring homes in four distinct categories. Last week, Kevin, Damion and Michelle viewed homes that “take us by surprise”. In episode two, they will be looking at five more homes all selected for their “exquisitely crafted materials”.
Kevin said: “The houses in this category all excel in their use of materials.
“Some of them are like master craftsman taking time-honoured wood and stone and patiently honing it to polished perfection.
“Others, they’re more like mad scientists experimenting with poured concrete or elaborately engineered steel.
“These houses don’t just show us what they’re made of, they celebrate it. They revel in it.”
Every week, Kevin will unveil which houses the RIBA judges have put through to the shortlist.
The final episode will reveal the overall winner of the most coveted prize for residential architecture in the UK.
The first home in the programme is a “rusty old barn” in rural Lincolnshire designed by id architecture.
However, as Kevin points out, this is “no ordinary rusty old barn”.
The top half of the structure is made from weathering steel, known as COR-TEN steel.
The bottom half is made from chunky concrete and black laminate cladding.
The property is a smorgasbord of different materials which the RIBA judges admired for the way they were put together.
The property is home to Henry, a civil engineer, Jen, who works in finance and their children Percy, aged two, and Pippa who’s eight months.
Henry said: “Our previous house that we lived in before was just a small little cottage in a local village.
Grand Designs: House of the Year – Wolds Barn
Grand Designs: House of the Year – Slot House
“It was just a two-up, two-down semi-detached cottage.”
Henry said he always knew they wanted something a bit bigger with kids planned in their future and had outgrown their small village property.
The beautiful, contemporary home is not what you would expect to find in the middle of rural Lincolnshire – and there’s a good reason why.
Originally, this isn’t what the couple had in mind when they wanted to build a home.
Jen said: “We just wanted to build a standard house we could grow old in, with maybe a wooden beamed porch.
“That’s what we had in our heads when we went to the architect. And it got blown out the water.”
Due to it being a “sensitive rural area”, the architects said the only way they could build a new home is if it was of “exceptional quality”.
Downstairs buried into the bank of a hill are a garage and a plant room.
On the garden side, there is a large kitchen, dining room and living area which span the width of the house.
Upstairs there is a neat row of five bedrooms with the main bedroom in the cantilevered pod.
Kevin described the home as “beautifully crafted concrete”.
Located in the dense streets of south London, Slot House, which was designed by Sandy Rendel architects with Sally Rendel, is an incredible home squeezed into a tiny 2.8-metre width gap.
The husband-and-wife team, Sally and Sandy Rendel, challenged themselves to create a home from a footprint the size of a London tube carriage.
Sandy said: “It’s not this grand piece of architecture, or anything like that at all, it’s the opposite.
“It’s a very modest little house which hopefully proves you can create something of worth in an incredibly tight little space.”
Before the house was built, the land was used as an access route to get behind the shops on the main road.
When they bought the disused alleyway, it already came with planning permission for a three-bedroom family home.
However, the couple decided against making it into a family home but instead wanted to make it sustainable and comfortable to live in.
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Sally said: “We were told more than once by developers that we were under-developing.
“But actually, we wanted to make something with some joy, sustainable and lovely to live in.”
The open-plan ground floor contains a double-height kitchen and living area, while upstairs there was a bedroom, bathroom and mezzanine study.
Michelle said the property is bigger and lighter than she was expecting it to be.
The RIBA judges celebrated the way the building materials have been left exposed like the timber joists.
“Nothing as been plaster-boarded or skimmed,” said Kevin.
The project took the couple over four years to complete and includes space-saving ideas like brick slips instead of traditional bricks which are a third of the size.
Designed by Groves-Raines architects, this property is a Scandi-Scottish dream located in the craggy highlands.
The property has rugged, natural walls with a traditional slate roof and locally quarried stone floors.
However, the interior could not be more different with exquisitely crafted Danish oak.
The property is a stylish eco-retreat that’s for rent with the money going to conservation projects to plant trees and enhance ecology.
The layout is elegant and simple with a sitting room and kitchen downstairs and a bedroom and a bathroom upstairs.
Until recently, the property was a derelict, windowless farmhouse.
Architect Gunnar Groves-Raines spoke to Damion about the “incredible” structure.
Gunnar said: “The first thing we looked at was how can we really opened up to the views.
“We were quite careful about where we placed the openings, so that as you approached the building, they’re concealed by the natural form of the landscape.
“So what you see is the original openings on the upper level but not these big openings on the lower level.
“We were very keen that whatever we put in here doesn’t stand out as something overtly modern.”
Kevin described the interior as “full-on Scandi-Scottish modern”.
The kitchen is wall-to-wall kiln-dried Danish oak, strengthened and stabilised with delicate butterfly joints.
The kitchen cost “tens of thousands of pounds” and was almost ruined on its way over from Denmark.
Gunnar said: “When the oak arrived actually, at some point on the way, it got transferred from the lorry into a smaller truck so it lost its covering.
“By the time it arrived here it was completely uncovered in the rain. There was a moment of panic. It was a scary moment.
“Thankfully, our builder is a joiner by trade and he really understands what needed to happen to the timber to protect it, to get it dried out, to get it stable, to stop it from twisting. He was really able to salvage almost all of it.”
The RIBA judges compared the joinery to fine cabinetry and praised the faultless execution of every element of the home.
Grand Designs: House of the Year – Kyle House
Grand Designs: House of the Year – Grain House
Behind a brick Victorian home in East London is Grain House, a home made almost entirely from wood, designed by Hayhurst & Co Architects.
Described by Kevin as a “wooden wonderland”, the house is draped in Siberian larch batons.
Some have been pained black while others remain natural.
Inside, the property includes Douglas fir, oak, ash and walnut and is a wooden extension to a renovated Victorian house.
In the new wing of the house, there is a kitchen dining space connected to a snug lower ground floor sitting room, bedroom and bathroom.
At the side of the house is a connecting staircase that wraps around a double height courtyard.
The property is home to Max, Lucy and their daughter Silvia, aged five.
The RIBA judges were captivated by the two-storey courtyard and the stairs that draw you into the extension.
“How fitting to have a living tree in a home that’s a shrine to wood of every variety,” Kevin said.
Lucy was intensely involved in the project and visited the site every week when the home was being renovated.
Max said: “The amount of research Lucy said on the materials was extensive.
“I remember being shown a constant array of different tile finishes or marbles or wall finishes or…research was in overdrive…
“I remember the builders getting angry because you were taking a long time picking light switches.
“Absolutely everything was a long long process in terms of choosing the final finish.”
Lucy also found the best craftsman for the job to do the kitchen, Sebastian Cox.
Grand Designs: House of the Year – House for Theo & Oskar
House for Theo & Oskar
In the Surrey Hills lies a seemingly normal 1930s cottage with a delightful surprise hidden at the back.
“From the front you would never imagine this,” said Michelle who was visiting the property.
Designed by Tigg + Coll Architects, the property has a remarkable and complicated wooden roof thats stretches for 11 metres.
The home is designed to bring delight to 10-year-old Theo and eight-year-old Oskar.
Both children were born with a rare genetic disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
They live here with their four-year-old brother Luca and parents Nick and Clara.
Nick said: “For us, the house represents the possibility for Theo and Oskar, with the disease they have, and then just getting the most out of life that they can get out of life.
“What happens in the profession of a Duchenne boy, is the muscles slowly waste.
“By about 11 or 12, they’ll be in a wheelchair full-time. By about 18, they will be on a ventilator, probably, of some description. And they normally die in their mid-twenties.”
A fully wheelchair accessible single-storey extension was added to the original house with Theo and Oskar’s bedrooms opening out onto the garden.
Behind their rooms is Luca’s room and a wet room.
An open-plan family kitchen and garden room connects the new with the old where the parents have their own sitting room.
The leaf canopy-like roof was suggested to Nick and Clara by husband and wife architects David Tigg and Rachael Coll.
David said: “This whole design, it was about the relationship with the garden.
“The trees around us and nature as a whole. It shelters, it was brought dappled sunlight through it, it gave shade during the high summer months. It gave a place for the boys to play.”
The beautiful project didn’t come cheap so Nick fundraised by running 20km everyday for 20 days.
It didn’t raise enough but it did catch the attention of a friend’s partner Peter McCall who worked for a large firm of property developers.
Peter said: “When I took it forward to my CEO – he has five kids, three sons and I have three sons- you just look at this family and ourselves and…there, for the grace of god, goes any of us. And if we could do something, then we should try to do it.”
The company provided expert personnel on the site for free and contacted all their suppliers asking if they would be willing to contribute.
Peter said: “All of them stood up and said, ‘Absolutely, if you want help, tell us what you need’. It was a genuine surprise that no one backed off.”
Grand Designs: House of the Year airs tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm
Episodes are available to stream on All 4