flood proof house from grand designs house of the year

House of the Year 2021 preview

Six spectacular projects from around the country vying for this coveted RIBA award

By Caroline Rodrigues | 10 November 2021

The judges of the 2021 RIBA House of the Year award have a longlist of 20 exceptional homes to consider before awarding the best residential building in the country.

The winner will be revealed in the finale Grand Designs: House of the Year 2021, a new four-part series starting on Channel 4 on Wednesday 17 November at 9pm. Co-hosted by Grand Designs magazine editor-at-large, Kevin McCloud, the series will feature some magnificent self-builds, such as these six special projects below…

1. Devon Barn conversion

Once a 19th-century ruin without permission for reuse, this agricultural building in South Hams, Devon, has become a stunning family home. Architectural practice Type updated the former threshing barn and cowshed, while the owners were involved in their home’s construction, buying materials and also organising the site. Type’s strategy, approved by the planners, was to avoid adding intrusive new openings in the envelope of the building. The windows are set back and minimal, and complemented by wide pivot doors. Inside, stone columns provide the base for a new timber floor and the roof is in Douglas fir. The 199sqm home has two bedrooms plus a study/bedroom.

inside the devon barn conversion from grand designs house of the year

This agricultural building in Devon has been transformed into a family home. Photo: Rory Gardiner

2. Simple House, Cambridge

Tucked away behind a garden wall, Simple House in Cambridge integrates into its city setting without compromising the privacy of the new home or its neighbours. The corner infill site was bought by Jenny Ogilvie and Akimichi Inaba and came with consent for a conventional small house. But architecture practice Haysom Ward Miller turned this on its head and, inspired by the courtyards of traditional Japanese townhouses, devised a 85sqm, two-bedroom single-storey home for around £200,000. The result is well insulated, naturally ventilated and bright due, in part, to the round rooflights and high-level windows.

simple house, cambridge, from grand designs house of the year 2021

This two-bedroom single-storey home in Cambridge cost around £220,000. Photo: Richard Fraser

3. Norfolk water tower

A derelict steel water tower in Castle Acre, Norfolk, bought as a ruin at auction, has become a 160 sqm home for Dennis Pedersen, Misia Godebska and their young son. Dennis and Misia were the main contractor for the project, which was designed by Tonkin Liu architecture studio. Above the ground-floor entrance are two bedrooms with mezzanines in a wooden cube set within the frame of the tower, while the steel tank at the top is a living room. A bridge connects the bedrooms to a new access tower enclosing a cantilevered helical cross-laminated timber staircase. This Grand Designs: House of the Year contender also won a 2021 RIBA National Award.

this steel water tower conversion in norfolk has won riba awards

This water tower conversion offers dramatic views. Photo: Dennis Pedersen

The judges of the 2021 RIBA House of the Year award have a longlist of 20 exceptional homes to consider before awarding the best residential building in the country.

The winner will be revealed in the finale Grand Designs: House of the Year 2021, a new four-part series starting on Channel 4 on Wednesday 17 November at 9pm. Co-hosted by Grand Designs magazine editor-at-large, Kevin McCloud, the series will feature some magnificent self-builds, such as these six special projects below…

1. Devon Barn conversion

Once a 19th-century ruin without permission for reuse, this agricultural building in South Hams, Devon, has become a stunning family home. Architectural practice Type updated the former threshing barn and cowshed, while the owners were involved in their home’s construction, buying materials and also organising the site. Type’s strategy, approved by the planners, was to avoid adding intrusive new openings in the envelope of the building. The windows are set back and minimal, and complemented by wide pivot doors. Inside, stone columns provide the base for a new timber floor and the roof is in Douglas fir. The 199sqm home has two bedrooms plus a study/bedroom.

inside the devon barn conversion from grand designs house of the year

This agricultural building in Devon has been transformed into a family home. Photo: Rory Gardiner

2. Simple House, Cambridge

Tucked away behind a garden wall, Simple House in Cambridge integrates into its city setting without compromising the privacy of the new home or its neighbours. The corner infill site was bought by Jenny Ogilvie and Akimichi Inaba and came with consent for a conventional small house. But architecture practice Haysom Ward Miller turned this on its head and, inspired by the courtyards of traditional Japanese townhouses, devised a 85sqm, two-bedroom single-storey home for around £200,000. The result is well insulated, naturally ventilated and bright due, in part, to the round rooflights and high-level windows.

simple house, cambridge, from grand designs house of the year 2021

This two-bedroom single-storey home in Cambridge cost around £220,000. Photo: Richard Fraser

3. Norfolk water tower

A derelict steel water tower in Castle Acre, Norfolk, bought as a ruin at auction, has become a 160 sqm home for Dennis Pedersen, Misia Godebska and their young son. Dennis and Misia were the main contractor for the project, which was designed by Tonkin Liu architecture studio. Above the ground-floor entrance are two bedrooms with mezzanines in a wooden cube set within the frame of the tower, while the steel tank at the top is a living room. A bridge connects the bedrooms to a new access tower enclosing a cantilevered helical cross-laminated timber staircase. This Grand Designs: House of the Year contender also won a 2021 RIBA National Award.

this steel water tower conversion in norfolk has won riba awards

This water tower conversion offers dramatic views. Photo: Dennis Pedersen

Image: The views from the converted water tower in Norfolk. Photo: Dennis Pedersen

4. Barrow House, Lincolnshire

Barrow House takes its name from a bronze-age burial mound in a nearby valley, which can be seen from the cantilevered bedroom. Owners Henry and Jennifer Salmon wanted to build a home for their young family on former farmland on the outskirts of Hatcliffe, a village in North East Lincolnshire. ID Architecture arranged advance consultations with the planners to help ensure that the 340sqm Paragraph 55 (now Paragraph 80) home got the green light. The first-floor timber-framed structure includes all five bedrooms, while ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBFS) concrete retaining walls anchor the ground floor into the hillside.

barrow house in hatcliffe is a paragraph 80 house as seen on grand designs house of the year

Early consultation with planners helped this home get permission. Photo: Andy Haslam

5. Narula House, Berkshire

Professor Antony Narula, his wife Charlotte and their three children wanted a new home that would be light and spacious. Architect John Pardey designed a linear 334sqm house split by a courtyard, with living spaces on one side and four bedrooms on the other. Since the plot in Wargrave, Berkshire, floods by up to 1.2m, John designed an elevated steel frame infilled with highly insulated timber stud work. The living space is glazed to the south with a deep overhang to limit solar gain, and a steel staircase leads up to the entrance. This one also won a 2021 RIBA National Award.

flood proof house in berkshire on stilts, as shown on grand designs house of the year 2021

This home was built on stilts to protect it from flood waters. Photo: James Morris

6. School conversion, Yorkshire

James Arkle, director at ArkleBoyce Architects, and his wife Gail have converted a former school near Malton in Yorkshire. They initially made basic alterations so that they could live safely in the Grade II listed building with their three boys. When they came to extend their home they pulled out all the stops with an 85sqm steel structure finished in coursed stonework to continue the original façade. The reconfigured downstairs includes a kitchen-diner, playroom and living room, with three bedrooms upstairs. The project cost £250,000. 

exposed brickwork on a school conversion in malton

This school conversion retains plenty of original features. Photo: Nicholas Worley

Can’t wait for Grand Designs: House of the Year 2021 to start? Rewatch Grand Designs: House of the Year 2019 on All 4
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