Home Improvements

by Hannah Fenton

November 22, 2017

Peter Womersley Modernist house, Valley Spring

Built in the Sixties and nestled in a wooden dell, Valley Spring is a Modernist masterpiece with the majority of its original features intact. South…

If you ask a fan of Grand Designs which programme they remember most, it’s often: ‘the one where the guy built his house in the woods’.

ben law s wooden house

Series three, 2003
The build cost £28,000
300 barley bales formed the walls
4.5 million viewers watched the show
The project took eight months

That guy was Ben Law (ben-law.co.uk). The project struck a deep chord with millions of viewers as we avidly followed the construction of his home back in 2003. Woodsman Ben wanted to build the property using the forest’s resources, while also ensuring it blended into the landscape. He acquired Prickly Nut Wood in 1992 through barter – his labour was exchanged for land – and from then until the house was erected 10 years later, he lived in a caravan.

ben law s wooden house2

Ben’s was the first property to be built in the forest in West Sussex for 50 years and there were conditions when permission was granted – if he was ever to sell the woodland or his coppicing business, he’d have to take his home down. By using traditional building techniques, packing his house with solar panels and wind turbines, and employing the help of many friends, Ben managed to keep costs low. Unlike in the TV show, the building is now filled with furniture for Ben and his young family, and there’s even the odd extravagance – a sunken hot tub sits on the verandah. ‘I love living here,’ he says. ‘Every day, waking up is a pleasure.’

For this series' TV house previews, pick up the November issue of Grand Designs, out now.

Photography: Stephen Morley

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