Grand Designs Falmouth eco-house from the outside

Scandinavian-inspired self build in Falmouth

When Kathryn Tyler discovered her parents’ house in Cornwall included a secondary building plot, she built her own modern, eco-friendly home

By Katherine Sorrell | 9 October 2020

Kathryn Tyler’s Falmouth Grand Designs house, which featured on the programme in 2010, was a masterclass in building an eco-home. The Scandi-inspired property was four years on the drawing board – detailed down to the last tap, switch and exact shade of grout.

The L-shaped house is deceptively simple and has been executed with thoughtfulness and rigour, combining two conventional materials – bricks and mortar, and cedar-clad timber frame – in a Cubist-like interplay of volumes and planes that ends up being anything but conventional and yet, while being undeniably contemporary, is also intimate, welcoming and sociable.

Going it alone

For Kathryn, an interior designer, this was her first experience of building from scratch – indeed, of building on any sort of large scale at all. She didn’t use an architect and project-managed it all on a very tight budget. To an outsider, the project would appear to have had all the ingredients for disaster. Yet it went so smoothly Kathryn struggles to recall any real problems. Yes, it ran over by a few months, but to compensate she did come in almost £20,000 under budget, thanks to an unexpected VAT rebate.

grand designs tv house in falmouth

The first floor is constructed of timber frame clad in 2,616 linear metres of cedar strip Photo: Chris Tubbs 

The steep hillside plot caused a few issues with large delivery vehicles, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome with a bit of ingenuity (there were a few times when materials had to be wheelbarrowed down the drive, but that didn’t faze her).

‘I did a lot of research,’ she says. ‘I read books, I looked up things on the internet, and when I wasn’t sure, I asked. My team was absolutely amazing – the main builder explained things really well, and he always wanted to get it right. Another one of the builders also happened to be  timber-frame designer, so if we had a problem he just got on his laptop and sorted it out.’