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‘Awe-inspiring’ properties vying to be Grand Designs: House of the Year 

They’re billed as the most ‘awe-inspiring’ homes that have made the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’ House of the Year shortlist… and the second episode of Grand Designs: House of the Year did not disappointment with a remarkable set of homes. 

In the second programme of the series, airing tonight on Channel 4, Kevin and his co-presenters, architect Damion Burrows, Natasha Huq and design expert Michelle Ogundehin, visited five properties battling it out for a place on the shortlist, all of which push the boundaries in conventional design. 

Each week he’ll exclusively reveal which houses the RIBA judges have put through to the shortlist, and in the final programme announce the winner of this prestigious prize.

The second episode, which focuses on RIBA’s pick of the country’s most awe-inspiring homes, features a cow-shed converted into a stunning library, a hay barn transformed into a family home and an impressive modern extension crafted amongst the ruins of a paper factory. 

They’re billed as the most ‘awe-inspiring’ homes that have made the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’ House of the Year shortlist… and the second episode of Grand Designs: House of the Year did not disappointment with a remarkable set of homes

Among the properties featured on the programme was a cow-shed which had been converted into a stunning library and living area

Among the properties featured on the programme was a cow-shed which had been converted into a stunning library and living area 

Kevin explained: ‘Today we’re looking at five buildings that have transformed existing structures. Extraordinary new homes which reuse and reimagine old bones. 

‘The houses in this category have all undergone incredible transformations. Like Clarke Kent stepping into a phone box, they started out unremarkable before emerging bigger, stronger and far far more handsome.

‘Whether they conjure luxury from a humble hovel or breath new life into crumbling ruins, these architectural shape shifters show that even the most unpromising raw material can in the right hands be spun into gold.’ 

A Dutch Barn and grain silo in West Sussex

Meanwhile one couple revealed how they had converted an old hay barn on the family's farm into a stunning new home - complete with a grain silo look-out point  (pictured)

Meanwhile one couple revealed how they had converted an old hay barn on the family’s farm into a stunning new home – complete with a grain silo look-out point  (pictured) 

The ground floor contains three bedrooms and an office, while upstairs, a walk-way connects the tower and the main house. On the first floor is a large open plan kitchen and living area, to make the most of the stunning views across the garden

The ground floor contains three bedrooms and an office, while upstairs, a walk-way connects the tower and the main house. On the first floor is a large open plan kitchen and living area, to make the most of the stunning views across the garden 

Paul and Pauline said they were keen to maintain the integrity of the Dutch Barn on their land, but also to inject new life into the shell of the building

Paul and Pauline said they were keen to maintain the integrity of the Dutch Barn on their land, but also to inject new life into the shell of the building 

The first long-listed house on the programme was the Dutch Barn, which was located in West Sussex. 

Here, once upon a time, stood a rusty old barn which was owned by Paul and Pauline. Pauline said: ‘I grew up living on the farm and the barn itself was all about hay making. Hay making was a huge job, every summer.’

Meanwhile Paul said: ‘I’d come down here, help Pauline’s dad load up a tractor with loads of hay and stacking it in the barn.’

Pauline added: ‘It was really happy days.’

Paul and Pauline ran their business, an eight acre garden, from the barn, which they managed themselves. 

The barn had been transformed, covered in sleek black, to become a trendy living space with a luxurious interiors.

Michelle praised it as an ‘amazing transformation’, adding: ‘I’ve never seen a barn which looks that luxurious. It’s super, super sleek.’

Pauline said they had managed to keep a ‘lovely fine look to it’ which was ‘simple and humble.’

She said: ‘Always we were thinking, “It has to fit into the agricultural landscape.’

Meanwhile the family also had a grain silo which they used as a viewing tower to see across the garden.

The ground floor contained three bedrooms and an office, while upstairs, a walk-way connects the tower and the main house.

On the first floor was a large open plan kitchen and living area, to make the most of the stunning views across the garden.

The RIBA judges were wowed by the glamorous living space, and said they were amazed it appeared ‘both grand but intimate.’

The luxurious barn hadn’t forgotten its humble origins however – with Michelle saying it felt ‘authentic.’

Pauline said: ‘We are not trying to be pretentious, I just love the simplicity of it.’

Paul added: ‘We wanted to keep the structure as visible as possible.’

Pauline said she could remember being in the lofty space as a child.

Architect Andy Rendel explained: ‘Traditionally these buildings are very adult in character. They’re sort of patch-repaired with materials lying around, and not formally composed or designed. 

‘So ironically, I think there was a lot of thought going into making it appear somewhat undesigned.’

Michelle said the key that was in the artfully undesigned building was the grain silo, with metalworker Rob Longley saying: ‘I guess it took about three months. It’s quite a big thing, but like anything, you start with a single step and go from there.

‘It’s basically a bolt together job.’

The internal staircase gave visitors to the garden direct access to the tower and a chance to see the barn at very close quarters.

Paul said: ‘I think people often don’t realise it’s own home.’

Pauline added: ‘I have caught people peering right into our bedroom. We don’t mind, we’re sharing our whole life and garden with people all the time. 

‘We like to be generous with what we have, we’re so lucky to have this amazing space and it’s so lucky we can share it with people.’

Michelle said the original barn was ‘special’, but turning it into a home was the ‘perfect transformation’, adding: ‘it’s often said that the meaning of life is to find your gift, but the purpose in life is to give that away, which is what Paul and Pauline have so generously done.’

16th century paper factory 

Called The Parchment Works, it is a ruined 16th century paper factory, rebooted as an exquisite extension, with delicate glass walls deftly stitching together old stonework and reclaimed brick

Called The Parchment Works, it is a ruined 16th century paper factory, rebooted as an exquisite extension, with delicate glass walls deftly stitching together old stonework and reclaimed brick

The second property featured on the programme was hidden away behind a Georgian cottage in a Northamptonshire village

Called The Parchment Works, it was a ruined 16th century paper factory, rebooted as an exquisite extension, with delicate glass walls deftly stitching together old stonework and reclaimed brick.

When Charlie and Jane bought the grade II listed property, what was behind the main house was a crumbling mess. 

Charlie said: ‘I thought the place was being held up by ivy. What windows had been there had completely rotted.’

Jane said: ‘It’s hard to believe how bad they were.’

Charlie added: ‘I think that’s the thing that put other people off buying it – it was too risky and too much work,’

But they had a secret weapon – their son Will, who is the architect who masterminded the radical transformation.

Kevin called it ‘really, really interesting’ adding it was ‘theatrically gothic’ and ‘very modern build.’

The new extension was built within the remains of two out-buildings that backed onto the main house, a former cattle shed, which now contains a kitchen downstairs and a bedroom, and the paper factory.

Within the factory itself was a living and dining area and a balcony.

The delicate subtle building within a building transformed the ruins into a home, while barely displacing a single stone.

Will said: ‘The project was all about finding the right balance between making this building a habitable building that people can live in and enjoy whilst retaining the historic value of it.

‘The challenge was to retain the historical value of the ruins as much as possible, but we did have to intervene – we had to line point the walls to make them structurally sound.

Much of the carefully restored stonework was left in its ruined form, making a dramatic courtyard.

Inside, was a calm, contemporary living and dining area, which Kevin said was ‘very different and very good.’

The RIBA judges praised the way modern and old materials had been ‘introduced to each other’. 

Meanwhile Will said he was keen to keep the building as authentic to it’s original form as possible.

He said: ‘Our brief to the builder was, whatever is there, keep for us as much as you can. There are rusty nails all over these walls. 

‘There’s some lime paint that’s been thrown over one of these walls, and the builder was determined to scrub it off  but we briefed them, absolutely not.’

All of it was the result of a one year project which was made all the harder by the fact Will and his team were being watched over by an archeologist.

Will said: ‘He made sure they were restoring the ruin as they should, and to make sure they didn’t unearth anything of value.’

But they did find something – an ancient stone bath which was used as part of the parchment process. 

Will said: ‘When we discovered it, it was fully in tact in that position. It was a bit of a find.’

Sustainable London mews house 

Also on the line-up is a London Mews house, which was built in the 19th century but had been recently converted into a stunning modern home

Also on the line-up is a London Mews house, which was built in the 19th century but had been recently converted into a stunning modern home

Also on the line-up is a London Mews house, which was built in the 19th century but had been recently converted into a stunning modern home. 

The property had a corner staircase connecting the open plan ground floor to a bathroom, a main bedroom and  den above. On the top floor, are two children’s bathrooms.

It’s home to Eve, her husband James and their two young children.

Before renovating the house, they lived in it for two years – which was time enough to discover the problems that come from living in a Victorian conversion.

Eve called the property ‘leaky and drafty’, adding: ‘Though there was so much to love about the house itself and the location, it wasn’t that comfortable.’

However Damion said it was a ‘special’ property which had received a radical eco upgrade in order to reduce the energy consumption by a whopping 80 per cent. 

Damion said: ‘It doesn’t feel like a house which has had massive interventions in terms of sustainability.’

Instead of adding thick insulation, the air had been dehumidified and the walls upgraded with plastic.

Meanwhile upstairs, beautifully crafted joinery hid a laundry room on the landing, while timber framed glass panels allowed the family snug to borrow light from the vast stairwell.

Damion praised her for getting the balance ‘exactly right.’

She said: ‘We took it down just to four brick walls at that stage. There was no floor and no ceiling. You think, oh my god, what have we done?’

But what they had done was strip out all the piece-meal changes that had been made to the house throughout the ages, and instead made it a modern masterpiece.

Tom Graham spent 11 months crafting the extraordinary oak staircase, saying: ‘For each of the slats, we would have to cut a specific one. Multiple that by 900 odd times. 

‘When I looked down over the stairs, I had this real moment of, “Wow, we’ve created quite an incredible thing here”.’

Kevin called it an ‘incredible staircase for an incredible building.’

Damion said: ‘It’s a shining example, light filled and spatial deceptive, of how we can respect the past while also respecting the future.’

A lofty library in cowshed

The next long-lister was in the garden of a private house, in an outbuilding which as once part of a working farm but had been converted into a library

The next long-lister was in the garden of a private house, in an outbuilding which as once part of a working farm but had been converted into a library 

The next long-lister was in the garden of a private house, in an outbuilding which as once part of a working farm. 

Kevin said: ‘This simple looking shed hides an interior like no other. The Cowshed looks like one – but inside, it’s being transformed into a fantastical library of drama.’

He called it ‘beautiful, classical and refined’, adding: ‘Working from home has never looked so good.’

At the centre of the reinvented shed was the library, which doubled as a bedroom, while there was also a kitchen, study and a bathroom.

Architect Aidan Crawshaw described the building as it was saying: ‘It was a farm building, it had a tractor in it. It was just an outbuilding, a shed, which was unloved for 50 years. 

‘We wanted to do something which lived up to expectations, which was fabulous.’

Within the form of the cowshed, Aidan created a high vaulted ceiling, which makes you feel like you’re in a church, not a farm building.

He said: ‘We dug it out by hand with machine tools. They worked so hard. It was unbelievable. They were digging for two months. It completely changed the proportions.’

The RIBA judges admired the clever proportions and the way Aidan had left sections of the ceiling open to light the space.

Kevin called it ‘sophisticated but delighting in its humble origins.’

The Grand Designs host added: ‘All of this is very straight forward, its not fine cabinet making.’

Aidan said: ‘We tried to imagine how you would make things if you were on a farm.’

Owner Natalie said: ‘When you come in, its a bit of a wow, but it is not over the top in any way.

‘It’s not daunting, its friendly. I find its totally peaceful. I’m someone who writes letters still and this is a perfect place to write letters.’

The converted Victorian flat  

The final property was on the Isle of Bute in Scotland where the owner Shona's family had happy memories of a tiny flat on the top floor of a Victorian cottage

The final property was on the Isle of Bute in Scotland where the owner Shona’s family had happy memories of a tiny flat on the top floor of a Victorian cottage

The final property was on the Isle of Bute in Scotland  where the owner Shona’s family had happy memories of a tiny flat on the top floor of a Victorian cottage.

She said: ‘My gran brought the property before I was born, my brothers and I spent all our family holidays here. There were five of us squeezed into the space.’

She recalled there was an outdoor toilet and beds squeezed into every location – and six years ago, she inherited the flat before buying the one below it.

Shona explained: ‘It seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something different and transform this place we’d used for years into something a little bit bigger.’

And transform it they did, into The Den, a futuristic zinc cube wrapped around a stunning double height space. However the memories of its past live on, in its carefully conserved Victorian fabric.

What was once two cramped flats is now a single home. A basement houses the bedroom and bathroom, while the ground floor and first floor have been knocked through vertically to create an open plan living space, topped with a mezzanine.

Natasha said it was ‘such a contrast to what is next door’, with Shona saying: ‘it used to look like the one next door, just smaller…until we got to work on it.’

Outside it may be unrecognisable, but inside past and present collide to make a stunning home.

Shona said it was like two different buildings, saying: ‘People passing think it looks like a new build, but inside, it’s got all these rich textures and colors.’

Inside, everything was ripped out to reveal the beautiful exposed sandstone, while original window openings were topped with concrete and filled with sleek aluminum frames.

The judges admired how the two flats had been boldly reconfigured – the key was the multi tasking joinery which made the staircase. 

Shona said: ‘It’s almost a piece of furniture slotted into the middle of the building, it hides all the things that you don’t want people to see. There’s a kitchen here and a bathroom in behind.’

The beautifully crafted staircase reached down into the basement and all the way up to the top of the house, where it turned into storage.

However the steep hill at the back of the property caused problems during the build – while saving the stone work was also difficult.

Meanwhile Shona also confessed the home had become a space for the family to heal after tragedy.  

Shona said: ‘Around six years ago, we lost my son Dylan, who was 18, to suicide. All those memories we have of Dylan are wrapped up here. 

‘But hopefully we can make new memories and have this house for the next generation as well. It is a place we come to remember Dylan but it just feels like he’s still here and part of  that as well.’

Natasha added: ‘I love this house, its like a black box of tricks. But they’ve turned the building inside and out and upside down. It is about remembering the past but embracing the future.’       


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