Exterior of timber house on stilits grand designs house

Way above average

Built from timber and raised on concrete stilts, this house helped its owner put down roots

By Paul Oneal | 9 December 2016

Described by Kevin McCloud as ‘one of Britain’s last great eccentrics’, self-confessed boat obsessive James Strangeways is the first to admit that he’s not a fan of houses. Having spent much of his life on the water, hopping from vessel to vessel, he was going to require something pretty extraordinary – and unconventional – to anchor him on dry land. He was determined that if he did have to live in a building, it wouldn’t look like your average home at all. Instead, James commissioned his nephew, the architect Ben Hebblethwaite, to build a timber structure halfway between a dwelling and a boat. This Grand Designs house on stilts has deck-like terraces and open doors either side to provide views over the nearby River Rother and the surrounding East Sussex countryside.

Owner James on the deck outside his Grand Designs house on stilts

James surveys his home from the raised deck. Photo: Chris Tubbs

Replacement build

The motivation to build a home from scratch stemmed from the dilapidated bungalow that James was able to stay in when he wasn’t out on the river. It was on the farm that his great-aunt used to own. A crumbling wreck, it took just half an hour to knock the entire thing down, the 85-year-old bungalow was no longer habitable. So, it gave James the chance to create something that would suit his unique lifestyle.

An open-plan living space in the Grand Designs house on stilts with a small kitchen area

Open shelves and simple units form James’ ideal kitchen Photo: Chris Tubbs