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    Drama, drama, drama

    The most recent series of Grand Designs offered viewers drama by the skipload, with the airing of one instalment sending viewers rushing to Twitter to declare it the show’s “saddest ever” episode.


    > Scroll right to see the most dramatic, complicated and unusual builds of the last series

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    Edward and Hazel Short decide to knock down their family home in North Devon to build a more dramatic lighthouse in its place.

    Fremantle

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    The couple spent £1.4 million on their clifftop plot and intend to spend £1.8 million more on their six-bedroom lighthouse home.

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    Complete with four-storey rotunda tower and a glazed observation room, which Edward calls his “storm room”, all hanging out over the sea, the striking structure they plan is a world away from the “perfectly good house” they want to demolish.

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    One part of the home sits on top of the bedrock and the other bit sits on poles hammered around 20 to 25-metres down into the bedrock, says architect Alan Phillips.


    “The whole of the cliff-face could be washed away, until we get to just raw rock, and the house would just be floating over the top of it — but completely stable. Which will look stunning,” he says.

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    The main kitchen and living space will enjoy uninterrupted views across the infinity pool to the sea beyond.

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    Given the exposed location, a hundred tonnes of steel is required to support the concrete and blockwork structure but all of this will get hidden behind a skin of coastal white render and shimmering glass. “A proper lighthouse palette,” says Kevin.

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    For the circular tower, a complex and circular steel frame is needed that costs £150,000. “It’s a pity lighthouses weren’t made square,” says Edward, “It would have been a hell of a lot cheaper.”

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    A modernist rockstar lighthouse in Devon

    The project most definitely does not go to plan, with Edward left owing £4 million and separating from wife Hazel.


    “If there’s one huge guilt I have over everything, it’s the impact on the family,” says Edward.


    But, he adds: “I’m going to finish it. You’ll be here again.”

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    A cutting-edge, wheelchair-friendly family home

    Design engineer Mark Butler is paralysed from the waist down and needs to design a wheelchair-friendly family home on a tight budget.

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    A cutting-edge, wheelchair-friendly family home

    The emotionally-fraught episode saw design engineer Mark Butler and his wife Penny take on an ambitious self-build with the aim of creating a family home that would work for them all.

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    A cutting-edge, wheelchair-friendly family home

    Paralysed from the waist down following a motorcycle accident, Mark found getting around the family’s old two-storey house in his wheelchair increasingly difficult.

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    A cutting-edge, wheelchair-friendly family home

    A year into the project, just as the foundations were laid, Penny and Mark told Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud of their decision to separate.

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    A cutting-edge, wheelchair-friendly family home

    With a maximum budget of £600,000, Mark and Penny had to cut back on some of the features they wanted originally – including a drive-in basement and a striking “aerofoil” staircase inspired by Mark’s work designing race cars and motorbikes.

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    For musician Toby Leeming, his actor wife Libby and their daughter Margaux, the architectural dream of building a home was first voiced during Toby’s recovery from leukaemia.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    More like a village than a house, the vast project is arranged across five buildings that include six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a music studio and an annexe.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    All on a budget of £530,000. It’s not an easy task, especially as they must build close to the ancient oak without destroying its roots — and have a target build time of just eight months.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    At one point, to save money, Toby decides to do all the joinery himself.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    Kevin McCloud can’t quite believe the daunting task ahead of Toby, “It sounds very ambitious.”

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    The pressure is palpable throughout but, 11 months since starting the build, the results are astonishing.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    Toby sought a place to re-invent his life, improve his health and provide for his family.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    The four black buildings that form the home, have been lifted and integrated with clever architectural details.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    The light-filled home is bright and airy, but Toby can avoid direct sunlight – as is required for his health as part of his recovery – and a clever way of making the building work for both him and his family.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    “To have pulled it off, something of real quality, so quickly, is extraordinary,” says Kevin.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    The couple go £15,000 over their £530,000 budget, but are delighted with their finished project – and still have to pinch themselves that Toby’s architectural dream has become reality.

    Fremantle

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    A horseshoe of barns in Sussex

    “These buildings have the potential to re-energise them, revitalise them, provide meaning and coherence, after so many years of turbulence and difficulty,” says Kevin.

    Fremantle

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    For flying instructor Colin MacKinnon and his partner, hovercraft instructor and trapeze artist, Marta Briongos, living in close proximity to their airfield just wasn’t close enough.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    Colin and Marta were granted permission to build a new house on their airfield, starting work in 2011.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    The couple planned for a modern control tower-type home where, by living on the second of two floors, they wouldn’t risk being overlooked by people taxing around the airfield.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    Clad in corrugated aluminium, the air hanger-inspired building has a 35-piece steel frame that was technical to assemble yet elegant in result.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    Soon, the couple run around £40,000 over budget and Colin decides to take some paintings to auction to pay their mounting bills.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    Many setbacks – and a total of eight years later – Kevin goes back to this project in Scotland see the finished results.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    On the ground floor, three guest bedrooms are bright and airy – with porthole windows overlooking the runway.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    Upstairs, there’s a master suite, a veranda, snug and the open-plan centrepiece of the live-work home.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    Architectural tricks include the deceptive master bedroom wardrobes which look shallow but actually project out of the confines of the building.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    On the top floor, under a large glazed roof light, there’s an office for Colin and a painting studio for Marta.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    Colin and Marta’s taste and their sense of fun is apparent throughout the home. In the open-plan living space, trapeze swings hang from the ceiling.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    “It’s an airship,” says Kevin, “Straight out of the pages of some futuristic graphic novel.”

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    “Very few houses have ever succeeded in making a very humble material like corrugated cladding a noble one.”

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    The couple disagree on how much they’ve spent in total but their positive outlook – especially considering their huge setbacks – is infectious.

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    A metal-clad airship in Scotland

    “We’re still in the stage of life of looking forwards,” says Colin, “You don’t look back on problems, you move beyond them.”

    > Scroll right for more of the best homes to feature on the latest series…

    Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

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    More from this series of Grand Designs: An underground family house in Hull

    Engineer Richard Bennett, 55, and his partner Felicia Böhm, 45, have transformed a decommissioned water reservoir into their dream family home.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    An underground family house in Hull

    Their three-bedroom courtyard house is carved from the structure’s existing concrete retaining walls, which provided a ready-made insulated enclosure.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    An underground family house in Hull

    Presenter Kevin McCloud followed the progress of the challenging project, which began in 2013.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    An underground family house in Hull

    The split-level, sunken plot was bought for £98,500.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    An underground family house in Hull

    The couple have designed big, open-plan spaces for flexible living.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    An underground family house in Hull

    The ambitious project had a tight budget of £150,000.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    An underground family house in Hull

    Unusual design and layout decisions added further stress to the renovation project.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    An underground family house in Hull

    The three-bedroom home also has three separate living spaces and five bathrooms.

    © Victor de Jesus/UNP 0845 600

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    21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    Lincolnshire couple Paul Wilkinson, 46, and his wife Amy, 39, meet presenter Kevin McCloud as they embark on an ambitious plan to build a modern family superhome inspired by Celtic roundhouses.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    Floor-to-ceiling exposed timber beams creating a dramatic jig-saw effect in the circular living room. High-gloss white ceramic flooring creates a watery effect throughout, with sky blue accents complimenting the natural timber.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    Larch-clad interlocking cylinders house their living room, kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    “It’s Celtic meets Star Trek,” says McCloud, as he spots the Lazy River quartz-clad sink in the circular kitchen, which reminds him of a ‘psychedelic riverbed from a James Cameron film’.


    “It’s so totally funky, it’s great.”

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    The cosmic theme continues in the music and games room.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    Three interlocking drums connecting the main house are linked by raised wooden walkways that hang over the grounds and a fishing lake.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    Circular rooms are difficult to furnish. Amy spent £8,000 on a bespoke silver sofa to fit in the cylindrical living room.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    An upstairs terrace off the master bedroom overlooks the lake and the Lincolnshire countryside.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    A separate drum houses a swimming pool and spa complex.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    There are five en-suite bedrooms overlooking the lake on the second level of the central drum.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    Bespoke floor-to-ceiling windows have been fitted to the curved walls of each bedroom.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    A host of Celtic creatures and Stone Age effigies are scattered around the site.

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    A 21st-century roundhouse in Lincolnshire

    “I think we’ve gone over budget a little bit, at £1.2m or £1.3m. We’ve not really added it up. We’re proud of it. This is our forever home. We’re going to enjoy it,” says Paul…


    “But I shall never build another roundhouse ever again,” he adds

    Tony Buckingham/UNP

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    More from this series of Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    The new series of Grand Designs returns to our screens tonight as the 20th anniversary series kicks off with a dramatic cliffhanger.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    Yorkshire couple Andy Stakes, a former structural engineer, and textile industry expert Jeanette Hardy, set out to build a glass-fronted home on the edge of a rugged clifftop in south-west Scotland.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    The elevated plot, originally occupied by a former military listening station, couldn’t be in a more challenging location, sitting 100 feet above the sea in a remote coastal corner of Galloway.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    Presenter Kevin McCloud describes the site as a “wild, magnificent, brutal place to build a house.”

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    ‘I’m going to attempt to build a three-side waterproof box and then the whole thing is buried to hide it from passerby’s on the land-side,’ explains Andy.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    On the cliff-top side, it’s wall-to-wall glass looking out on the ocean.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    For Jeanette, it was all about the interior design. “When you walk through that door you want that same wow factor as when you stand on the cliff,” she says.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    After battling extreme gale force winds and torrential rain during the build, Andy and Jeanette are thrilled with their spectacular cliff-top home.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    Dark colours work in the open-plan kitchen, which cost about £40,000.

    Andy Buchanan

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    Grand Designs: a risky cliffside house in Scotland

    Kevin McCloud describes the home as a calm and reflective sanctuary. “No longer a listening station, now a lookout post;a home perched on top of the world.”

    Andy Buchanan

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