Grand Designs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Grand Designs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Distinctify

I don’t think we could logically refer to our blog as a home improvement and furniture forum without writing a post about the almighty Grand Designs. This post has been begging to be written since the dawn of Distinctify. 

It's an inevitable post largely due to the fact that my Kevin McCloud-loving father would disown me if I didn't write it, but mostly because the elaborate architectural design programme is renowned as the kingpin of property television shows. It is rivalled only by D.I.Y SOS. And frankly that’s fair enough, we tune in weekly just to blub along with Billy Byrne at the end of the episodes.

But there’s just something about Grand Designs that keeps audiences coming back for more, year after year. Perhaps it is because each episode is a true labour of love, with some taking up to four years to film as they track the highs and lows of projects. Maybe it’s the innovation that can often defy belief. It may even just be the magic of Kevin McCloud. For whatever reason Grand Designs has become an institution in itself. It has spanned international spin offs and a biannual festival that graces London in the Spring and Birmingham in the Autumn. It even produces a monthly magazine. Its fans are as dedicated as those that followed the Beatles and One Direction, always eager to see the next seemingly overambitious home renovation. It has garnered critical acclaim too, with frequent BAFTA nominations since the year 2000, and a win for best production in 2015.

Nobody could have predicted the resounding success of Grand Designs. In 2019, they will celebrate 20 years of broadcasting, with over 160 episodes. Despite multiple directors and an ever shifting production team, at the centre of it all is the Oracle, Kevin McCloud. For close to two decades, his familiar and friendly face has been welcomed into the living rooms of British families. The nations TV dad closes the show with monologues that succinctly and somewhat emotively remind audiences that regardless of the projects outcome, the sheer innovation and ambition is worth shouting about. Since Kevin is a fountain of all information, we looked to him to discuss some of the more memorable designs that have appeared over the years. Suggesting they hadn’t all been successful would be the understatement of the century. In fact, some have been total car crashes. From over 160 episodes we’ve located the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Grand Designs builds.

The Ugly: The Thames Barge

The Ugly: The Thames Barge, Distinctify

Photography credit to Daily Mail

While this 100 ft barge project can be praised for using recycled materials, that’s pretty much all it can be praised for. Its  towering structure of corrugated iron was an obtrusive eyesore that looked as though it had sailed straight out of the industrial revolution, smothered in coal and tipping a flat cap as it passed. His Royal Highness Kevin McCloud aptly described it as ‘a floating scrapheap challenge.’ Things didn’t get much more positive for this project after the programme wrapped filming. Four years later the floating home was found on an Essex beach, unfinished having been vandalised and cut adrift. Once again, the wise one that is Kevin McCloud proved he had foreseen this properties sad ending right from the start. Speaking to The Guardian, he stated “the project was compromised from the beginning.They were not prepared properly from the beginning and were relying on happenstance.” The moral of the story is always make sure you have a plan, or you’ll end up in Essex...

The Bad: The Church Conversion

The Bad: The Church Conversion, Distinctify

Photography credit to Daily Mail

I debated for a while over whether or not this 2005 church conversion could truly be considered bad. Many will likely object to it being included here at all. But even though it may not look awful, it’s fair to say that it’s definitely in bad taste. If it takes four years battling with the council to get approval for a project, it might be a sign not to go ahead with it. The property was repeatedly vandalised by members of the public who were equally as aggrieved as the council at the renovation of a much beloved building. If that alone wasn’t enough to deter owner, Dean Marks’ dreams, you’d think that the breakdown of his marriage might have done it. Or perhaps the two heart attacks he suffered as a result of the stress. But no, even a serious injury to his shoulder couldn’t stop him. The project seemed more of an exercise of vanity, that lost Marks his family in the process, than a project of love. Its bizarre features, like the added swimming pool, screamed for attention and stripped the property of all its  former glory. The Oracle himself, thought much the same thing, stating ‘It broke my heart to see so much of the character, the integrity of this place disappear, to be replaced by some pretty hideous features and a rather clunky layout.’ And so the moral of the story is, if literally everything in the universe is telling you not to do something it’s probably best not to do it. It might even be the big man upstairs dropping some pretty weighty hints.

The Good: The Modest Home

 The Good: The Modest Home, Distinctify

Photography credit to East Anglian Daily Times

From an attention seeking exercise in narcissism, to a labour of love project, finished in tribute to a humble and dedicated husband. Nat Mcbride and Lucy Fairweather embarked on their mission to build an environmentally-friendly, family home for them and their two children. Sadly, six months into the project Nat passed away after a battle with bowel cancer. In honour of her late partner, Lucy persisted with building the dream that they had created together. And it turned out to be every bit a dream. The interior is light and airy, with open spaces that are perfect for entertaining the children. The sustainable home is a fitting tribute to the man the family had lost, even though he could not be there to experience it with them. With solar panels to heat the water and an air source pump in place of a boiler, the home fits all the daily needs of a busy family whilst preserving the world for its next generation. King of TV Kevin McCloud revered the project for its humble ambitions and huge results. Of Lucy, he said “She has created a building which is intelligent, environmentally friendly, efficient and of course beautiful as well. Inadvertently she’s ended up with a building which any family would find delightful, which any family would enjoy living in and looking after.” And so, the moral of this sad tale is to do all things with love and they will end up just perfect.

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