There are distinct advantages to living on one level, as these amazing bungalow self builds demonstrate

 Shute hill brick self build home project by Mclean Quinlan - grand designs

Image: Jim Stephenson

Sometimes, a single storey is more than enough to create a generous home. And building with one level can be particularly useful when working on an unusual site, if you want easy access or are wrestling with restrictive planning conditions.

Take a look at five such projects that each makes the most of its single storey form. 

Devon Passivhaus, McLean Quinlan

 Shute hill brick self build home project by Mclean Quinlan - grand designs

Image: Jim Stephenson

This low-energy home in Devon is concealed behind a brick frontage, which completes a 200-year-old garden wall that already stood on the site. The four-bedroom home doubles as a gallery space for a collection of pottery and artworks that the owners have accumulated over the years, with small display areas throughout.

Architect McLean Quinlan won permission for the building under Paragraph 79 thanks to its simple, sensitive design. The original boundary walls, which once encircled the kitchen garden of a Georgian house, informed both the single-storey height and the shape of the flat-roofed, 365-square-metre home. Black render on the garden-facing facade helps the building recede from its surroundings. Inside, a courtyard with a glass roof at the heart of the home creates an indoor oasis and draws light into the interior. A certified Passivhaus, the building creates more energy than is needed to run it.

Cocoon Home, Nea Studio

The Cocoon self build home in US by Nea Studio - grand designs  

Image: Caylon Hackwith

Cocoon House is a weekend home on Long Island, USA, designed by New York-based architect Nina Edwards Anker of Nea Studio. Its name is taken from the shape of the home, which is a response to legal restrictions that required the building to keep a specific distance from the surrounding wetlands and be no taller than 4.8 metres.

 Cocoon home in US - Nea Studio - self build homes - grand designs magazine

Image: Caylon Hackwith

The 161-square-metre, three-bedroom house, which cost around £1,190 per square metre, features rounded walls that curve along the northern and western facades, with cedar-shingle cladding complementing the materials used locally. In contrast, floor-to-ceiling glazing on the south and east sides provides expansive views to the ocean, while tinted skylights use hues based on Goethe’s colour theory to reflect the uses of the spaces below, creating a rainbow-like effect.

read a free issue of grand designs magazine

The Larch Mill, Tap Architects

The Larch Mill long by Tap architects single storey self build home project - grand designs 

Image: David Barbour

An old stone building in Little Chapelton, Aberdeenshire, known locally as The Mill, provided the foundations for a new single-storey, three-bedroom home clad in Siberian larch. The owner, who is a music teacher, had been keen to reuse the original building, which was embedded into a steep, three-metre-high embankment, but TAP Architects realised that this would have left it vulnerable to flooding.

Instead, the granite structure became a plant room and a plinth for the new steel and timber house, which partially replaces the old pitched roof. The existing walls could only support a single level above, so the house was designed in an L-shape with two bays. One projects out over the granite mill walls while the other sits on new concrete foundations and is oriented to provide shelter for outdoor areas on the south and west. The living spaces are arranged around two pieces of furniture – a ten-seat dining table and a baby grand piano. The total construction cost was £310,000. 

Read more: 7 self-build houses made with stone

Friends Barn, AMPS Arquitectura & Diseño

friends barn by amps architects - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Alberto Marcus

Occupying a site next to a farmhouse in Bentworth, Hampshire, this 350-square- metre black barn-shaped home provides its owners, a young couple with four children who run a health-food company, with space for friends and family to stay on long-term visits. Designed by Madrid and London-based studio AMPS Arquitectura y Diseño, the £1.8 million house is built from prefabricated, laminated-timber panels for ease of construction. The outer layer is a screen of black- stained Accoya modified wood, chosen to break up the otherwise uniform appearance of the house.

friends barn by amps architects - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Alberto Marcus

The single-storey design allows every room to have access to an outdoor space and reduce the impact on the views of the surrounding countryside. Pale-coloured, tactile materials used inside the house were chosen to contrast with the exterior, with limestone and lime-based mortar on the floors and chestnut panels and Mortex – a mineral coating with a waxy finish – on the walls. Bespoke furniture in the two children’s bedrooms include a treehouse-like design with two sleeping platforms and stairs that double as a game and a ballet bar. One of the adult bedrooms has a meditation space, while the other boasts a cantilevered desktop.

The Barn, Pad Studio  

  Inchmary House Barn by PAD Studio - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Ståle Eriksen

On a site in the New Forest, Hampshire, The Barn is an efficient, modern reimagining of an agricultural building. The 180-square-metre home sits within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a conservation area and an area of special scientific interest. Strict planning restrictions meant the design had to be single-storey with a limited footprint.

To further reduce the impact of the energy-efficient, three-bedroom house, architect Pad Studio used recycled materials that could cope with the sometimes harsh weather of its coastal setting, while responding to the client’s request for the building not to change significantly over time. Timber from an old barn was used for the exterior, while the north and south gable ends feature Douglas fir boards with a rough, wavy edge and their original bark to add texture and a connection to the landscape.


Which is your favourite single storey build? Let us know by tweeting us @granddesigns or posting a comment on our Facebook page

read a free issue of grand designs magazine



Compact single-storey new build in East Dulwich, London

TV house: Converted bungalow in Merseyside

7 creative, circular self-build homes

Kevins Column

Top self build highlights at Grand Designs Live 2019 hosted by Kevin McCloud

Find top experts, specialist exhibitors and a wealth of inspiration for your self-build or renovation project all under one roof.


Self Build Homes

Modular self build homes: what's the process?

High quality, sustainable, design-led prefab houses are more popular than ever. An architect tells us the secrets of the Baufritz approach.

Self Build Homes

Sliding doors offer beautiful country views for this Norfolk home

Sliding doors and slim windows are a great way to open up sightlines in your home. This inspirational new build in Norfolk shows what’s possible.
Self Build Homes

Walters Way: take a tour of this self build street in Lewisham

Watch the story of Walter's Way in Lewisham - a self build project that has inspired many grand designs.
Self Build Homes

5 of best self build projects using timber 2020

Discover the self build, extension and renovation build projects championing timber that are shortlisted for the Wood Awards 2020.
Self Build Homes

A Japanese-inspired self build with a tranquil outdoor space

Explore this project from Columbia, inspired by Japanese architecture and with an awe-inspiring outdoor space.
Self Build Homes

Discover the value an all-inclusive architect makes to your self build project

Discover the work of an award-winning architect creating some of the world’s landmark residential properties.