Deborah Mills and Andrew Tate’s conversion of a decommissioned tower was a long-term project and very much a labour of love.
The 100ft tower was built in 1915 by German prisoners of war
Finishing this project took more than 10 years and two Grand Designs revisits, which was unexpected given how smoothly the first part of this unusual build went. Deborah Mills and Andrew Tate’s home is an old water tower, which stands 100ft high and enjoys majestic views over the Buckinghamshire countryside.
The new-build extension, which would house the main living areas, was no problem for Andrew, an architect, and Deborah, who turned out to be an excellent project manager. A combination of meticulous planning and the use of efficient, commercial techniques (such as a concrete slab roof) ensured it went up in just four months. Kevin McCloud expressed concern about the concrete-filled polystyrene Beco walls, worrying that this ‘Lego-like’ structure might collapse, but it hasn’t yet.
A single-storey extension houses a large open-plan living space
The water tower was more problematic and was still uninhabitable when the family moved in, forcing the three kids to sleep in the study while Andrew and Deborah bedded down in the living area. As the children grew older, everyone felt it was time to expand into the tower. This was tricky, not only because the tower is cylindrical, but because it also tapers towards the top. It meant that everything, including the staircase, had to be custom-made.
The completed build is both impressive and functional. From the nifty use of space in the master duplex at the top of the tower, down to the bright, airy living area of the extension, there is something for everyone in this unique home.
The kitchen is a pleasingly utilitarian mix of planed wood and stainless steel
Andrew retained one of the tower’s original ladders, which now allows access to the top shelves of this ground-floor bookcase
Photography: Jefferson Smith