Rob and Kay Grand Designs
Rob and Kay from Grand Designs

Inside Rob & Kay’s clifftop home in Wales

This couple wowed with their stunning modernist coastal home

By Seoana Sherry-Brennan |

Rob Hodgson and Kay Ralph wowed with their dramatic clifftop Grand Designs self-build in Wales. What happened after the cameras stopped rolling? Rob reveals how the project progressed.

What have you been doing since the show aired?

For about six months after, we had lots of people wanting to chat with us about the house. We live along the coastal path, which has an electronic device that counts the number of visitors. The weekend after the show it not only reached an all-time high, it was double the previous record. For the past 18 months we’ve had a period of calm, although since we were shortlisted for Grand Designs House of the Year 2016, we’ve had a resurgence in interest.’

Grand Designs North Wales cliff house

Photo: Andrew Well

Have you made alterations to the house?

‘Hardly any. Our only regret is in regards to the bathroom; we decided on a narrow tub that was chosen to fulfil a specific aesthetic. Despite the fact that we’re both quite skinny, neither of us can fit in it. That was a design decision gone too far, so at some point we’ll replace it.’

How did you find managing the build?

‘I took on the role to save money, but looking back, it was a naïve decision. There is a high level of complexity and detail involved, and if you don’t have previous building experience, there’s a danger you’re biting off more than you can chew. We opted for a design that went over our original budget, but if someone told us we could have had a different house and spent less money, we would have said no; this was the house we wanted and it was the house we got.’

TV series secrets Grand Designscliff side home in Wales2

Photo: Andrew Well

What was the trickiest part of the project?

‘There is a low railway bridge on the access road, so delivery vehicles couldn’t reach the site. We relied on the local people, especially the farmers, who allowed all the materials to be transported across their land. They were very supportive and if we had a problem, they’d be out on their tractors to help. I always put a lot of energy into keeping everyone happy and on side, so when you do hit obstacles, you have a strong team of people behind you.’

Have you had any issues with the cliff-side location?

‘Prior to buying the site, we had a very comprehensive survey done by a coastal expert. He gave the house a lifetime of 80-140 years, taking into consideration the rate of erosion. Since the programme aired, the planners have allowed us to use rock to help reinforce the cliff , which has made a big difference. We haven’t lost an inch off the plot in the six years that we’ve owned it, so the house definitely isn’t in any imminent peril.’

Cliff side home in Wales

Photo: Andrew Well

What is your favourite thing about living in the house now?

‘We’ve always lived in older properties with lots of stuff . Living in a minimal space is calming; we breathe a sigh of relief when we enter the house. It’s the simplicity of this way of life that we enjoy the most, as well as the tranquillity of the location, close to the sea and the mountains.’

What did you learn during the course of the building project?

‘Get real with the budget; don’t assume that doing something simple is cheap, as often the opposite is true. Keep searching until you find the perfect architect and, once you do, put all your trust in them. Don’t fiddle around with their ideas – arrive at something you really like and let them get on with it. Most importantly, be ambitious and dream big.’

TV series secrets Grand Designs cliff side home in Wales2

Photo: Andrew Well

What are your plans for the future?

‘I remember Kevin asking me whether I would attempt another build, and at the time I said absolutely not. But two years down the line, with rose-tinted spectacles, we see the positive side and remember how much we enjoyed it. We’re thinking that maybe we have one more big project left in us, although we don’t know what yet. Watch this space.’