Discover which projects made it on to Kevin McCloud’s top 10 list of all-time best Grand Designs Houses.

With more than 100 projects to choose from, Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud had a tough job to whittle the TV houses down to the ones that have really stuck in his memory.

There have been some real gems throughout the time that the show has been on air. Despite the variety, each programme has one thing in common – a remarkable story of the sheer determination of self-builders to create a truly unique home for themselves, while overcoming a fair few obstacles along the way.

Relive some of Kevin McCloud’s best Grand Designs houses, with quotes from the man himself.

Shipping Container House

Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses

Image: Aidan Monaghan

  • Series 14, 2014
  • The budget was just £130,000
  • Four shipping containers make up the structure
  • It took seven months to build
  • The home measures a modest 115sqm

Four shipping containers make up the structure of this house. The containers were stacked in a cross shape and covered in natural-coloured cladding that differentiates between the communal and the private spaces. 

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘This is where engineering and steel meet landscape and it is beautiful. It’s rare to come to a place and find a building that lifts the spirits, such as this. This is proper architecture, a genius exercise in upcycling and, now, a powerful part of this place.’

Straw Bale Eco Home

Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses2

Image: Stephen Morley

  • Series one, 1999
  • It cost £600,000 to build
  • The plot cost just £78,000
  • The site was big enough for six houses
  • It took five years to clear the site

The site of this property was big enough for six houses and cost just £78,000. It took five years to clear the site and the build cost £600,000. Straw bales and sandbag cladding were unusual ingredients for a London build that turned out to be far from conventional. From Series one, 1999.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘This is remarkable. Simon and Jasmine are heroes of the self-build community and I am proud to know them. It hasn’t and won’t destroy the planet, and it hasn’t cost the earth. It’s not just an example of how we could, and should live, this is a clarion call.’

Ben Law's Wooden House

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses1

Image: Stephen Morley

  • Series three, 2003
  • The build cost £28,000
  • 300 barley bales formed the walls
  • 4.5 million viewers watched the show
  • The project took eight months

Taking more than eight months to build and costing £28,000, the walls were made using 300 barley bales. 4.5 million viewers watched the show, making it one of the most popular episodes. 

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘It’s an eloquent essay about sustainability… a love story between one man and a place.’

Monty's Underground Home

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses3

Image: Jake Curtis

  • Series five, 2005
  • It cost £220,000, including the plot
  • The retractable roof measures 10.5sqm
  • Two tree preservation orders were issued
  • Planning permission took two and a half years

With planning permission taking 2.5 years for this stunning property, it cost £220,000 including the plot and two tree preservation orders were issued. It features a retractable roof that measures 10.5sqm. Other features include an LED light fitting that doubles as a shower, and a bed that slides away to reveal a bath. 

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘With its hidden baths and sinks, there is a magical side to this home. ’

Twenty-First-Century Chalet

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses4

Image: Thearle Photography

  • Series 10, 2010
  • They bought the plot in 2006
  • Planning permission was granted in 2007
  • The house size was scaled down from 220sqm to190sqm
  • Build costs were slashed from £579,000 to £220,000

The owners bought their plot in Woodbridge, Suffolk in 2006 and planning permission was granted in 2007. A year later one of the owners was diagnosed with cancer and later passed away.

The house was scaled down and building costs were cut back, but despite these unbelievable challenges, what emerged was house that was beautiful, sustainable, dramatic and truly inspiring. 

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘I love this place… a home with all the attitude and resilience of its owner’

Kent Water Tower

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses5

Image: Edina van der Wyck

  • Kevin McCloud's 6th Grand Design best house
  • Series six, 2006
  • The water tower was originally built in 1915
  • The project took just over a year to complete
  • It’s almost 50sqm bigger than the average UK new-build
  • Costs escalated by £50,000

The water tower was originally built in 1915 and the owners reinstated architect Sir Edwin Lutyens’ original roof and cut windows into the concrete walls. The project took just over a year to complete and costs escalated by £50,000. The property is 50sqm bigger than the average UK self-build. From Series six, 2006.

Kevin McCloud says: ‘A build with vision and integrity’

Isle of Wight House

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses6

Image: Elizabeth Zeschin

  • Series 10, 2010
  • The owners transformed a Seventies bungalow
  • It’s located five minutes from the beach
  • 214sqm were added to the existing 84sqm footprint
  • The couple had a modest £200,000 budget

The owners transformed a 1970s bungalow on a budget of £200,000. The reworked Seventies bungalow was clad in burnt larch on the outside and filled with Modernist art inside.

The owners quadrupled the footprint of the property, extending it at both ends, and included a private living space for their daughter in the centre. From Series ten, 2010.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘It’s one of the great illusions of architecture, pulled off with utter bravado’

Arched Eco Home

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses7

Image: Douglas Gibb

  • Series nine, 2009
  • The arched frame was inspired by a fourteenth-century technique
  • It’s constructed from 26,000 handmade tiles
  • The triple-glazed argon-filled windows cost £43,000
  • 10 tons of newspaper was used as insulation

The arched frame of this Kent property was inspired by a 14th-century technique. The one-acre plot included a worse-for-wear Thirties bungalow, which the owners bought in 2006 for £353,000.

Their aim was to use local skills and materials and reduce pollution. The house is now one of the best-performing Passivhaus dwellings in the UK. 

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘It is one of the greatest illusions of architecture, pulled off here with utter bravado. Richard has produced a beautiful house full of surprises, of joys of delight; it is creative but it is also risk-taking and ground-breaking. It is an architectural first in this country.’

Isle of Skye House

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses8

Image: Douglas Gibb

  • Series 12, 2012
  • At only 90sqm it’s a modest home
  • The owners saved for ten years to fund the build
  • Completion took just nine month
  • Energy bills cost them only £50 per year

The owners saved for 10 years to fund the build for this 90sqm home. It was completed within nine months and energy bills are just £50 a year.

The house is sympathetic to its enviable location yet very different from the nearby local cottages. It has a unique lozenge shape with concrete foundations and reinforced steel ribs to counter the challenging weather conditions of Skye.

Kevin McCloud says:  ‘It’s nestling beautifully into its setting… one of my favourite houses. Ever’

Artists' Barn Conversion

 Kevin McClouds Top TV Houses9

Image: Rachael Smith

  • Kevin McCloud's 10th Grand Designs best house
  • Series 11, 2011
  • The barn dates from around 1560
  • It’s eight and a half metres tall
  • The house measures a huge 690sqm
  • The owners saved £500,000 on the surveyor’s quote of £1.3million

The original barn in Colchester, Essex, dated from around 1560. The owners saved £500,000 on the surveyor’s quote of £1.3million. A modern roof belies the stripped back nature of the interior.

There’s no plasterboard or paint to hide the bare bones of the structure and the shell of the barn has been transformed into a liveable space. From Series 11, 2011.

Kevin McCloud says: 

‘Most of us when faced with a building of this scale and size would get freaked out by the challenge of doing anything with it – but not Ben and Freddie. What they made was a grand, triumphant addition to their collective autobiography of made things... I love this place… a home with all the attitude and resilience of its owner... A triumphant addition to their autobiography of made things.’

What is your favourite Grand Designs house? Tweet us @granddesignsmag or post a comment on our Facebook page


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