After suffering a near-death experience, Bram and Lisa Vis, who featured on Grand Designs back in 2015, were inspired to take on the self-build project of their gargantuan dream home.  

grand designs tv house isle of wight

Image: Julian Winslow

Bram and Lisa Vis were just about to exchange on a house on the Isle of Wight, where Lisa grew up, when Bram was taken ill with a brain haemorrhage. Fortunately, Bram came out of his illness, and he returned with a zest for life and a determination to spend it in a home that was worthy of such a miraculous recovery.

“With every house we saw we wanted to change something,” explains Lisa. In the end Bram suggested that the couple build their own house to their exacting specifications.

A sea view was high on Bram’s wish list, so when the pair found a prime spot overlooking the Solent strait, they were excited by the prospect. However it was owned by a neighbour who had already tried to build a home on the site, but had planning permission denied. They bought the plot with no planning permission in place.

Luckily Lisa and Bram’s plans were approved, with the help of ex-grand designer and local architectural designer Lincoln Miles. He proposed a predominantly one-storey house with a dramatic V-shaped cantilevered frame that would be virtually invisible to passers-by, nestled in-between protected trees on the hillside.

Watch the episode: Solent, 2015

grand designs tv house isle of wight

Image: Julian Winslow

On a huge scale 

At 836 square metres the sheer size of the house presented a unique challenge. For example, the gargantuan property was going to be clad in Richlite, a first-of-its-kind compressed paper and dark-oiled Kebony timber composite that requires each panel to be constructed by hand, and a very high-end pebble-dashing that covers the lower half of the property.

Using stones from nearby Bembridge beach, it took several craftsmen months to place the pebbles by hand – the task was completed at a painstaking square metre per day. 

‘It was quite a risky decision to have one big main room, and that’s what we spent the money on,’ says Lisa. ‘We decided to invest in the best glazing and lighting systems, while we cut back on other areas. We didn’t want to compromise in this room because it’s where we spend most time’ 

grand designs tv house isle of wight

Image: Julian Winslow

More than just the creature comforts  

The expansive open-plan room that consists of the kitchen, dining area and living space is certainly the star of the show. Doors open on to the entertaining deck, which includes a sunken pool and floating spa, and from here the couple can savour the views across the water, with the surrounding woodland giving the sense of being in the treetops. 

Read more: TV house: Isle of Wight house in the trees

When the couple said they were building their dream home, they weren’t kidding. Imagine an endless wish-list of what you’d want in your ideal property and it’s likely Bram and Lisa have it. On the basement level, there’s a gym, dressing room, utility room, laundry store, wine cellar, two equally sized bedrooms, a larger bedroom, all with en suites, and a games room. Back upstairs on the ground floor, as well as the large open-plan living space there’s a smaller prep kitchen, two children’s bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a further guest bedroom, two studies for Lisa and Bram, plus an unusual art deco-style TV snug that’s surrounded by a semi-circle of milky glass.

Finally on the top floor there’s Lisa and Bram’s master suite with a private roof terrace. 

grand designs tv house isle of wight

Image: Julian Winslow

Budget busting design 

And all this scale comes at a price. The vast £3.3 million cost didn’t go unnoticed by Kevin McCloud, who during the show called it a ‘hugely indulgent building that’s likely to gobble up materials and money’. Financially he wasn’t far wrong; Bram ended up taking out 11 loans to cover the cost of the project. ‘If you see light at the end of the tunnel and you want something badly enough, you’ll do it,’ says Bram. ‘You have to have strength and resolve – plenty of other people would have backed away, I’m sure.’

‘Building your own place isn’t for the faint-hearted,’ says Lisa. ‘If there were any cracks in your relationship they’re bound to get bigger by the end! It’s a real test of willpower, but we got to the other side intact.’

 

Location Isle of Wight
Bedrooms 7 Bathrooms 6
Project started March 2013
Project finished August 2015
Size 836sqm
Plot cost £935,000
Build cost £2.2 million

 

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