huge open-plan space and double height ceiling in the Grand Designs American ranch in Glasgow

Glasgow’s first American ranch-style home

First-time self-builders tackle a bold project on a tiny budget in Grand Designs: The Streets

By Victoria Purcell | 5 May 2022

Carpenter Ben Whitney and his partner Joanna Susskind-Whitney, an animator, rolled up their sleeves to realise their ambitious plans for an American ranch-style home with stoop, as featured on Grand Designs: The Streets in Glasgow.

The couple were the first to break ground in the pioneering self-build scheme by Glasgow City Council. Six plots were sold for under £50,000 each on a strip of land below near Maryland, just two miles from the city centre.

The Grand Designs American ranch in Glasgow with Natasha Huq and Kevin McCloud

Natasha Huq and Kevin McCloud with Ben and Joanna on Grand Designs: The Streets in Glasgow. Photo: Chris Radley/Channel 4

Managing a tight budget

Ben and Joanna had a tight budget to complete their build – just £170,000, secured as a self-build mortgage. With no extra funds available, the couple had to do the bulk of the work themselves, but they seemed undaunted: ‘Limitations cause creativity,’ said Ben.

They even went without scaffolding and a crane, saving them around £20,000. Instead, Ben built his own scaffolding from left-over timber and relied on the help of a friend, also a carpenter, to create a system of ropes and pulleys to winch heavy rooflights into place.

Joanna acted as project manager for the build and even fitted the underfloor heating herself. The couple also attempted to mix their own clay plaster for the walls, which Kevin McCloud called ‘a whole new level of DIY’.

An American ranch-style home

Modern-day pioneers Ben and Joanna designed a largely open-plan American ranch-style home – Glasgow’s first. The timber frame is wrapped in wood-fibre insulation on the outside and clad with larch, leaving all the chunky wooden beams and Y-shaped joists exposed inside. A fully-glazed gable end draws as much light as possible into the double-height open-plan kitchen and living space.

On the first floor, a snug, bathroom and master bedroom sits under a steep, sloping tin roof. Outside, along the full length of the building, a porch – or stoop – meant that camping fans Ben and Joanna can enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather.

handmade timber bathroom from the American ranch in Grand Designs: The Streets

Ben made the rustic-style bath surround from leftover timber. Photo: Chris Radley/Channel 4