Hux Shard, Exeter, from Grand Designs 2021

The daring Devon shard house    

The landmark hilltop Hux Shard combines a sci-fi exterior with a luxurious interior   

By Jayne Dowle | 1 September 2021

The Hux Shard in Exeter was a bold choice to open the 2021 series of Grand Designs. Nothing like it has been seen before on the show – or in the tranquil Devon countryside.

The shard’s sculptural exterior walls are formed of shard-shaped panels set in a jagged 70m line following the contours of the Huxham hill on which it stands. Inside is just as impressive, with sleek contemporary furniture teamed with hi-spec fixtures and fittings.    

No ordinary commission  

When architectural concept designer Mick O’Connor (founder of Squirrel Design) met Joe and Claire Priday in 2014, he was expecting to discuss renovating their bungalow just outside Exeter, Devon. But it soon become apparent that a far more exciting project was on the cards.

Joe, 37, the managing director of a financial services company, wanted to build a new house on the adjoining paddock for him and his wife Claire, 42, and their three young children: Jasmine, 10, Evan, five, and three-year-old Rory.

Joe and Claire gave Mick, 71, free rein to create a house that would sit on the exposed site. Inspired by the rocky tors of nearby Dartmoor, Mick envisaged a design that consisted of a series of geometric shard-shaped exterior walls set in a jagged 70m-long line following the contours of the hill.

The view from the Hux Shard from Grand Designs

The shards take their inspiration from sculpture and the surrounding countryside. Photo: Mark Bolton

Planning permission for Hux Shard

‘Even in our wildest dreams we never thought we were going to get planning permission,’ says Joe. ‘So when it came through, we just had to take the opportunity and jump right in with both feet.’

The local authority initially pushed Mick to nestle this new addition inconspicuously into the landscape, but he had other ideas.

‘This was originally a Paragraph 55 [now Paragraph 80] design, which has to be innovative and of exceptional quality,’ he explains. ‘I said, “Well, it is on top of a hill, so I should give it the best presence I can.”’

Inside Hux Shard in Exeter: the living room with huge windows and views over the countryside

Paragraph 80 homes like Hux Shard have to be innovative and of exceptional quality. Photo: Mark Bolton

Creating the shape

Taking their inspiration from sculpture and the surrounding countryside, Mick and his son Alex, 39, an architectural assistant and product designer, looked at ways to get more natural light into the building.

‘That’s how we came up with the shards,’ says Mick. ‘One of the things I really like about the house is that, from the inside, you can see their edges through the windows. It creates a connection to the landscape.’