House of the Year: luxury glass and timber home and four metre-wide house contend for Grand Designs award

Norfolk Barn by 31/44 Architects & Taylor Made Space  (Nick Dearden)
Norfolk Barn by 31/44 Architects & Taylor Made Space (Nick Dearden)

A luxury glass and timber home on the scale of a small aeroplane hangar and a four-metre-wide house slotted between a terrace and a public library are two of the five homes going head-to-head to be crowned House of the Year.

This category of materials and craftsmanship is the last of four in the Channel 4 Grand Designs House of the Year 2022 airing on Wednesday 7 December at 9pm.

Each week Kevin McCloud walks viewers through five projects to be shortlisted to scoop the overall award – one of the most prestigious accolades in residential architecture.

The categories so far have been hard to build, transformations of existing buildings and mould-breaking, and one overall winner from each one will be chosen by a panel of RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architecture) judges in the final episode of the series.

McCloud is joined by design expert and author Michelle Ogundehin, architect Damion Burrows and conservation architect Natasha Huq.

Here are the entrants on show in the materials and craftsmanship category to be whittled down to two finalists before the overall winner is announced.

Norfolk Barn, Norfolk

31/44 Architects & Taylor Made Space

Norfolk Barn by 31 44 Architects and Taylor Made Space (Nick Dearden)
Norfolk Barn by 31 44 Architects and Taylor Made Space (Nick Dearden)

McCloud describes this property owner and architect as taking a Michelin star, fine dining approach to building.

The bottom half of the barn is floor-to-ceiling glazed panels, the top is a timber Birch Ply box of parallel louvres.

Luke, the owner, is a designer of airports and the interiors of planes in the luxury travel sector, and his new home is the size of an aeroplane hangar with eight-metre-high ceilings in the kitchen and massive porcelain floor tiles.

The RIBA judges delighted in the scale of the place and like an aircraft hangar everything had to be of that scale - from kitchen units to the wood burning stove, which is one of the largest available, explains McCloud. Glass walkways soar above the marine blue swimming pool on the ground floor.

However, it is comfortable not cavernous, he continues, with straw ceiling tiles to dampen the sound levels and a ground source heat pump keeps it “cosy”.

House at Lough Beg, Northern Ireland

McGonigle McGrath

House at Lough Beg by McGonigle McGrath (Aidan McGrath)
House at Lough Beg by McGonigle McGrath (Aidan McGrath)

In a protected landscape in rural Northern Ireland is the House at Lough Beg, made entirely of 50,000 soft, grey brick. The smooth shell of the building is uninterrupted by gutters or window frames, the former are hidden and the latter are recessed. On the roof is a clean triangle of zinc.

McCloud’s voiceover describes it as “breath-taking in its simplicity while the homeowners Hugh and Gillian say they felt a “responsibility” to their surroundings to build something that fitted in.

The dedication to the humble grey brick is apparent as one man painstakingly laid every single one in a project that took five years.

Inside every room has a window which frames the landscape with floor-to-ceiling glazing in the family room with panoramic views unbroken by corner work or pillars.

The home is designed to look like a collection of farm buildings and the steel work was done by an agricultural buildings specialist. There are further nods – the barn door shutters on the windows and the timber floors.

The Library House, East London

Mac Donald Wright

The Library House by Macdonald Wright Architects (Heiko Prigge)
The Library House by Macdonald Wright Architects (Heiko Prigge)

“The Library House is a small but perfectly formed jewel of a home” according to McCloud. It is a white brick end of terrace house that has been slotted between a row of Victorian cottages and a public library.

It glistens due its glazed white bricks and lime mortar with a rust-coloured corten steel strip connecting it to the red brick community building.

The bricks are a shallow 50mm high (compared to a London stock brick of 64mm) giving it a contemporary air and the steel section is perforated offering patterns or light and shadow to fall on the inside.

The staircase, instead of being at the front of the house – typical of Victorian terraced homes in London, is in the middle and is circular to create more space. It has been crafted of Douglas Fir and also acts as a bookcase with a hidden toilet in its midst.

The walls have been left without plaster, paint or render to save inches and reduce embodied carbon and have been left with a brushed clay finish for texture.

There are solar panels on the roof and an open air showed in the courtyard garden.

Mere House, Cambridgeshire

Mike Architects

Mere House by Mole Architects (Matt Smith)
Mere House by Mole Architects (Matt Smith)

The homeowner Joan demanded a home that was eco-friendly and cheap to run in her retirement. This home, says McCloud is the elevation of the rough and ready wooden shed into something quite exquisite.

The light-weight low carbon timber frame is highly insulated with overlapping strips of larch cladding in reference to the vegetable pallets in the nearby fields with a butterfly roof on top.

“It is like a living thing,” says Joan, who says the structure gently creaks in the wind.

The raised bank of windows from the living spaces shows her the sky, the soft green floor is made of saw dust, chalk dust and linseed and flows through all the upstairs rooms giving it flow and continuity.

“It’s humble and straightforward and doesn’t show off,” says McCloud and yet with its solar panels, triple glazing and insulation works away tirelessly and quietly as an eco-efficient, low-cost home.

The Garden Studio, Norfolk

Alder Brisco

The Garden Studio  by Brisco Loran and James Alder (Nick Dearden)
The Garden Studio by Brisco Loran and James Alder (Nick Dearden)

This modest project was the extension to a Victorian home to create an artist’s studio and workshop out of reclaimed materials, even down to the reclaimed brick wall and archway that leads to the building.

On a budget of £95,000 a tumbledown garage was transformed into 65 sq m of studio space with a mezzanine for makers Peter and Sally to work in.

The minimalist kitchen has a sense of great calm, says Burrows, but is simply green cladding over Ikea units.

The floor looks like polished concrete but is a much cheaper micro concrete layer and the staircase was cut using robot-controlled machinery and then assembled in the studio reducing costs for such a bespoke wooden staircase from around £7,000 to £500.

RIBA judges said this untested architect has cut cost without compromising on beauty.

To find out which two projects have made it through to the final shortlist and then which project has won the overall title of House of the Year 2022, watch Channel 4 tonight at 9pm.