A curvy cantilevered house in Manchester
Though difficult and budget-busting to build, this rounded house is a source of joy for one family
Before hiring an architect, Colin and Adele Offland had a pretty good idea of what they wanted from their new cantilevered house. ‘We envisaged a simple, Scandinavian-inspired design with lots of wood and good eco credentials,’ says Colin. ‘But we also love the curves and cantilevers of the American Art Deco beach hotels that we’d seen in Miami.’
The couple planned to construct their new home on the site of the 1980s-built house they’d bought back in 2012 when their children, Billy, 25, and Polly, 22, were teenagers. At the time, it was all they could afford in the affluent Manchester suburb where they grew up.
Colin, 52, the CEO of a film and TV production company, and yoga teacher Adele, 51, contacted Swedish architect Vasco Trigueiros on the recommendation of one of Colin’s directors. ‘Vasco’s work was beautifully simple and showed an amazing attention to detail,’ Colin recalls.
‘He uncovered what motivated us and asked our views on sustainability. Just a month later he invited us to Stockholm to present us with some drawings. They were perfect and we made very few changes.’
Vasco designed a three-storey house with rounded corners. Its two upper levels, clad in timber, cantilever over a ground floor incorporating big expanses of curved glass. ‘It would be difficult to build, but I knew we couldn’t go back,’ he says. ‘I’d created a beautiful monster.’
The planning process, which started in 2013, took two years and included changing the proposed timber frame to a steel one to provide the big, open spaces the couple wanted.
By the time permission was granted, Billy and Polly were about to fly the nest, which made Adele doubt the wisdom of the entire project. ‘I took a back seat during planning,’ she says. ‘Looking at the drawings I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy ride.’
But in August 2018 the family moved into a rented house and demolition began. Constrained by a budget of £750,000, Colin decided against appointing a main contractor and instead employed several different teams, including a Latvian-based construction firm, to carry out different parts of the build.
Though Vasco joined forces with UK architect Keven Lester, who would ensure the project complied with British Building Regulations, Colin knew it was risky not to have one person in overall charge. ‘We were up against it financially, so I had to cut corners,’ he says.
Despite his efforts, costs spiralled as the labyrinthine steel framework was adjusted to avoid having to install a column that would spoil the drama of the cantilever.
The couple arranged a high-interest loan to keep the project moving, hoping to pay it off by taking out a mortgage once the structure was watertight. But this turned out to be impossible following a dispute with the Latvian company, and the onset of the pandemic.
By February 2020 the site was deserted and the whole project was in jeopardy. ‘I was probably too quick to trust people,’ reflects Colin. ‘If I were to take on this kind of project again I would be meticulous about the contractual side of things. But though I was putting my family through tough times, I couldn’t drop the ball. I had to see it through.’
The builders returned briefly to complete the timber cladding, but the project only regained full momentum when Colin’s sister, Dawn Golding, who runs the family glass-making business, rallied round to supply all of the glazing, bar the skylights.
And when Colin’s work picked up after lockdown the couple appointed specialists including designer and project manager Raju Haider – a friend and one of Adele’s yoga students – to mastermind the build’s final seven months.
The family finally moved into their new home three-and-a-half years after the construction started, and around £1 million over budget. ‘I thought the build would take a year,’ admits Colin. ‘We worked out the finances in 2014, but lots of things had changed by the time we started building, so we knew early on it would be impossible to stick to that figure.’
The heat, light and hot water is supplied by 30 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof, two air-source heat pumps and two solar storage batteries. The latter weren’t in the original budget, so contributed to the overspend.
Despite her early concerns, Adele has no regrets, especially as Billy and Polly are now back home having completed their studies and travels. ‘As soon as the house started rising out of the ground I fell in love with it,’ she says. ‘It’s clear we could never have built it for our original estimate, but I think it’s worth every penny.’
The architect designed the interior in conjunction with a Swedish-Italian company specialising in bespoke furniture and fittings. It supplied everything from kitchen cupboards to lighting. ‘The interior was part of the original discussion with Vasco,’ explains Colin. ‘I didn’t know it was unusual for an architect to design the inside of a house, but he made a moodboard for each room and nailed the brief.’
Colin and Adele have found that they enjoy living in a house with curved walls. ‘Round spaces definitely work,’ says Colin. ‘Everything is connected with each area opening beautifully into the next.’ And their remarkable home betrays nothing of the heartache the couple encountered during the build.
‘It’s only at the end of a project like this that you realise how amazing it is,’ says Colin. ‘And that heals everything.’
Tomorrow night: Colin and Adele build an eye popping curved glass family home in the south Manchester suburb where they grew up.
But things go wrong when there’s a manpower issue with the contractors Colin paid up front to build the entire structure 😲 #GrandDesigns pic.twitter.com/uhl8hlSgLo
— granddesigns (@granddesigns) August 30, 2022