BAFTA winning Grand Designs is widely recognized as the pre-eminent series on modern architecture and design in Britain. It was originally conceived as a documentary series presented by designer and writer Kevin McCloud that takes us into the heart of life's great unfolding human stories, where ordinary families risk all to experiment with architecture, technology, and their own lifestyle.
Now in its seventeenth year, Grand Designs is one of Channel 4's biggest returnable factual series and has grown into a global phenomenon, selling in over 100 territories. Apart from the TV series, the Grand Designs brand has also expanded to include books, a monthly magazine, architectural awards and a biannual exhibition, Grand Designs Live.
Ep 8 WIRRAL TX 17th Nov 2016
How do you turn your small ‘60s dormer bungalow into a generous 21st century piece of slick architecture for just £175k? Stuart and Rosie Treasurer from the Wirral are brave enough to give it a try. Their plan is to dramatically decapitate their bungalow, cutting the roof off to leave just the walls, then balance a big new floating timber box on top to create 5 bedrooms for them, their two children and guests.
Their plan to keep costs down is equally extreme – they’ll have contractors build the new box structure, then Stuart and Rosie will take over. They’ll do plumbing and electrics themselves, then move in with the kids while they complete the interior. They’ll spend as little as they can on insulation and leave elements of the building unfinished, expose the ceiling joists and not cover the bare blockwork walls.
The hope is to both save money and get a stylish industrial look in the process, but right from the start the extra detailing work required to get the ‘unfinished’ look is in danger of proving a false economy. Then the stress levels really increase when the rough-and-ready unsanded cladding on the outside of the building goes on – and the neighbours begin to grumble about the ultra-modern wooden box going up in the middle of their traditional suburban area...
Ep 7 HONITON TX 2nd Nov 2016
If you want to make life tricky, try building a new house with a huge, complex curvy roof. If you live in the countryside you could even make it the shape of a plough. And if that’s not challenge enough, why not build a barn at the same time. That’s exactly what Mark and Candida Diacono and their daughter Nell are doing on their 17 acre smallholding in Devon. Alongside their sweeping wedge shape new home, they’ll build a working barn for cookery courses and to process their highly unusual produce like Szechuan peppers, quinces and pecan nuts.
Mark and Candida set themselves an ambitious schedule of just 7 months to build their matching house and barn – each from very different materials. The house has a timber frame and timber cladding, whereas the barn is all steel frame and traditional Devon cob. It’s a unique technical challenge, and it’s a unique builder taking it on too - a man with his own mission to bring work and skills to local people. It’s a non-traditional set of farm buildings made by a non-conventional team of people. But will it prove a recipe for success, or disaster?
Ep 6 PEMBROKESHIRE TX 26th Oct 2016
Can you really build a Grand Design when you’ve only got £500 to start with? That’s what Simon and Jasmine Dale had in the bank when they started to build their unique 3 bedroom family house high up in the hills of rural Pembrokeshire. They’ve got their own take on 21st century low-impact self-building – foraged and recycled materials put together with infinite care and craftsmanship, not money. Despite the budget their house will be open plan, have underfloor heating, inside flushing loo and a set of greenhouses that wouldn’t disgrace Kew Gardens.
If that wasn’t enough of a tall order, they are also part of a pioneering, government backed, sustainable village called Lammas which has a fierce planning condition attached. In return for the right to build on open farmland they have to prove they can become self-sufficient on their 7 acre plot within 5 years.
It’s a huge double challenge. With sheer hard work, help from nearly 300 volunteers from all over the world and immense skill, Simon and Jasmine’s house slowly rises out of the hillside. Alongside the build, they struggle to hit the self-sufficiency target set by the council. The stakes are high - fail to hit the deadline and they won’t be able to live in the house they’ve laboured over for years.
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Ep 5 BOLTON TX 19th Oct 2016
Can you really teach an old dog new tricks? Paul Rimmer trained as a bricklayer and spent over forty years restoring and renovating the Victorian terraces of Bolton. Now he’s taking on one last job. Turning his back on his beloved bricks, he wants to hand build a state-of-the-art contemporary home for £350k - not out of brick, but out of wood.
He ropes in wife Carol, daughter Abby and favoured workmates to take on construction of the vast, ultra-modern five-bedroom house. Hammered by extreme weather, they soon fall behind. Despite also running a busy catering business, Carol spends every spare moment she has on site with Paul and their tiny workforce. At the point of exhaustion, it then gets worse when their current house fails to sell, funding dries up and the entire project is put at risk…
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Ep 4 ESSEX TX 12th Oct 2016
After artist and teacher Michelle Parsons recovered from serious illness, she and her architect husband David decided it was time to seize the day and build the private hideaway they’d always yearned for. Having found a beautiful plot hidden away in an Essex woodland, David devised a sleek, black clad, three bedroom house with a separate artist studio for Michelle. In their drive for privacy however, they also took the radical decision to have no windows on the front of the house, or along one side, so no-one could ever see in. With a modest budget of £230,000, and Michelle and David project managing themselves, their build gets off to a sticky start. After a dangerous gas leak, torrential rain turns the site into a mud bath. Even as the building finally starts to take shape, the big question still remains – without windows on 2 sides, could their new home turn out to be just a gloomy bunker in a glade…?
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Ep 3 SOUTH CORNWALL TX 5th Oct 2016
Tom and Danielle Raffield's lifelong passion is steam bending wood into extraordinary curvy shapes. They’ve spent much of their lives using the technique to make small-scale furniture and lighting, but now they’re taking their craft to the next level. Desperate to escape the tiny 44 square metre gamekeeper’s lodge they currently live in, Tom and Danielle decide to build a spectacular wavy wooden house for themselves and their two children in a wood in South Cornwall. Their new home will have curvy steambent cladding, twisty hand made furniture and interior walls covered with a smorgasbord of naturally-weathered timber from their woodland.
With just a 100k budget to play with, they get stuck into building as much of their bendy home themselves as they can. At first they just about cope with Danielle project managing and looking after the kids while Tom keeps their business running in the workshop. However when business suddenly takes off and they’re inundated with orders, then there’s news of a third child on the way, they’re soon close to being overwhelmed…
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Ep 2 HORSHAM TX 28th Sept 2016
Why are our homes so often designed to be so serious, and dominated by the purely practical? Surely there’s space for a bit more fun isn’t there? That’s what Matt and Sophie White from Sussex believe. They want to build a giant family house of fun for themselves and their three children. It’ll be a mysterious black, zinc-clad home kitted out with a revolving bookcase door, secret dens, hiding places behind one-way mirrors, and a fireman’s pole that takes you from floor to floor – just like an episode of Scooby Doo.
Unusually Matt wants the house to evolve, both during the build and in the future, so he uses a steel frame system which means they can change the layout whenever they want. There are other changes too - like amending the window shapes and sizes and adding a new half floor to create a James Bond room. This approach of designing and altering things as the build progresses, along with all the unusual playful features, proves somewhat disorientating for the builders, and Kevin. Just what will this house look like in the end?...
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Ep 1 GLOUCESTERSHIRE TX 21st Sept 2016
What can you do with an overgrown, neglected half acre plot in the heart of a Gloucestershire town, especially when it contains 27 protected trees? It could be the perfect plot to build a house if you were allowed to cut down the trees and clear the site. But that’s the last thing on local plumber Jon Martin and ceramicist Noreen Jaafar’s minds; they have a much better solution. They love trees and they love their home town, so they’re going to build a big modern tree house. Way up in the treetops, it’ll have stilts screwed into the earth to avoid the roots and balconies high up where they can see for miles and literally touch the branches. The only problem is actually building it, especially for their modest £268k budget.
It takes almost two years to crack the engineering for the complicated, bespoke steel frame. Then when that’s finally complete money proves so tight they’re forced to build the rest of the house themselves. It proves an epic self-build, 40 feet up in the canopy, as they wrestle their ambitious stepped box design into life with an assortment of local friends. Only their dream of living high up amongst the trees keeps an exhausted Jon and Noreen battling towards the finish…
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