Kevin McCloud has revealed a converted shipping container and cave are among his all-time favourite Grand Designs in tonight’s commemorative episode.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the hit Channel 4 show, the TV presenter whittled down his top five picks on Kevin’s Grandest Designs.
Among them was a home he called his ‘most visited’ project – a house nicknamed Miss Tiggy Winkle’s mansion in Herefordshire, which has been a work of love for Rowena and Ed since they started building 12 years ago.
Another of Kevin’s most memorable and ambitious self-building projects was by a man called Angelo, who transformed an 800-year-old cave in Worcestershire into a home worthy of the title ‘cave man chic’.
A couple who spent £850K transforming a barn the size of seven three-bedroom houses in Essex into a home also made the cut, as did the impressive Kennington Water Tower conversion, which Kevin dubbed an ‘obscenely expensive’ project.
However, he praised owners Graham and Leigh for restoring the ten-floor Victorian building in London in nine months and it was ‘one of the most dynamic and intelligent restoration projects’ he’s ‘ever had the pleasure to follow.’
But in a final revelation, Kevin admitted that ‘probably’ his all-time favourite build was created by a farmer and architect in Northern Ireland, who turned £10K worth of shipping containers into an architectural delight.
And while undeniably impressive for a variety of reasons, they’re not the only properties worth dedicating an entire episode to.
Other spectacular properties that have featured in the show’s history include a £800k snake-like home that nestles in the Blackdown Hills and a spectacular £7.5million home in Holland Park that was originally a music studio which saw the likes of Shirley Bassey, Queen and John Lennon record there.
THE CONTAINER HOUSE
Derry, Northern Ireland, series 14
Farmer and architect Patrick Bradley created this home in 2013 and the £133k dream home is made entirely out of four shipping containers and located in Derry, Northern Ireland. Kevin dubbed it ‘probably’ his all-time favourite
Patrick’s home is located over a stream at a beautiful and secluded spot on the family farm and the four shipping containers form a giant cross
Patrick decided that a spot on his family farm would be the perfect place to build this impressive project from ship containers, which many deemed impossible. Pictured with Kevin
At the time, Kevin thought the project was a disaster in the making, with the potential to ruin an idyllic spot on the family farm. Patrick faced a desperate uphill struggle to win over his doubters. But Kevin was won over from the project which he later called ‘almost faultless’. Pictured, the living room now with spectacular views
The pioneer has continued his innovative work and has since built a shipping container studio clad in gold which he can work from (pictured)
After the initial programme aired, Patrick (pictured) was inundated with requests from all over the world to design container houses for others
HOUSE ON THE HILL
Herefordshire, series 11
Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s mansion, otherwise known as Ed and Rowena’s handbuild home on the hill featured on series 11 in 2011 (pictured)
Life’s work? The Waghorns, from Herefordshire, began designing their home ten years ago and became the longest-running project ever to feature on Grand Designs
Ed’s ambition was to craft by hand a truly sustainable home with a great vaulted hall at it’s heart. Kevin described it as a ‘living, breathing, ecological self-build.’ Pictured, the view from one of the windows
Ed and Rowena transformed an eight-acre smallholding in Herefordshire into a stunning thatched family home with a ‘cathedral’-style central window
Much of the property used foraged materials with the triangular sandstone tiles being sourced from a local site and cut by Ed’s brother Will
Master craftsman: For Ed, the making of his house was just as important as its completion, which is still ongoing after a decade
Even the kitchen was crafted with Ed’s fair hands, using ‘scavenged for’ wood
The wooden beams were placed in by hand, with the project deadline constantly being pushed back
As well as a tiled and wooden floor, there’s also a rammed earth floor, which involves getting earth from nearby and ‘ramming’ it into the ground, before oiling it
Ed’s been chiseling this building into being for over a decade and is still building right now – as he’s building a home for his mother
THE WATER TOWER
Kennington, series 12
It’s believed owners Leigh Osborne and Graham Voce bought the Grade II listed building for £380,000 – and spent almost £2million converting it from a crumbling ruin into a family home
While Kevin called the Kennington Water Tower (pictured) an ‘obscenely expensive’ project, he praised Graham and Leigh for the restoration of the ten-floor Victorian building in London, which he said was ‘one of the most dynamic and intelligent restoration projects I’ve ever had the pleasure to follow’
While the owners (pictured) have never revealed exactly how much the project exactly cost, they admitted at one stage it was costing them £35,000 a week
The owners told how the view has changed since first starting the transformation, with many other buildings being erected in the surrounding areas
Before the transformation (pictured), the owners had no idea of the challenge ahead
Kevin told how Angelo transformed an 800-year-old cave in Worcestershire dwelling into a home worthy of the title ‘cave man chic’ (pictured)
Despite being diagnosed with MS, Angelo transformed the carve dwellings into a home – with impressive results. Pictured with Kevin
Angelo admitted that he was ‘probably a little bit naive’ before beginning the project and added: ‘I definitely suffered during the process. I had a terrible ringing in my ears for months afterwards.’ Pictured, one of the bedrooms in the cave
Against pain and adversity, Angelo (pictured) carved a modest and wonderful home. Speaking of his ambitious self-build, he said: ‘Reactions from my friends and family was that I’d probably lost my mind, but I think it’s because people couldn’t see what I could see’
Braintree, Essex, series 11
This medieval barn in Essex left viewers stunned after being transformed into a 21st-Century Home – which included artist studios
Kevin first met artists Freddie and Ben (pictured together) ten years ago. They sold their home in London to take on the vast country barn in the Essex countryside. Pictured, after the transformation
Ben revealed that the project proved financially exhausting and told how ‘everything is not just double, it is exponentially more expensive.’ Pictured, the living room after the transformation
Kevin explained that the project is a pure example of when the ‘creatives were allowed to run wild’. Meanwhile, Ben dubbed it ‘very livable’ and added ‘the rain doesn’t come in’
Speaking before starting the project, Freddie said: ‘It’s not a house which will have an upstairs and a downstairs, so it’ll be more like a cathedral’
The couple spent £850K transforming the barn the size of seven three bedroom houses in Essex into a home (pictured)
AND HERE’S HIS OTHER FAVOURITES…
THE FOSSIL SHELL
Blackdown Hills, Devon – series 18
Nature-loving couple Stephen and Elizabeth Tetlow created this £800K home to resemble a fossil shell in 2017 – the couple wanted a house which reflected their respective passions – his work as an engineer and Elizabeth’s as a horticulturist
Inspiration for this home came from a fossilised ammonite shell Stephen spotted on a desk and he drew up the plans himself with the help of a single architect
The modern interior of the home boasted a curved roof which followed the same pattern of the home’s exterior and had a white and bronze colour scheme which perfectly complimented the house’s wooden paneling
The home has breathtaking views over the Blackdown Hills where Somerset borders Devon and features several windows around the house for the couple to enjoy natural light throughout the day
THE FORMER RECORDING STUDIO
Holland Park, London – series 12
This £7.5million home in Holland Park was created by interior designer Audrey Lovelock and her husband Jeff after being converted from Lansdowne Studios, which saw the likes of Shirley Bassey, Queen and John Lennon record there
The stunning home was bought from the studio’s owner and engineer Adrian Kerridge in 2006 and is now a four-bedroom flat
The four double bedrooms each has an en suite bathroom, a luxury wet room, gym, cinema room and wine room as well as two terraces one of which can be used for parking
The converted flat is in Lansdowne House, which was built in 1904 as a place where struggling painters could work, and there are 11 other flats in the building
THE GLASS HOUSE
Brixton, series 12
The Winter Palace in Brixton was designed by architect Carl Turner for himself and his partner Mary Martin in 2013 and the eco-friendly £1.5million house in South London boasts three-storeys and a glacial exterior
This home’s exterior was achieved through the use of milky glass panels over polished concrete and Mr Turner claimed the insulation is so good it is one of the most energy-efficient homes in the UK
The home’s modern interior features simple white walls, sliding doors of white birch ply, some coated with a thin layer of steel and is decorated with chic matching furniture
The minimalist home has a grey and white colour scheme and features a geometric-style stair case and the home has underfloor heating
Patrick designed both the interior and exterior of the containers and the qualified architect created a home that could work on a dual level, fulfilling his needs as farmer, and also an architect
THE SHED HOUSE
County Down, series 18
Micah and Elaine Jones, pictured with Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, in their wooden and concrete home
Architect Micah designed his own very grand interpretation of a shed – a four bedroom home in the footprint of the agricultural buildings he demolished
The home was built from timber shipped all the way from Austria on the back of a truck, and the kitchen featured intricate hand-painted tiles lovingly made by his Micah’s wife Elaine
Micah crafted the curved walls in the bathroom with a DIY steam bath to bend the panels before applying
The couple – who had two sons at the beginning of the project and an extra daughter by the end after Elaine fell pregnant – added bright splashes of colour for their children
The couple bought the 0.6 acre plot of land for £80,000 and decided to knock down the buildings that were on the land
Inspired by the sheds he grew up around Micah designed a shed-style structure clad in timber and stone from the buildings that were knocked down
Kent, series 9
Designed for his family by architect Richard Hawkes, the framework of this project is based on a medieval design, known as timbrel vaulting, which can be seen in the dome-shaped roof
The building explores the uniqueness of ‘place’ as well as harnessing solar energy to generate all its own electricity and features a stunning vaulted ceiling
The building demonstrates how contemporary design can celebrate local materials and crafts and integrate new technologies
Sussex, series 3
Built in Prickly Nut Wood, near Midhurst in West Sussex, Ben Law’s intriguing three-bed home is made out of sweet chestnut coppiced from the surrounding woodland
Putting down roots: Ben Law and his self-built house. The build cost £28,000 and used an impressive 300 barley bales to form the walls
Back in 2008, Ben Law put the wooden wonder on the market for £365,000. It took just eight months to built
Co-op, Brighton, series 1
Kevin saw a record-breaking co-operative of ten families build their own homes on the edge of Brighton back in 1996
CEDAR CLAD CONTEMPORARY BOX
Stirling, series 6
After building this project and bring put off by the busy road ruining their stunning views of Camsie Fells, Theo and Elaine Leijser decided to build a big box window on the front of the building
South Downs, series 16
This impressive house is located within the South Downs National Park and features a contemporary design, while the waterside-build means it benefits from its exquisite views, overlooking the River Ouse
MODEST CONTEMPORARY HOME
Woodbridge, series 10
Hoo House, designed by Lucy Fairweather and her partner Nat McBride, is a stylish and eco-friendly family home with views across some of Suffolk’s most beautiful countryside
Isle of Wight
Architectural designer Lincoln Miles was the brains behind the transformation of this Seventies bungalow on the Isle of Wight
A Q&A with Grand Design’s presenter Kevin McCloud
Kevin McCloud opens up about adding value to property, and predicts what interiors trends will be popular in the future
What is your advice for people taking on their first self-build or renovation project? What are the common mistakes – and any tips on how to avoid them?
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. The designs stage is about sorting problems quickly and cheaply ahead of time, so if you spend 3 years planning then you might spend 18 months building, if you spend 18 months planning then you’ll spend 3 years building, and it will cost a fortune.
Use cost consultants and quantity surveyors to properly cost the whole project. When I ask people at the beginning of each programme, “what’s your budget?”, what they usually tell me is a notional figure based on what they want to spend, not what it’s costed at. People so rarely have it costed and that’s why most of them do go over budget a bit and some have even doubled in cost.
You should also work with an architect who shares the same view of the world as you do and choose a builder you trust. You should always work with great people; don’t believe you can do it all yourself. If you happen to know a good builder who’s worked with you before and you like them and trust them, use them. If your brother or sister or friend has used a great builder, use them.
What would your top tips be for adding value to your home?
The vast majority of homes in the country are not designed by architects and they’re not designed to fit where they are. They’re pattern-book homes that just sit where they are regardless of where the sun is, where the outlook is and whether there’s a view.
What architecture can do is put you in greater contact with the outdoors. Think about ways in which you can remodel your home and bring in light to make it feel bigger.
I think light adds a sense of space and a view adds a sense of connection. A friend of mine did a lovely thing in a terraced house – he had a view out the back over some really scrappy yards and above them were some trees.
And all he did was frost the lower half of his window, so all he saw was the tops of the trees waving in the wind.
Another way of adding value of course is to add space, whether that’s by adding a kitchen or a conservatory or even an annex at the bottom of the garden.
People are looking now for ways of living which are flexible and adaptable, that allow them to have a friend to stay or give them somewhere to work away from the office. Don’t necessarily make a room explicitly and only for your needs, make it adaptable.
Another way to add value is to look after the building, care for it, love it, be proud of it.
The most interesting homes I visit are not showrooms for trendy furniture, they’re houses that feel lived in and that are full of people’s personal effects.
Estate agents will tell you exactly the opposite but if you want to add personal value to your home make it a view of your tastes, of your objects – your autobiography.
What trend predictions would you have for properties in the next decade or so? Any old-trends coming back into style?
I wouldn’t know a trend if it hit me in the face. I kind of like simple stuff and trends always seem to interfere with that.
There’s one thing that I’ve noticed which is really odd and that’s an absolute tidal wave of grey paint that people just assume is going to sort everything out.
In the 60s when we painted our houses we painted everything gloss white. In the 70s and 80s people started introducing brown wood.
So it was a great relief to me when, in the late 90s, people started using not brown stain, but grey paint, or grey powder coated aluminium.
Now any developer or any builder that wants to sell a home quickly will just paint the front door grey. It’s a little bit like living in George Orwell’s 1984. “Oh, it’s a pile of old rubbish? Let’s just paint it grey, no one will notice.”
Personally, I think the next big thing is going to be aluminium-clad timber windows, and the finish is going to be an anodised, matte, shot blasted pink – in other words it’s going to be Apple’s space pink. All the colours that Apple phones come in are now going to set the palette for windows for the next 10 years.
And what interior trends are no longer fashionable – any that we should ditch?
Bling. I’m telling you that bling is dead. And the reason that I’m telling you it’s dead is because it’s not, but I really wish it were! So by saying it, I’m going to make it happen.
What do you see as the future of self-builds in this country?
This is a numbers game. Earlier this year we did this series called The Street which we’d been filming for six years.
It’s a really important series that represented Grand Designs for everybody – the idea that we could all go out there and build a house for 150 or 250 grand on a plot costing a hundred.
The Bicester project is an amazing story of one council’s determination to try and get something done.
We made that series with two purposes in mind. One was to promote self-build to a wider audience (we’ve done that) and the other was to shame other local authorities into finding land and doing the same thing.
And other local authorities are now following on, the government’s self-build portal is a really solid, really helpful way of getting into it and the National Custom and Self Build Association are now running courses to get more people involved – so it’s a great time to be doing it, it’s never been easier.
And the mortgage market is actually becoming more flexible in offering mortgages for self-builders.
Not only that, but around the corner is a similar opportunity for people that are on the social housing list to do the same thing, with co-housing groups and housing associations.
What can we look forward to in the upcoming series of Grand Designs?
There’s the usual rollercoaster of emotions, stories of loss and of gain, of hardship and of triumph – Grand Designs has always traded in those big ideas.
One of our contributors in this series has sailed across the Atlantic – that’s quite a feat. And he compares self-build with that experience.
Although he says actually with sailing, once you sight land you feel great. With self-build, as you’re finishing a project you feel like you’ll never ever get there, you’ll never get to the end. So, it’s actually worse than sailing across the Atlantic.
This series we’ve got design for disability, design for serious illness, some great architectural ideas. Grand Designs has never been about the middle ground, it’s always been about people on the margins doing adventurous, difficult stuff and this series doesn’t disappoint. It’s a cracker.