grand designs south manchester

A curvy cantilevered house in Manchester

This ambitious rounded house proved difficult and budget-busting to build

By Alice Westgate | 31 August 2022

Before hiring an architect, Colin and Adele had a pretty good idea of what they wanted from their curvy Grand Designs house in Manchester.

‘We envisaged a simple, Scandinavian-inspired design with lots of wood and good eco credentials,’ says Colin. ‘But we also love the curves and cantilevers of the American Art Deco beach hotels that we’d seen in Miami.’

inside the grand designs south manchester curvy house

Inside the curvy Grand Designs house in Hale, Manchester. The double-height games room is overlooked by the top-floor mezzanine and library. Photo: Andy Haslam

The couple planned to construct their new home on the site of the 1980s-built house they’d bought back in 2012 when their children, Billy, 25, and Polly, 22, were teenagers. At the time, it was all they could afford in the affluent suburb of Hale in South Manchester, where they grew up.

Colin, 52, the CEO of a film and TV production company, and yoga teacher Adele, 51, contacted Swedish architect Vasco Trigueiros on the recommendation of one of Colin’s directors.

Vasco designed a three-storey house with rounded corners. The Grand Designs Manchester house would have two upper levels, clad in timber, cantilever over a ground floor incorporating big expanses of curved glass. ‘It would be difficult to build, but I knew we couldn’t go back,’ he says. ‘I’d created a beautiful monster.’

inside the grand designs south manchester curvy house

There is access to one of the property’s glass-balustraded balconies from the glazed doors beside the spiral staircase. Photo: Andy Haslam

The planning process, which started in 2013, took two years and included changing the proposed timber frame to a steel one to provide the big, open spaces the couple wanted.

By the time permission was granted, Billy and Polly were about to fly the nest, which made Adele doubt the wisdom of the entire project. ‘I took a back seat during planning,’ she says. ‘Looking at the drawings I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy ride.’

But in August 2018 the family moved into a rented house and demolition began. Constrained by a budget of £750,000, Colin decided against appointing a main contractor and instead employed several different teams, including a Latvian-based construction firm, to carry out different parts of the Grand Designs Manchester build.

inside the grand designs south manchester curvy house

Polly’s bedroom is the only one in the house with curved walls. Photo: Andy Haslam

Though Vasco joined forces with UK architect Keven Lester, who would ensure the project complied with British Building Regulations, Colin knew it was risky not to have one person in overall charge.

‘We were up against it financially, so I had to cut corners,’ he says.

Despite his efforts, costs spiralled as the labyrinthine steel framework was adjusted to avoid having to install a column that would spoil the drama of the cantilever.

grand designs south manchester curved exterior

The Grand Designs Manchester house is hunkered in a sunken courtyard and a gravity-defying cantilever runs all around the building, making the upper storeys appear to hover. Photo: Andy Haslam

The couple arranged a high-interest loan to keep the Grand Designs Manchester project moving, hoping to pay it off by taking out a mortgage once the structure was watertight. But this turned out to be impossible following a dispute with the Latvian company, and the onset of the pandemic.

By February 2020 the site was deserted and the whole project was in jeopardy.

To find out what happened next, watch the Grand Designs Manchester episode on All4 or read the full story in the October issue of Grand Designs magazine, out on 6 September 2022.