An upside-down cedar-clad eco home

Idyllic plot, check. Innovative design, check. Super-eco credentials, check. Natasha Cargill’s Norfolk home ticked all the right boxes… just

By Laura Snoad | 5 June 2017

Idyllic plot, check. Innovative design, check. Super-eco credentials, check. Natasha Cargill’s Norfolk home from the recent TV series ticked all the right boxes… just.

Whether it’s to save the planet or just to reduce the cost of energy bills, the majority of grand designers are keen to invest in some sort of eco technology. But for Natasha Cargill, whose impressive periscope-like home in rural Norfolk featured on the recent series of Grand Designs, sustainability wasn’t just a whim, it was the difference between living in her dream house and being left homeless. The reason? Her idyllic plot, with its verdant woodland and picturesque river, was subject to Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework (now known as Paragraph 80), which meant that only the most architecturally innovative, energy-efficient, eco-friendly building would do.

‘Just design a really green building,’ you might say, but attaining Code for Sustainable Homes level 6 (the signifier of an exemplary piece of eco architecture) isn’t just about the finished product. Every detail – from the energy used to transport materials to water wastage, and even the type of portaloos and the happiness of the builders – needs to be meticulously recorded, and if anything slips below the exacting standards, you can’t move in. It was one hell of a risk.

TV house exclusive Upside down cedar clad eco home 3

Photo: Darren Chung

The soundtrack to the build

‘It seems really naïve, but I didn’t think there was anything insurmountable,’ says Natasha cheerfully; her positive attitude and faith in 28-year-old architectural designer and family friend Wilf Meynell was one of the most heart-warming elements of the show. ‘It was always going to be a challenge, but it could be done so we were going to do it. That was the soundtrack to most of the build really, plus Wilf is incredibly optimistic, so it would take someone with incredible strength of mind to doubt him.’

Tiring of London some ten years previously, Natasha had moved with her son Lucas (now 12) back to her home county of Norfolk, living in a small cottage before deciding that self-build was probably the only way she would ever find a living solution that was ideal for the two of them. ‘I had pretty specific ideas of what I wanted and it probably would have taken years to find the perfect place,’ she explains. ‘I’d spent most of my life subterranean – in my flat in Clapham, south London, with the bedroom downstairs. The interior layout of the Norfolk cottage was similar, which I liked. Upside-down living is very freeing. You’re not scampering around from one space to the next; you can just stop and look out at the view. It puts the brakes on.’