Kevin McCloud’s favourite Grand Designs houses of all time

Find out which Grand Designs TV homes have made Kevin McCloud’s shortlist

From a water tower to a fairytale wooden cottage, from homes made with straw bales to those dug out of the ground, these ten self-builds are the very best of Grand Designs

Title image: Aidan Monaghan

Shipping container house

shipping container house featured on Channel 4's grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Aidan Monaghan

Four shipping containers make up the structure of this house. The budget was £130,000 and it took seven months to build. The containers were stacked in a cross shape and covered in natural-coloured cladding that differentiates between the communal and the private spaces. From Series 14, 2014.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘This is where engineering and steel meet landscape and it is beautiful. It’s rare to come to a place and find a building that lifts the spirits, such as this. This is proper architecture, a genius exercise in upcycling and, now, a powerful part of this place.’

Straw bale eco home

Straw bale eco house featured on channel 4 grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Stephen Morley

The site of this property was big enough for six houses and cost just £78,000. It took five years to clear the site and the build cost £600,000. Straw bales and sandbag cladding were unusual ingredients for a London build that turned out to be far from conventional. From Series one, 1999.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘This is remarkable. Simon and Jasmine are heroes of the self-build community and I am proud to know them. It hasn’t and won’t destroy the planet, and it hasn’t cost the earth. It’s not just an example of how we could, and should live, this is a clarion call.’

Ben Law’s wooden house

Ben Law's wooden house featured on Channel 4's grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Stephen Morley

This project took eight months and cost £28,000. The walls were made using 300 barley bales and 4.5 million viewers watched the show. From Series three, 2003.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘It’s an eloquent essay about sustainability… a love story between one man and a place.’

Monty’s underground home

Monty's underground home featured on Channel 4's grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Jake Curtis

Planning permission took 2.5 years for this stunning property. It cost £220,000 including the plot and two tree preservation orders were issued. It features a retractable roof that measures 10.5sqm. Other features include an LED light fitting that doubles as a shower, and a bed that slides away to reveal a bath. From Series five, 2005.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘With its hidden baths and sinks, there is a magical side to this home. ’

Twenty-first century chalet

21st century chalet featured on Channel 4 grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Thearle Photography

The owners bought their plot in Woodbridge, Suffolk in 2006 and planning permission was granted in 2007. A year later one of the owners was diagnosed with cancer and later passed away. The house was scaled down and building costs were cut back, but despite these unbelievable challenges, what emerged was house that was beautiful, sustainable, dramatic and truly inspiring. From Series ten, 2010.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘I love this place… a home with all the attitude and resilience of its owner’

Kent water tower

Kent water towerfeatured on Channel 4's grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Edina van der Wyck

The water tower was originally built in 1915 and the owners reinstated architect Sir Edwin Lutyens’ original roof and cut windows into the concrete walls. The project took just over a year to complete and costs escalated by £50,000. The property is 50sqm bigger than the average UK self-build. From Series six, 2006.

Kevin McCloud says: ‘A build with vision and integrity’

Isle of Wight house

Isle of wight house featured on Channel 4's grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Elizabeth Zeschin

The owners transformed a 1970s bungalow on a budget of £200,000. The reworked Seventies bungalow was clad in burnt larch on the outside and filled with Modernist art inside. The owners quadrupled the footprint of the property, extending it at both ends, and included a private living space for their daughter in the centre. From Series ten, 2010.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘It’s one of the great illusions of architecture, pulled off with utter bravado’

Arched eco home

An arched eco home as featured on Channel 4's grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Douglas Gibb

The arched frame of this Kent property was inspired by a 14th-century technique. The one-acre plot included a worse-for-wear Thirties bungalow, which the owners bought in 2006 for £353,000. Their aim was to use local skills and materials and reduce pollution. The house is now one of the best-performing Passivhaus dwellings in the UK. From Series nine, 2009.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘It is one of the greatest illusions of architecture, pulled off here with utter bravado. Richard has produced a beautiful house full of surprises, of joys of delight; it is creative but it is also risk-taking and ground-breaking. It is an architectural first in this country.’

Isle of Skye house

Isle of Skye house featured on Channel 4's grand designs tv show

Image: Douglas Gibb

The owners saved for 10 years to fund the build for this 90sqm home. It was completed within nine months and energy bills are just £50 a year. The house is sympathetic to its enviable location yet very different from the nearby local cottages. It has a unique lozenge shape with concrete foundations and reinforced steel ribs to counter the challenging weather conditions of Skye. From Series 12, 2012.

Kevin McCloud says:  ‘It’s nestling beautifully into its setting… one of my favourite houses. Ever’

Artists’ barn conversion

artists' barn conversion featured on channel 4's grand designs tv show with kevin mccloud

Image: Rachael Smith

The original barn in Colchester, Essex, dated from around 1560. The owners saved £500,000 on the surveyor’s quote of £1.3million. A modern roof belies the stripped back nature of the interior. There’s no plasterboard or paint to hide the bare bones of the structure and the shell of the barn has been transformed into a liveable space. From Series 11, 2011.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘Most of us when faced with a building of this scale and size would get freaked out by the challenge of doing anything with it – but not Ben and Freddie. What they made was a grand, triumphant addition to their collective autobiography of made things... I love this place… a home with all the attitude and resilience of its owner... A triumphant addition to their autobiography of made things.’

Find out more about the Grand Designs TV houses at Grand Designs Live

From original article on Grand Designs Magazine

Image: Aidan Monaghan; Stephen Morley; Jefferson Smith; Jake Curtis; Thearle Photography; Edina van der Wyck; Elizabeth Zeschin; Douglas Gibb; Rachael Smith

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