Grand Designs: rustic tin barn and London eco mews join House of the Year shortlist

The Dutch Barn (West Sussex) by Sandy Rendel Architects Ltd (Richard  Chivers)
The Dutch Barn (West Sussex) by Sandy Rendel Architects Ltd (Richard Chivers)

A rustic tin barn which was ambitiously converted into a zinc-clad curved home with a "Meccano" viewing tower, and a traditional London mews property which was hollowed out into an ultra-sophisticated eco house have been shortlisted to win the coveted House of the Year competition.

These two fairy-tale transformations were chosen from five entries on last night’s Grand Designs House of the Year 2022 show.

Each week, in the month-long series on Channel 4, architectural guru Kevin McCloud walks viewers through five projects to be shortlisted into the final, as judged by RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) in December.

In episode 2, the projects were categorised as ‘incredible transformations of existing buildings’ with each one shape shifting from derelict or outdated structure into a contemporary home fit for 21st century living.

McCloud is joined by design expert and author Michelle Ogundehin, architect Damion Burrows and conservation architect Natasha Huq to present the entrants of the four categories. As well as incredible transformations, there are also hard to build, ground-breaking ideas and exceptional craftsmanship.

Here are the two finalists chosen last night and the projects they were up against.

FINALIST: The Dutch Barn

By Sandy Rendel Architects

Pauline grew up on a working farm in West Sussex, playing in the lofty rafters of the hay barn. With her partner Paul, she runs the family business – eight-acre landscaped gardens open to the public – from the site and has transformed the humble hay barn into their new home.

The now two-storey, sophisticated structure is dressed in waterproof, black zinc with a fine (although well insulated) curved roof. The sides are punctuated with large windows.

The Dutch Barn (West Sussex) by Sandy Rendel Architects Ltd (Richard  Chivers)
The Dutch Barn (West Sussex) by Sandy Rendel Architects Ltd (Richard Chivers)

The towering architectural feat is the rusty grain silo which, although would seem to be another salvaged piece of the farmyard, is a new slotted together red steel viewing tower for tourists to survey the gardens. Inside is a spiral stair and it is attached by a walkway to the upper deck of their new home.

The upside-down house with the bedrooms on the ground floor is "grand yet intimate," says the McCloud voiceover and "does not forget its origins." The sleek stainless-steel kitchen has a rustic woven oak floor and there are painted red metal trusses supporting the ceiling.

A lot of thought has gone into it looking slightly ["artfully" according to McCloud] undesigned.

Mews House Deep Retrofit (London) by Prewett Bizley Architects (Andrew Meredith)
Mews House Deep Retrofit (London) by Prewett Bizley Architects (Andrew Meredith)

FINALIST: Mews House Deep Retrofit

By Prewett Bizley Architects

Mews houses, part of the architectural vernacular ofcentral London housing, were stables and carriage sheds converted by the Victorians into homes. As pretty as they tend to be from the outside, they are often drafty and far from meeting modern standards of energy efficiency.

According to Eve, the owner of this particular mews house, she could feel the wind blowing through her hair when she stood by a window.

This family home (for Eve, her husband James and their two young children) has been entirely hollowed out. "There was one point when it had no ceiling and now floors, just four walls", she says.

Using an air dehumidifier, breathable insulated plaster and slimline double-glazed windows where the two panes are separated by a vacuum (as opposed to the more usual chunky double or triple glazed windows) along with an air source heat pump, the energy consumption of the property has been reduced by 82 per cent.

Burrows declares it as a marriage of technology and craftsmanship with an angular spiral staircase made of 900 slats of oak in the centre of the property beneath a light well allowing natural light to flood into the home.

The Parchment Factory

By Will Gamble Architects

Charlie and Jane bought a Georgian cottage in a Northamptonshire village that many would aspire to own. Although, prior to their purchase, the ruins in the back garden had deterred many a faint-hearted buyer.

Their secret weapon was their son, architect Will, and together they have stitched a modern extension into the crumbling walls of what was left of the Grade II listed, ivy-clad 16th century factory. "I almost felt like the structure was being held up by the ivy," says Charlie. Now the parchment factory portion of the home is a mixture of the gothic theatrical and modern build with the extension in the remains of the old building.

The Parchment Works by Will Gamble Architects (Johan  Dehlin)
The Parchment Works by Will Gamble Architects (Johan Dehlin)

The lightweight glass boxes are sealed at the top by a strip of Corten steel and the original masonry repointed to ensure the stability of the stone walls.

The new modern kitchen sits under the authentic wonky wooden roof in this home. The RIBA judges praised the elegant way old and new were introduced to each other.

The Cow Shed

By Crawshaw Architects

McCloud describes this farm building as the ultimate working-from-home office.

The cow shed which had sat unloved for 50 years and was home to a tractor, has been transformed for the owner Natalie into a library house, "classical and refined."

The simple abode has a double height, vaulted and curved library at its centre, elongated by an open corridor running down the middle with tables and workspace and lined by books. The library is also a bedroom is flanked by a kitchen, a study, a bathroom and a lobby.

The Cow Shed (Dorset) by Crawshaw Architects LLP (Ingrid Rasmussen)
The Cow Shed (Dorset) by Crawshaw Architects LLP (Ingrid Rasmussen)

To achieve the new ceiling heights, with sections left open and glazed for light to pour through, the floor was dug out by hand which took two months.

Everything in the building was crafted as if by chisel and saw when the farm was originally built with raw bookshelves inspired by hay racks.

"The mark of a civilised house is a library," says McCloud and it’s from here that Natalie now sits diligently keeping another tradition alive – letter writing.

The Den

By Technique Architecture and Designs

Every summer for two weeks, Shona, her parents and two siblings, would visit a small flat on the Isle of Bute on the West Coast of Scotland.

The five of them would squeeze into the top floor flat which had a pull-out bed in the kitchen and an outdoor toilet. “We had the best time,” she says.

Six years ago she inherited the flat and the one underneath it came up for sale and she set to work bringing her past into her future.

The Den (Scotland) by Technique Architecture and Design in collaboration with Stallan-Brand (Dapple Photography)
The Den (Scotland) by Technique Architecture and Design in collaboration with Stallan-Brand (Dapple Photography)

Having lost her son Dylan, who tragically committed suicide at 18, it became more important than ever to preserve the memory of their time spent together in the flat too.

The two flats were knocked through vertically to create a double height space while preserving the original sandstone walls and features.

The windows have been secured with subtle aluminium frames and in the centre of the house is clever birch ply joinery which – like a piece of furniture – forms cupboards, a staircase, storage on the landing and hides a bathroom. The services of the home are contained within the wood.

This gives a visitor time to enjoy the exposed Victorian walls left bare.

The 150-year-old sandstone was damp and crumbling so the property has been wrapped in a zinc cube to allow it to dry from the inside out, preserving it for those who live within.

Shona says, "this is a house for the next generation but it feels like he [Dylan] is still here." An emotional Huq calls it a "black box of tricks, a house turned upside down and inside out, and a place to heal."

To see the full episode stream Grand Designs House of the Year 2022 on Channel 4.