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…

Taking a look back at the creation of the shipping container home and its contemporary design.

tv series secrets the shipping container home

What’s happened since the show?
Work has been really busy. We’ve had a lot of commissions for very bespoke designs, which is brilliant, because I get to work on some incredible architecture. They’re the type of projects that, as an architect, you dream about working on, and are far more rewarding than a mundane, off-the-shelf house.

Have you altered the house at all?
We’ve just installed a small office but other than that we haven’t made any major changes as I was really happy with the finished product. I would like to make some minor tweaks, and I’ve got plans for some furniture updates, but in terms of the layout and design, it’s perfect. I love it.

Which part of the build was most difficult?
I do a lot of research before every project, so I overcame most problems during the design stage. The only unforeseen issue was the foundations as, due to finding basalt rock, it was trickier than anticipated to dig. That wasn’t really diffcult, though - it just held things up slightly. If you do your homework, there shouldn’t be hiccups.

tv series secrets the shipping container home2

What did you find most rewarding?
For me, it was seeing people’s reactions; the smile on their faces when they came to see the house. The main reason I wanted to take on the project was to prove that you can do amazing, modern design on a budget. It’s great to see traditionalists coming into the house and being won over by its contemporary design.

How did you stay on top of your costs?
I always approach my projects in the same way – I’m given the budget, I start designing, and then I bring in a quantity surveyor. As the build progresses, I know at any point if I’m going over, and an idea or specification can be adjusted to bring it back under. If you do your research and bring the right people on board, then budget should never be an issue. From the day you start digging, you should know your budget and your design should reflect that.

Would you have done anything differently?
I would have liked to have had more time for the project. I was determined to finish the build before filming ended, so it was complete in around 10 weeks, whereas ideally this part of the project would have lasted at least six months. This meant that I didn’t have the time to sit back and watch the build progress, because there was so much to do. However, anything is possible when you put your mind to it, and I wanted to show that it could be done within such a tight time frame.

tv series secrets the shipping container home3

What is your favourite thing about your new house?
The Corten steel has weathered really well and is now the colour that it should have been, which means it merges a lot better with the landscape. There’s nothing I enjoy more than touching down at the airport and coming back to the house. It really feels like home now, and I can’t see myself ever living anywhere else.’

Would you recommend building with shipping containers?
People think that containers are the cheapest option, but that’s not necessarily true. There are other construction methods that could be just as cheap. This just happened to work for my particular build. Our aim is always to make the design as efficient as possible, and we’re lucky that we attract clients who are willing to go the extra mile to get a great design.’

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Well, I’m always going to be an architect; it’s just in my blood. I’ve started another company, called Paddy’s Containers, which I’m hoping to get up and running soon. The concept is based on my Grand Designs house, but this time we are using a single container that we clad and deliver straight to customers. 

They can be used for anything, from an office to a home cinema. It gives people the opportunity to have something similar on a smaller scale – and for far less work!’

For more real homes buy the latest issue of Grand Designs Magazine, on sale now.

Article accurate at time of print, January 2017

 

Words: Seoana Sherry-Brennan, Photography: Aidan Monnaghan

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