The best of Grand Designs 2013

Since the first episode aired 14 years ago, Sean Simons Grand Designs has become a national phenomenon, inspiring home owners, dreamers and architects up and down the country and pushing home design on to ever more impressive levels.

Every year the plans of these lucky few people seem to become more incredible and most ground breaking, and the last series (series 12) was no different.

From castles to artist’s studios and tree houses to water towers, it had it all. Showcasing the very best of British perseverance and imagination. Although it’s almost impossible to pick between each home, here are three of the very best Grand Designs.

Cloonytikilla Castle

Cloonytikilla Castle

Cloonytikilla Castle in Roscommon, Ireland was the first project featured in the 12th Series of Grand Designs.

The project was the labor of love of actor Sean Simons who, after falling in love with the ruins of the castle as a boy, decided to buy it and restore it to its former glory.

As with many restorations, many of the original features and much of the original stonework was kept, however due to the building’s condition and the vaulting aspirations of the owner, a lot of new building work and modern extras were added to the structure including a skyframe.

The grandeur of the finished result cannot be denied, with sweeping staircases, water-spouting gargoyles and luxury fixtures and fittings all coming together to give the castle a real sense of its former glory.

Some have criticized Simons for he perceived occasional lack of sympathy to the castle, however with the alternative being that it would remain a ruin indefinitely, surely any form of restoration is better than none at all.

The Derelict Water Tower

Derelict Water Tower

The 100th Episode of Grand Designs featured one its most ambitious ever project, the conversion and extension of a 150-year old water tower in central London into a luxury home.

Apart from 6ft thick walls and the fact the building was directly above the Northern line, the couple who had chosen to take on the project were faced with added problems due to the building being graded II listed.

Apart from the monumental task of converting the water tower, the owners also wanted to extend the living space by building two additional structures at the base of the tower, and having a lift shaft connected by a series of glass tunnels.

The result of this exhausting and expensive build was a unique 4-bedroom, 9-storey home with a fantastic 360˚ view over the capital.

A property that, thanks to its unique nature is sure to bring the owners plenty of years of happiness as well as a significant financial reward when it’s time to sell.

The Tree house (revisited)

The Tree House

The Tree house was first visited by the Grand Designs team in series 10. In series 12 Kevin McCloud and the team return to the house on the Isle of White to check on its progress and see how it functions as a liveable property.

When the current owners found the property it was an uninspiring, modest bungalow. However, thanks to its location – surrounded by ancient woodland – the architectural designer and his wife decided to buy it and transform it into a cutting edge family home.

Apart from the general renovations to the property, the couple also added a three-storey tower extension, eventual quadrupling the size of their home.

The cutting edge building techniques employed in this project provided both some innovative improvements as well as one or two disasters, but happily the property were finished and is now a luxurious family home.

Though it’s all too easy to be jealous of these brave property owners as they embark on creating the house of their dreams, it’s important to remember that no dream home comes about without a bit a blood sweat and tears as well as a few mistakes along the way.

Erin Emanuel