The Grand Designs magazine team talks to the interior designer behind Justin Maxwell Stuart’s epic renovation of a home in a graveyard in London, as featured on the 2021 series. 

grand designs cemetery house interior design - blue kitchen  

Image: In the bespoke kitchen, the dark cabinets run seamlessly into the sections of wood panelling in the dining area. The kitchen worksurfaces are Dekton Opera, a quartz composite that looks like Carrara marble. Jefferson Smith

With (sometimes) years and years of self build story to fit into a one hour episode, a lot of the hard work that goes into a Grand Designs programme can often end up on the cutting room floor.

Finished interiors are not always a given during the big reveal in Grand Designs, but in Justin Maxwell Stuart’s renovation of a cemetery warden’s lodge in London, viewers couldn’t help but notice a polished, cohesive interior scheme had been created throughout his big budget home.

Read more: Renovated cemetery warden's lodge in London

The Grand Designs magazine team spoke to interior designer Gretchen Trusted of Shake the Sky, who created the interior look for Justin, to find out more about the design.

grand designs cemetery house interior design - dining room

Image: A section of dark wood panelling on the chimney breast wall is designed to match the elegant dining table. Photo: Jefferson Smith

At what point did you come on on board on the project?

'I was super lucky in that I came on board at the very beginning. Justin has just bought the house and had engaged the architect Simon. What Justin really wanted was another pair of eyes has to help ensure that this beautiful house became a home. He wanted it to be a home with warmth and colour –not solely architecturally beautiful, but a place that he would be really happy living in. I was there fighting in that corner the whole time.'

grand designs cemetery house interior design - living room

Image: In the living room, exposed ceiling beams recall those in the adjacent lodge. The upholstered chairs are from William Yeoward. Photo: Jefferson Smith

What’s the benefit of getting an interior designer on board that early in the process?

The benefit is that the whole project is very well thought through from end to end. You have to understand that it's a complete house – it's not just about having the pipes in the right place with you know, it's about bringing the project together with an overarching view. It ensures everyone is thinking about ticking the right boxes from different perspectives.

grand designs cemetery house interior design - ensuite bathroom

Image: A nickel bath from Nationwide Bathrooms adds a luxurious element to Justin's ensuite. Photo: Jefferson Smith

It felt like a very coherent scheme.. how did you go about creating that sense of cohesiveness?

What I heard from Justin was he loves the outdoors, he loves being near the sea, he loves blues. So to have this leaf motif and the blue greens, running throughout the rooms helped create some cohesion that otherwise the space might lack, especially because you have this conflict between the really contemporary extension and the old Victorian building. 

grand designs cemetery house interior design - bedroom

Image: Justin’s bedroom is tucked under the exposed roof timbers on the upper floor of the lodge. The rafters have been painted white for a sense of spaciousness. Photo: Jefferson Smith

What were the biggest design challenges the architecture of the house provided?

It was such a luxury to design for a house that had this level of heritage - a lot of time in houses that blend old and new styles, you’re in up and down terraced houses, which don’t have so much of a sense of space to play with.

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Part of the challenge in this space, because especially in the basement and new build part of the house, is to fight the instinct to make those spaces much more austere. We had some back and forth over the style during the process about trying to inject that warmth into new spaces where it seems natural to think that because it's contemporary, it has to be very clean and modern. I think we struck the balance well of creating flow between rooms and making sure the new rooms were warm and cosy.

grand designs cemetery house interior design - blue bathroom

Image: In the lodge’s sea-themed family bathroom, Rolling Hills fabric was used for the Roman blind and is teamed with deep-blue hexagonal tiles. The freestanding bath is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue. Photo: Jefferson Smith

Which space in the house is your favourite?

I think the ground floor sitting room is so fabulous. Here we are in a home on a graveyard in the middle of a busy London road, but in this room it’s so peaceful. On the day of shooting the final reveal, they opened one of those doors and I remember standing there in the day and the sunshine was pouring in. It was so calm and has such a serene sense.You can see the old building and some beautiful green space, so I think that this is definitely my favourite space.

Follow Gretchen on Instagram at


To get the full story and discover the details of the projects from this series of Grand Designs, subscribe to the print magazine now. You can find the full preview of this series of Grand Designs in the January issue to read online for free

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