We have compiled a list of our top 15 favourite, Grand Designs style homes from around the world, to celebrate the genius and creativity that people have used when designing their properties. From conversions to working with their natural surroundings, our 15 homes, demonstrate the best of ‘thinking outside the box’ architecture.
#15. The Headington Shark
Whether you love it or hate it, believe it or not, this quirky design was built with a hidden meaning. The shark was added to the roof in 1986, on the 41st anniversary of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in the dying days of WWII. This is a fantastic example of political tension affecting the design, as the homeowner’s views on the growing threat of nuclear warfare during the height of the Cold War, in the 1980’s are re-imagined in shark form…..on his roof. Luckily, these fears weren’t realised and now it serves as a useful landmark for those Oxford Brooke’s students, stumbling their way home after a night out on the town.
The staggering 7.5-meter shark is made of fibreglass and is famous in Headington, a suburb of East Oxford. Previous tenants have commented on the realities of living in a local landmark and have frequently responded to tourists questions whilst they photograph their home.
#14. Villa Vals
This incredible home has been carved into the Swiss hillside and offers absolutely stunning views. You must have a sense of adventure when looking around as you can only enter the home via an underground tunnel located in a barn close by. The added benefit of being built underground is that they have so much available space that can stretch on for as much as you want it to!
This building is a testament to getting around planning permission laws, as being located in the desirable thermal spa location of Vals, permission would have been tricky to obtain for a more traditionally designed home, however, as the majority of this house has been built underground and blending seamlessly into the hillside, the lucky owners have managed to sidestep any issues. Designed by architects Bjarne Masterbroek of SeARCH and Christian Müller of CMA.
#13. Prickly Nut Wood
What makes this building particularly special is that it has been made for only £26,000. The owner, Ben Law, lives and has based his coppicing business in this marvellous home in West Sussex. The key feature for Ben’s Grand Design was for it to fit in peacefully into the area and he managed to do this by using materials found in the natural environment around his home. This innovative building method has left no waste product behind and was incredibly sustainable – he even powers the home himself! This home showcases Ben’s natural craftsmanship, as he painstakingly selected specific pieces from the wood to feature in his design. This is the perfect marriage of care and love going into the finished design.
#11. Frame House
Frame House is a stunning finished product which is the winner of the prestigious RIBA architectural and design award. Built by Marcus Lee, formerly of Richard Rogers Partnership, is a 5 bedroom eco-home in Hackney, London and makes the use of a cul de sac which benefits from an impressive 40 ft garden and has every Londoner’s dream of off-street parking.
The key feature of this design is the masterful use of natural light and it has definitely delivered upon completion. There are brilliant uses of glass as in most rooms there are stunning views of the garden from most angles and rooms of the home. The interior is based on Japanese design and features clever methods to disguise storage and is flexible enough to be changed as the family’s needs change and grow.
#10. Decagon House
This 6 bedroom unique Grand Design located in Oxford, is based on the infamous Oxford Colleges just down the hill from it’s upmarket Summertown location. The unique and clever decagon design allows lots of natural light to flood the interior of the property and the tasteful copper roof blends in with the natural surroundings making the design unobtrusive and eye-catching.
Partly inspired by the architecture in Morocco, the main reception room has the advantage of a glass ceiling light in the centre. The room opens on to the large paved courtyard, reminiscent of an Arabian styled walled garden. The property also features a self-contained carriage house which is also connected to the main house and is the perfect space for entertaining guests and family members when they visit.
#9. Waterworks House
This Grand Design evokes the bygone era of the stately home, with the long, tree-lined drive leading up to the front door of the property and set off by the surrounding woodland, you almost expect Lissie Bennett and Mr Darcy to step out of the front door to welcome you across the threshold.
The 4 bedroom, re-purposed waterworks property is located in Chesterfield, Derbyshire (prime Darcy territory) and appeared on the Channel 4 TV show way back in 2002. The owners converted it into a tasteful family home with a focus on maintaining the original style and charm of the period building; resulting in a pleasing mix of historic and contemporary interior design.
#8. Sliding Roof House
One of Kevin’s personal favourites this Grand Design, 15 1/2 Consort Road, otherwise known as ‘Sliding Roof House’, was built on a previously designated “unusable” brownfield site in Peckham, on a very strict budget. The actor owner and his partner had struggled to get a mortgage and were desperate to build their own dream family home.
The property maximises the space and even goes so far as to have a bath cleverly concealed beneath a bed! With the restrictions of space and money, this home is a testament to those naysayers who think a Grand Design can only be pulled off with an unending money stream. With perseverance, determination, good forward planning and grit, you can get the home of your dreams realised and Sliding Roof House is the proof in the pudding.
#7. Flint House
Commissioned by Lord Rothschild himself, ‘Flint House’ is situated on the Waddesdon Estate and has won the RIBA prize in 2015. Designed by architect Charlotte Skene Catling of Skene Catling de la Peña, the houses cleverly blends into the skyline and gives off the impression of dissolving into thin air. The beautiful blue, slate colour contrasts with the green fields surrounding it and really works with instead of against its location.
This house is used by the Rothschilds for the workers of their Waddesdon estate and is also open to the public, who can take a 25-minute tour of the interior.
#6. Landsdowne House
This fantastic conversion of a recording studio encompasses multiple levels, the lower ground, ground and first floor of the building. The owners, Audrey Lovelock a spatial and interior designer and her husband, converted the historic space which they bought from the original studio’s owner Adrian Kerridge. They wanted to keep the historic elements in their Grand Design for their new home, when they converted it into a luxurious 4 bedroom studio, complete with gym, cinema, wine room and upmarket wet room.
The home is steeped in music history as it was a venue where the Sex Pistols and famous Clarinetist, Acker Bilk among others recorded their work. The property was recently put on the market by Marsh & Parsons and came with a hefty asking price of £7,500,000.
#5. Gap House
This house is an incredible way to use up wasted space and it has the added benefit of helping the environment. Located in an alleyway in West London, this home is design was created by Pitman Tozer Architects. No mean feat, this difficult home was built with the environment in mind as not only is the home itself sustainable, but it also benefits the two houses next door, by insulating them, so they can save on their energy bills and CO2 emissions. This home is literally a win-win for everyone involved.
#4. Boeing 747 ‘Wing House’
Built into the isolated hillside of Malibu, California in the USA, this house was designed to take in the breathtaking views of the mountain range and valleys below. The concept of the design started with the roof, as the views were so spectacular, the architect wanted the roof to be as discreet as possible. The female owner specified flowing, curved shapes to be incorporated into the design and to give the impression of floating gracefully on the site. What better way to realise these design ambitions than re-purposing an old aeroplane’s wings?
The stunning result is also good news for the environment, the architects sourced a whole plane and stripped as much out of it as possible that could be used in the building of the house. Sustainability is key in this design, as it also features solar power, radiant heating and natural ventilation this is a fantastic design by architect David Randall Hertz.
#3. Cement Factory Conversion
This incredible transformation by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill in Barcelona is one of the most brilliant Grand Designs so far. Not just a home, he took advantage of the amount of space on offer with this site and has included an exhibition space, office and more. This one of a kind home invokes the great history and famous of Barcelona architecture destination worldwide. We can picture no other place to host such a testament to ingenuity and sustainability.
The factory prior to its transformation was deserted and left to crumble away until Ricardo discovered it and saw it’s potential. The re-modelling process took two years and the project started by stripping back the original design to reveal the hidden gems of surrealist shapes, lying patiently in wait for Ricardo, beneath the factory’s heavy, concrete overcoat. Once the spaces had been designated, the area surrounding the building was planted with carefully selected greenery that would compliment the design.
#2. Murphy House
Winner of the RIBA award 2016, the ‘Murphy House’ in Edinburgh is replete with moving walls, hidden trapdoors and even a sliding ladder, all of the accoutrements that Denis the Menace would die for in a home.
Designed by Richard Murphy’s Architect’s founding father, this project took him an extreme amount of time to complete, almost 10 years were spent realising this Grand Design and the end result is definitely worth it. Blending in with the traditional sandstone terrace, the home includes a 45-degree roof complete with solar panels and the home allows the residents to alter the amount of natural light that can enter the property. With these quirky features and sensible, thoughtful design to fit in with its surroundings, it’s the perfect blend of innovation and style.
#1. Cave House
Our favourite Grand Design of all time has to be the Cave House, as appeals to the cave man dwelling within, who just wants to escape the relentlessness fast pace of city living and to retreat to our very own rural, secluded paradise.
The interior of this home is absolutely stunning that you would forget that you were in-fact, deep within a cave. From the clever use of white paint, complemented by the light brown colour scheme, to the strategically placed electric lights and the natural light pouring in from the windows carved into the mountainside, this house is truly special.
This home is the end goal that people have in mind when they start work on their own Grand Design, a job very much well done.
If you have been bitten by the Grand Designs bug, then why not take a look at our 5 Worst Grand Designs blog post.