25th October
written by Dom

George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, C4 Tuesday 24th Oct 2012. TV Review

Micro Design or Microarchitecture is what we now call small spaces converted by imaginative types into interesting and quirky homes and living/working spaces. Now we know all about that sort of thing here at OneGrandDesigns, but it seems that TV is catching on… No sooner has Kevin McCloud finished bodging and fettling his own man-made shed than Channel 4’s other resident architecty type; amiable Geordie George Clarke (of “Restoration Man” fame) crops up peeking around the nation’s “Micro Designs”.

Rob & Layla's Bedford Bus holiday home Micro Design

Rob & Layla’s Bedford Bus holiday home, featured in episode 1

The first programme offered us up a mixed bag – from the lovely couple scratching their last pennies together to convert a rickety old bus into a (truly magnificent) holiday let so that they could afford to keep their Wales smallholding together in tough times, through a thoroughly annoying Sarah Beeny wannabe with her converted horsebox to a young architect Laura’s inspired central London converted public toilet.

A slightly annoying fast-cutting between scrapbook images of interesting looking designs (unnecessary given the programme’s hour length), along with George’s own vanity project – a £300 caravan (“It’s just like the caravans I used to spend time in as a kid”) – which you just know is going to be nothing like that once his annoyingly titfer’ed TV “friend” William Harvey has finished with it only slightly spoil what is an otherwise fascinating glimpse into the lives of truly ingenious people and their wonderful creations.

I enjoyed this more than Kevin McCloud’s show – it has more genuine inspiration and ideas to offer for the person on a budget, plus there’s a tacit recognition here that people are doing these designs because it’s what they can AFFORD, rather than purely a rich man’s extravagance. Indeed, there was one quite rousing quote from the man himself which I’ll leave you with…

“if anybody is out there thinking I want to do my own small space retreat, but they’re worried about money – actually they shouldn’t be. If they can put the time and the commitment in and they can be creative about it they can realise the most incredible spaces.”

Hear Hear!

George Clarke’s amazing spaces is on Channel 4, Tuesdays at 8pm. You can watch the first episode on 4OD here

1st October
written by Dom

Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home, C4 TV Review

Wow! well talk about things going around coming around… Three years ago, inspired by Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs I set out to build the nearest thing to a Grand Design that I could – hence this blog. The one grand designs shed was a response to the high concept, high budget wonders to be found gracing Channel four’s flagship property strand every week. My idea was to build as unique a design as possible for a budget of £1000 myself, as an unskilled keen amateur, begging, borrowing and recycling whatever possible as I went (see the original “inspiration” post)…

Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home

Kevin McCloud’s “Man Made Home”

…So, I’ve just finished watching last night’s (second episode) of “Kevin McCloud’s man made house”. Where Kevin McCloud is hand building on two acres of land bought for the express purpose, something sortof similar… Obviously this is Kevin McCloud – so he has a slightly bigger budget presumably, he has the aforementioned two acres for starters, rather than his back yard… He also has access to some great TV “friends” who are helping him with the whole process, but I don’t begrudge any of this, it makes for great TV, plus our Kevin seems to have dropped the puffa jacket in favour of something a bit more rustic and down to earth. I love the guiding philosophy at play in the programme – the sense of the journey being as important as the destination… Fabricating your own building gives a great sense of control and order, but it’s being a shed allows for additional, all-important sense of play, fun and exploration to creep in – You’re not building a house for your family, so you can afford to experiment, and that’s where the show gets most interesting.

My “Man Made Shed”

It’s great to see the sense of fulfilment that I got from putting the One Grand Designs shed together being shared and shown on national TV by the very man whose show inspired me in the first place – there’s a pleasing sense of closure to the whole thing. I’d love for Kevin to see my little shed, I’d love it if he “got” the comforting sense of shared adventure that I feel watching the show, but to be fair, it’s just nice to know that I’m not the only one who gets his kicks building a shed!

Of course, there will be a book which will encourage you all to go out into the woods and get creative. For those of you with the wherewithal I can heartily recommend it, I will buy myself a copy and dream of those two acres of woodland. For the rest of us, well >>ahem<< there's also a little book, which explains how to do it in your back yard... I'm just saying... SHËD: Build your own designer garden office for less than £2500

Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home can be viewed on 4OD here

23rd July
written by Dom

The Lighthouse by Potton

The Lighthouse by Potton

Well, not quite – I suspect that gorgeous cladding is somewhat more sexy than my good ol’ exterior ply.

Joe Martoccia, from Kingspan Off-Site mentioned it in a comment on my Paean to Kingspan from last week and a beautiful thing it is too. Available in kit form for self builders at an undisclosed (to me anyway) price. I can probably safely state that it’s gonna be wee bit out of my current price range but it’s absolutely inspiring.

Perhaps more important to some than how it looks is how it works – designated the UK’s first net-zero carbon self build home, it uses a plethora of cutting edge concepts such as a photovoltaic array on the roof, a biomass boiler and wind-catcher coupled with construction from Kingspan TEK Structurally insulated panels to meet level 6 (the highest level) of the code for sustainable homes.
Wowzer. What’s more, it’s not just a picture – the house exists and can be visited in Watford. Read more at Potton’s website.

30th May
written by Dom
This is the goal - the Ecospace Garden Studio - if I was richer I'd just buy it

This is the goal - the Ecospace Garden Studio - if I was richer I'd just buy it

I love Grand Designs. Really I do. What’s not to love about creative people building their dream home? It’s inspiring, it’s intelligent, it makes me feel good about myself as a designer. Yes, Kevin McCloud can be unbearably smug (and what is with the puffa jacket Kev?) – but he’s a smart man, passionate about his job and the people whose projects he follows. I marvel at the beautiful modern lines of the architectural wonders on display, the clean lines of the glass (always last to arrive because it’s been shipped from Germany – why is it always Germany? What’s wrong with St. Helens?). I share in the joy and secretly imagine myself and the family squatting in a caravan while we wrestle a minimalist palace out of a muddy hole cut into some obscure Welsh hillside…

… Then, about two thirds of the way through the program I start getting really angry – angry enough to throw things at the telly (or at least turn over to Britain’s got Talent)… it’s at the point where the couple in question start discussing how they’re just going to have to go another £100,000 over budget because they simply must have the taps they saw in Turin… £100k over budget?

I’m annoyed because I’m jealous of course – where do they get the money? – They’re almost always retired bankers or something or other “in the city”, moving out to the sticks to raise the next generation of Jeremys and Jocastas away from the hustle and bustle of the lives which paid for their lovely house in the country.

Well, I’m not a retired banker, I work for the council. I don’t live in London, I live in Liverpool. I haven’t bought a fabulous undisturbed plot of land overlooking a Welsh valley, I’ve got a back yard with a ropey old shed. But I still have dreams… designs… even, dare I say it, Grand Designs…

ONE Grand Designs to be exact. I live in a small terraced house with my beautiful wife, my 17 year old twin men, my 11 year old son, a bearded collie with training issues and two cats. There’s not a huge amount of space to go around. If I want to be creative I have to do it on the table in the back room surrounded by piles of ironing and clean up after myself. I dream of clean empty space. In the Guardian the other weekend I read a fascinating article about “garden rooms” (check it here) – “They’re cheap, chic, eco-friendly and above all – there is no commute. Could shedworking be the way forward for those looking to work from home?” – works for me! – where do I sign up?

Except of course as I read on I felt a familiar red mist rising – they’re not that cheap are they? … £25,000 for the sleek cedar-clad box I fancied … £25k for a shed?

Which brings us to the point of this exercise. My One Grand Design. I plan to replace my wonky old shed with something as near to this as possible on a budget of £1000. I intend to scav, borrow and bodge wherever possible to keep the costs down, but my aims are as follows…

  • I want it to be beautiful – like a grand design
  • I need a shed where I can keep the kids bikes and my tools and stuff safe and locked out of sight
  • I want a clean, warm, insulated room where I can work undisturbed both summer and winter
  • I will not, at any point, resort to wearing a puffa jacket.

I’m drawing up plans and putting together a shopping blagging list as we speak. I hope to link out to places and people I find useful along the way. I haven’t set a deadline, but it’d be nice to get it finished by the end of the summer – watch this space!