• Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Former village school compete for Grand Designs: House of the Year

Dec 8, 2021

A former village school, a reimagined Victorian terrace and a modern take on an oast house are among the ‘reinventions of traditional buildings’ in the running for Grand Designs House of the Year

  • Homes on RIBA’s House of the Year shortlist to be showcased have theme of reinventing beloved buildings
  • Kevin McCloud, architect Damion Burrows and design expert Michelle Ogundehin, toured the homes 
  • Presenters visited a low-key eco-home in Devon and a much-loved former village school reborn into house
  •  The fourth episode of Grand Designs: House of the Year airs tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm

A reimagined former village school and a London Victorian terrace given a new lease of life  are among the properties competing in the latest heat to be named Grand Designs: House of the Year.  

In the fourth programme of the series, airing tonight on Channel 4, Kevin McCloud and his co-presenters, architect Damion Burrows, and design expert Michelle Ogundehin, visit five homes across the UK battling it out for a place on the shortlist, all of which push the boundaries in conventional design. 

Each of the homes was designed to reinvent a beloved type of building – from a 21st century reboot of the classic Kentish oast to a cool contemporary reimagining of the suburban family house in Surrey. 

FORMER VILLAGE SCHOOL: The Grade II listed Victorian village school in Yorkshire has been reincarnated with a stunning long low extension, transforming it into a 21st century family home

ECO-FRIENDLY COUNTRY HOME: The second longlisted property, the Devon Passive House, was described as an eco-friendly version of a country home. Inside, it is deceptively large, with a sizeable basement below

MODERN TAKE ON A VICTORIAN TERRACE: The final home was in South London. Corner House, by 31/44 Architects, has the same proportions as its neighbours, but its rugged concrete detailing and flat roof make it out as the new kid on the block

Kevin explained: ‘We’re nearing the end of our tour of the properties on the RIBA longlist… this time, they’re all houses that reinvent familiar types of buildings.

‘Steel yourself and stand by for a nail-biting finish. This category celebrates houses that reinvent, like a chicken tikka pasty or chocolate pizza. The power of these homes is they take something familiar and give it a new culinary twist.’

THE MODERN OAST HOUSE  

The first long-lister reinvents the Kentish classic: the Oast house. Originally built for drying hops, these red brick towers now make popular round homes. The Modern Oast pushes circular living to the limit, with not one but five tiled clad roundels build in 21st century timber and fused into a singular building, with curved walls and dizzying conical ceilings 

It’s the curvy brain child of German born architect, Frederick Luderwig, who loved the idea of reimagining a Kentish delicacy (pictured, from above) 

The first long-lister reinvents the Kentish classic: the Oast house. Originally built for drying hops, these red brick towers now make popular round homes.

The Modern Oast pushes circular living to the limit, with not one but five tiled clad roundels build in 21st century timber and fused into a singular building, with curved walls and dizzying conical ceilings.

OAST HOUSE  

Oast houses started in the 16th century as a way of drying hops as part of the brewing process to make beer.

The big round buildings with a conical roof were free-standing kilns and the cone created a good draught for the fire used to dry the hops.

Kent had ideal soil for growing hops, and plenty of wood for the charcoal used in oast houses to dry the hops, which is why there are so many of the buildings spread across the county.

On the ground floor, a kitchen, sitting room, guest room and study open off a central hallway, while upstairs there is a double height living room and three bedroom suites. 

It’s the curvy brain child of German born architect, Frederick Luderwig, who loved the idea of reimagining  a Kentish delicacy.

Kevin called the building ‘remarkable’, saying: ‘Tell me how this spaceship landed here. It very much speaks to contemporary space.’

Frederick explained: ‘It’s a contemporary house but it very much speaks to the local vernacular. 

‘They’re quite weird structures standing around in Kent, and everyone in Kent thinks they are totally normal, but when you come from the outside, you think, “What is that?”‘

‘We tried to teach ourselves how to speak Oast and speak Kent. It’s a funny alphabet because you’ve only got circles.’

A traditional Kent oast house might have one or two round towers joined to a rectangle building, but here there are five circular spaces.

Stepping into the central roundel, guests are treated to a view straight up into the roof.

Kevin said: ‘I suppose most clients would need some persuading that they were going to be having their lunch in a 40 foot ceiling.’

Frederick told him: ‘I think a circular space is different than a rectangular space. 

‘So in that sense, there is a different discussion than what you normally have. I think that space feels more private and something about it feeling quite comfortable, because it really holds you.’ 

A traditional Kent oast house might have one or two round towers joined to a rectangle building, but here there are five circular spaces. Above, an example of one of the central curving landings in the Oast House

Kevin compared it to a modern igloo, with curved sinks, mirrors and even the lights. Meanwhile the roofs, pictured, are made from 41,000 tiles, of which 15,000 had to be hand-trimmed to fit the shape of the cones 


An elegant staircase (left) carries you to a gallery, off which are the bedroom suites in turrets (right), with Kevin calling the property ‘primal’ and ‘magic’

He added: ‘What’s interesting in Kent is that round things are not such a shocker.’

The RIBA judges praised the workmanship on show, describing the modern Oast as a work of sculpture and craft.

Everything was beautifully finished, from the simple polished concrete floor to the showstopper of a staircase, crafted from solid birch ply.

It carries you to a gallery, off which are the bedroom suites in turrets, with Kevin calling the property ‘primal’ and ‘magical.’

He compared it to a modern igloo, with curved sinks, mirrors and even the lights. Meanwhile the roofs are made from 41,000 tiles, of which 15,000 had to be hand-trimmed to fit the shape of the cones.

ECO-FRIENDLY COUNTRY HOUSE 


Damian visited the second longlisted property, the Devon Passive House, which was described as an eco-friendly version of a country home 

Behind the grand brick façade, lies a modern, ultra-efficient eco-home, which Damian said was ‘elegant and rich in natural materials within’

Damian visited the second longlisted property, the Devon Passive House, which was described as an eco-friendly version of a country home.

Kevin explained: ‘Behind the grand brick façade, lies a modern, ultra-efficient eco-home. Elegant and rich in natural materials within.’

It’s deceptively large too, with a secret basement housing a media room and a plant room. The rest of the house all flows off a central atrium, with a living, diving and cooking place, a library and four bedrooms.

It’s home to two retired software engineers, Nigel and Eileen. 

Damian called the home ‘beautifully subtle’, with Eileen confirming they are ‘not showy people.’

She explained: ‘One of our instructions was no bling, absolutely no bling.’

Nigel added: ‘We hadn’t been looking for building some enormous gin palace. We though more in terms of how it would fit this site.’

The site they built on was once in the kitchen gardens of a nearby country house. 

Nigel and Eileen have built their own modest kitchen garden beside the original brick garden walls.

Nigel said: ‘The idea was the bricks looked related to each other, that they weren’t a slave to each other but they looked familiar. Like the same red, Devon clay that made the bricks.’

Meanwhile Eileen said they had designed the doorway to look like the entrance to ‘a secret garden,’ adding: ‘And who doesn’t want to live in a secret garden?’

The RIBA judges praised the house for respecting the history of the setting but hinting through details like the large bay window that there was something new and different inside.

They loved the brick garden path that invited you into the intimate covered courtyard inside.

Damian said: ‘This is just a really gorgeous space to be in.’

 Clay rendered walls and reclaimed terracotta tiles under foot give it an honest, simple beauty.

 Eileen said: ‘it’s all very organic, all different variations of clay. I think it just makes ou feel good. We’ve always loved ceramics and pottery of all sorts, we’ve collected for a long time.’ 

It was built as a passive house, a highly insulated building which requires minimal energy to keep warm, which meant Nigel and Eileen had to pay careful attention to anywhere where heat might escape.

Nigel and Eileen’s contractor Richard Golden explained: ‘It was quite challenging…It’s pretty nerve-wracking.’

REIMAGINED FAMILY SUBURBAN HOUSE  

The third home on the list, in Surrey, was praised by Kevin as a ‘fresh delightful slice of something cool’, with the presenter adding: ‘Perhaps never has suburban living looked so beautiful, minimal and carefully crafted’


The ground floor was arranged around an open plan living dining and kitchen area, while upstairs there was a master bedroom, four additional bedrooms and a family bathroom (left and right) 

The third home on the list was praised by Kevin as a ‘fresh delightful slice of something cool’, who added: ‘Perhaps never has suburban living looked so beautiful, minimal and carefully crafted.’

Weybridge House, by Wilkinson King Architects,  has no pointed roof, and instead has a simple elegant dappled grey brick box.

Inside, there were no walls just one light filled space engineered with glass and plywood.

The ground floor was arranged around an open plan living dining and kitchen area, with a snug, guest room and home office spilling off it. 

Upstairs was a master bedroom, four additional bedrooms and a family bathroom. It’s home to Sarah, a photographer, who lives here with her husband and three children.

Weybridge House, by Wilkinson King Architects, has no pointed roof, and instead has a simple elegant dappled grey brick box (pictured) 

Hidden pocket doors aren’t the only way the space was broken up – with walls made from almost invisible glass, to help get as much light into the space as possible

Kevin was amazed that the house had a warm, pink glow, saying: ‘I hadn’t expected it to be so pink and yielding inside.’  

Hidden pocket doors aren’t the only way the space was broken up – with walls made from almost invisible glass, to help get as much light into the space as possible.

The resulting effect is ‘astonishing’ with crystal clear views through the whole building, all the way to the totally transparent front of the house facing the street. 

The RIBA judges commended the exceptionally clever functional design, with no trace of the typical suburban in the home.

Kevin said: ‘It’s so generous.’ 

It was built to a tight one year schedule and a strict budget which meant using off the shelf materials.

Sarah said: ‘We didn’t go bespoke on anything because of cost.  The glazing system is the largest you can get standard, the kitchen is a high street kitchen with marble on the backsplash but we couldn’t afford the marble all over.’

MUCH-LOVED FORMER VILLAGE SCHOOL 

The former school in Yorkshire contains a double height living room and mezzanine bedroom, behind it is a playroom and open plan kitchen diner, with a bathroom and two further bedrooms above (pictured) 

One of the bedrooms in the modernised family home has stunning views out over the countryside, pictured 

The next longlisted property delicately picked itself through the minefield of reinventing a local institution.

Damian went to look for it in a picturesque local village in Yorkshire, adding: ‘There are certain buildings that just make a village.’

The Grade II listed Victorian village school had been reincarnated with a stunning long low extension, transforming it into a 21st century family home.

The former school contains a double height living room and mezzanine bedroom, behind it is a playroom and open plan kitchen diner, with a bathroom and two further bedrooms above.

It’s the home of James and architect Gail, and their three young boys, who didn’t take the task of reinventing the village landmark lightly. 

James said: ‘We’re hugely invested in the village and the community.’

Gail added: ‘This place definitely has a place in people’s hearts. There people randomly come and rap on the door and they’ll say, “Hi, I used to come to school here, would you mind if I just came in and looked around because I’ve got such happy memories of being here.’

Damian said: ‘The first impression is that it is beautifully discreet and so low-lying. It’s so completely invisible from the front. You come back here and it’s a completely different character.’

The RIBA judges admired the wrap around glazing and clever use of structural steel, which allow the flat roof to rest lightly on the single pillar

James said: ‘It’s very clearly delineated from the original building, it wad really important to us.’

James and Gail had plenty of time thinking about what was important to them, before starting work spending seven years in the house living with a previous and unsuccessful attempt at reinvention.

James said: ‘The original house had been extended in the 70s and it was the prestige of the original building. We didn’t have a functioning kitchen for about seven years.’

Gail said: ‘There was no connection to the outside, so it was very hard to get outside with the boys to the garden.’

The RIBA judges admired the wrap around glazing and clever use of structural steel, which allow the flat roof to rest lightly on the single pillar. Meanwhile inside, everything was very white and ultra-modern.

ELEGANT REINVENTION OF A VICTORIAN TERRACE

Corner House, by 31/44 Architects, has the same elegant proportions as its neighbours in south London, but its rugged concrete detailing and flat roof make it out as the new kid on the block

The south London home was built by a property developer, Sarah, who loved the idea of injecting new life into a London street

Inside there was no trace of Victorian, with three floors of uncluttered space, including this modern kitchen-living space 

The final home was in South London, where the past is everywhere with row upon row of Victorian terraces.

Corner House, by 31/44 Architects, has the same elegant proportions as its neighbours, but its rugged concrete detailing and flat roof make it out as the new kid on the block.

Meanwhile inside, there was no trace of Victorian, with three floors of uncluttered space.

It was built by a property developer, Sarah, who loved the idea of injecting new life into a London street.

She said: ‘I wanted it to stand out but in an understated way, so that it really fitted with what was here already. The architects designed in the curved corner which mirrors the pub opposite the arches.

Sarah added a whole new 100 metre home at the end of the row, with a lower ground floor containing the main living area with a courtyard at the end.

Meanwhile the second floor  had a sitting room and guest bedroom while the master suite at the top of the house.

The judges admired the way the house takes traditional ideas and plays with them. The entrance leads straight into the kitchen diner which is decidedly unVictorian.

The judges admired the way the house takes traditional ideas and plays with them. The entrance leads straight into the kitchen diner which is decidedly un-Victorian (pictured) 

Sarah said: ‘Quite often Victorian terraces are a dark tunnel but my vision was to really bring the light in. Being on a corner plot, you’ve got the triple aspect, windows on the side of the building, big doors on either end and roof lights. 

‘You can really extend your living space.’

And 21st century functionality is everywhere, with a micro cement floor maximizing the room’s height.

Upstairs, the top floor was given over to a luxurious master suite. Below it, the architect Will Burges built in a conservatory type room.

He said: ‘Because you’re looking along the street, it feels relatively private given you’re in a glazed room and the pavement is right there below us.’

Will and Sarah have deftly sidestepped pitfalls, with Michelle saying: ‘It captures the elegance of the past in a contemporary way.’ 

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