The Grand Designs converted mill in Northumberland

The Georgian mill house conversion near Newcastle, Northumberland

Take a tour of the converted mill near Newcastle that featured on Grand Designs in 2011

By Luke Tebbutt | 4 September 2020

Money may have been tight during Stefan and Ania Lepkowski’s six-year mill conversion in Northumberland, which featured back in 2011. But passion was always plentiful…

The biggest challenge that Stefan and Ania Lepkowski set themselves with this expansive mill conversion project was not just that they built the bulk of their home with their own hands, but also the range of skills and materials this involved. The project included restoring a derelict cottage, building a new one from reclaimed stone, plus a modern glass and steel building to link them, and a basement.

A wooden bridge over the pond leads to the entrance of the Grand Designs mill conversion in northumberland

A wooden bridge over the pond leads to the entrance. Photo: Jefferson Smith

The plot, an abandoned Georgian building with weeds and trees growing through the walls, is surrounded by countryside, yet only half an hour’s drive from Newcastle. When Stefan first saw the Georgian mill house 20 years ago it was love at first sight, though it didn’t come on the market left for another 15 years. As luck would have it, that was when he and Ania were house hunting and had the funds to buy it.

‘We sank every penny we had into this ruin. I thought, “Would I get the opportunity to do a project like this again? Just get it, even if it takes you 10 or 15 years to develop it.”’

Thankfully it took fewer, though six years is still something of a long haul. During this time they had to juggle finances, jobs and the arrival of their kids.

grand designs tv house mill northumberland

The original Georgian cottage (left) is connected to the new stone building by a zinc-clad linking structure. Photo: Jefferson Smith 

The sense of light and space from the open-plan ground floor of the mill conversion is triumphant, with a glazed gable in the kitchen and banks of glazed doors lining the living room and dining room. The double-height atrium in the kitchen also brings light into the first floor (home to four bedrooms and three bathrooms).

The abundance of light from the south- and west-facing glazed doors in the living space and dining space helps warm the house naturally. So does the ground source heat pump, which powers underfloor heating on both storeys. Stefan was also keen that the floors be made from concrete, which minimises noise between the floors, but also retains heat better than timber, so the house stays warmer for longer.