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Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs Live

Meet TV’s self-builders at Grand Designs Live

Relive the experiences of five Grand Designers during live Q&A sessions at the NEC Birmingham

By Victoria Purcell | 26 September 2022

Grand Designs Live returns to the NEC Birmingham from 5-9 October 2022. As well as meeting experts and suppliers that can offer invaluable advice on your self-build and renovation projects, you can also meet some of the intrepid couples who let the TV cameras in as they built their own homes.

Two series of the nation’s favourite home and property programme aired in 2021: Grand Designs and Grand Designs: The Streets. From the former, Dan & Nina and Iain & Jenny will be on stage discussing their projects. From the latter, Leah & Craig, John & Julia and Maite & Carlos will be present.

Here’s a reminder of each couples’ project, plus their stage times so you don’t miss a thing.

1. Rob & Ruth’s converted Cumbrian mill

5 October, 11am & 4pm

Ruth Grimshaw and Rob Glass met at university in Manchester, where she studied history of art and design and he studied architecture, but they were both keen to leave behind city life and move back to the countryside of their native Cumbria.

Rob had long been fascinated by a crumbling old water mill near his family’s home. When he showed it to Ruth, she fell in love too, and an audacious plan to turn it into an eco-friendly home with a studio and workshop began to take shape. But conserving the Scheduled Monument turned into a much bigger project than planned.

Four months into the project, Historic England deemed that the original structure, save for one gable end, was unsafe and must be demolished. So they did, setting aside the stone for re-use and building a timber-framed larch-clad house on new beam-and-block foundations, following the exact footprint of the old structure. It was a painstaking process, taking two stonemasons 60 days, but it meant that the romantic spirit of the old mill could live on. 

2. Leah & Craig’s futureproof custom build

6 October, 11am & 4pm

With their jobs keeping them busy, Leah and Craig Lewis decided to take a more hands-off approach to building their own home, opting for a super eco-friendly prefabricated custom build. Each component – the walls, floors and roof panels – was designed and built offsite in a factory, then delivered to the site as complete timber panels ready for installation.

The shell of their home, a two-storey, three-bedroom house with an airy, semi-open-plan ground floor, was built in a couple of days. The whole thing was finished in a matter of weeks. The EPC A-rated home has triple glazing, high-spec insulation and an air-source heat pump which, combined with roof-mounted solar panels, provides all their heating and hot water.

Kevin McCloud called Leah and Craig’s high-performing, low-energy, low-carbon project, which featured on Grand Designs: The Streets, ‘the house of the future’.

3. John & Julia’s modernist modular build

7 October, 11am & 4pm

Architect John and his wife Julia had been trying to build their own home for 30 years, but were plagued by bad luck. When they finally secured a plot at Graven Hill, it was their final roll of the self-build dice. But on the day they completed on the plot, the country went into the first Covid-19 lockdown and the Graven Hill site was shut down.

The couple had to delay the start of their build and live in their expensive rental home for longer than planned. Adding to the pressure was John’s health, but despite being told to take it easy, he had no other option than to project manage the build himself.

John had designed a beautiful modernist wedge for the couple to enjoy in their retirement. The shell of their home was constructed from structural insulated panels (SIPs), which are ideal for creating the sharp lines they wanted for their contemporary two-story, three-bedroom home with white-rendered walls, mono-pitched roof and a large open-plan living spaces.

Labour shortages, skyrocketing prices and ill health made this a difficult project, but Kevin was impressed with the build: ‘This is what happens when you’ve spent a life designing buildings,’ he said. ‘It really is lovely.’

4. Iain & Jenny’s Scottish both conversion

8 October, 11am & 4pm

Iain and Jenny Shillady bought a century-old Scottish bothy (gardeners’ hut) in Kinross, with the aim of turning it into a family home. Iain, an architect, liked the idea of a contemporary home, while Jenny preferred something older with more character. Converting and extending the bothy gave them the opportunity to do both.

The original building runs alongside an established walled garden. Iain built an extension along the length of the bothy’s back wall and can only be seen from inside the walled garden. New doorways connect the old and new buildings, but leave the majority of original stonework intact.

While work on the bothy was a lengthy labour of love, the extension went up easily. It is built from structural insulated panels (SIPs) and has a high level of airtightness. Inside, the rooms are bright and spacious. They include a kitchen and dining area, a living room and a snug, along with Iain and Jenny’s en-suite bedroom and Archie’s bedroom. In the bothy, the playroom, Emily’s bedroom and a guest bedroom are smaller and cosy.

5. Maite & Carlos’ aluminium-clad architectural icon

9 October, 11am & 4pm

Maite, a gardener and painter, and Carlos, a life coach, wanted to build a home inspired by Rioja in northern Spain, where Maite grew up. She had a bold vision for a wooden-framed, aluminium-clad structure with huge, gallery-esque open spaces and vast expanses of bespoke glazing.

The design featured a diagonal sloping roof and double-height kitchen-diner, as well as a mezzanine living room and three bedrooms. The irregular shape of the house meant that the structural engineering was more complex than they had imagined, resulting in a month-long delay in starting the build. with steel reinforcement to support

The budget was an issue too, so the couple had to move in before the build was finished to save money on rent, opting to finish the house gradually once they were in. One of the boldest features was the use of aluminium cladding on both front and back of the house which, when pared with the huge amounts of glass, made for a very striking build.

For more on Grand Designs Live and to book tickets, visit granddesignslive.com

Please note that schedules can change due to unforeseen circumstances. For the latest schedule, see granddesignslive.com and double-check the talks times on arrival at the event.  


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