Modernist single-storey self-build in West Sussex
Clinton Dall proves bigger can be better with his flawless, modernist-style home
As one of the biggest single storey homes to ever feature on the show, the Grand Designs West Sussex build will be remembered for the ambition of owner, Clinton Dall, and how incredible the finished result was.
‘Bloody Nora, what Pandora’s box have you opened?’ exclaimed Kevin McCloud as he arrived on site 10 weeks into the West Sussex build site. ‘This main living area is large enough to park four fire engines in!’
At a gargantuan 60 metres long, the house was in danger, as Kevin put it, of looking like a miniature airport or a gallery, rather than a homely property. With no real budget in place, the sky was the limit for Clinton. He wanted to build his perfect home, having already had a failed attempt a few years earlier five miles down the road.
The huge glass-and-steel single-storey home is the combined vision of Clinton and designer Des Harvey, who was inspired by Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. Having felt his first new-build attempt had been compromised by planning limitations, Clinton wanted to to create exactly what he wanted this time around. On the show, he said: ‘I don’t want to compromise, I want it to be bang on.’
However, Clinton wasn’t even looking for a project to start with. He stumbled across the plot of land in an estate agent’s window and couldn’t resist the opportunity of going to view it. ‘When I drove in from the road and saw it I thought, “That is it”,’ he says. ‘I called up Des, as we’d had dinner a few times and he’d seen a church I’d refurbished before, and I asked if he wanted to work with me on the design for this house.’
Clinton needed to sell his current property to finance the build and gave himself and the team an ambitious 12 months to get it done. True to form, Clinton got the project swiftly under way with the concrete foundations going down in four weeks. The 21 tons of steel arriving on schedule – with the sheer weight of it cracking the driveway. Despite the builder’s concerns about the enormity of the project, and Kevin’s misgivings about its size, Clinton still remained unperturbed.
The glazing system was the key to the project – and the most challenging aspect. With 35 huge panes of glass costing £200,000 including frames and installation, there was no room for error. But when Clinton discovered that the bar of one of the frames was about a foot over from where it ought to be, interrupting the sight line as you walk through the front door, he just couldn’t bear not to correct the error and convinced the glazing company to fix it.
However, there were bigger problems afoot at this stage in the build. Clinton was relying on the sale of his house to help fund the project, but instead he ended up having two building sites to contend with. This resulted in another £40,000 expenditure as the other property needed extensive repairs due to water damage, delaying its sale. But, determined not to compromise or run off schedule, Clinton managed to scrape together the money by borrowing from friends, and so the build continued.
As the nail-bitingly difficult structural work started to reach completion, the interior details required even more fastidious workmanship. Again, these finishes presented certain challenges, not to mention financial strain. The floor tiles, for example, were a massive undertaking, costing £6,000 in total just for the glue needed to lay the 1.2-metre-wide tiles, each weighing 40kg. Everything was to be finished to the highest spec, with nothing to distract the eye. This included disguising structural columns with cladding, meticulously crafted by Clinton’s metalworker.
‘I think the polished stainless steel columns were Kevin’s favourite bit,’ says Clinton. ‘I thought the steel would be a bit finer so we could just paint them, but when they turned up they were rounded and chunky and would have looked horrendous so I got my metalworker to clad them in polished stainless steel,’ he explains. ‘Even though it was the most expensive alternative I think it was the best way to go.’