With one of our projects – Red House - already on the short-list for RIBA’s House of the Year we’re already pretty invested in this year’s competition. And we are loving this year's themes. So far we've had ‘Dare to be Different’, ‘Houses with a Past’ and most recently ‘Extreme Homes’. The extreme part of 'Extreme Homes' had us scratching our heads. How much more extreme than the usual Grand Designs fodder could they possibly be. However, the entries didn't disappoint and two more worthy designs - Lochside House and Vex - have been short-listed. We can't wait for next week's batch of hopefuls and of course the announcement of the overall winner. All this Grand Designs chatter set us thinking about what we have learned from those hours glued to the sofa (even hard-bitten construction professionals fangirl over this show) vicariously living through the building trials of wide-eyed, relentlessly upbeat home-owners. Here then is our unashamedly personal and completely un-scientific take on managing your very own Grand Design.
Top Tip #1
Where Kevin McCloud is concerned, silence is rarely a good thing. If his silence is accompanied by pursed lips and raised eyebrow, immediately seek assistance from a competent building professional or at least have a long chat with yourself about the direction your life is taking at this point. Much like the exam invigilators of our past lives or indeed cameramen on a David Attenborough nature documentary, Kevin McCloud is morally and contractually forbidden from meddling with the decision-making process of his subjects even though a nod from him might save them from whatever calamitous error of judgement they are about to commit. His silence on the other hand speaks volumes so listen, take heed. And. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Top Tip #2
Any half decent project manager will of course work to an itemised budget plan whether hosted on a swanky new app, tattered old spreadsheet or the back of a proverbial fag packet. Along with the allocated expenditure for Italian marble, polished concrete, triple glazed windows, cinema room, lap pool, catering kitchen, yoga studio, car lift and Swarovski crystal studded loo-roll holders do not under any circumstances scrimp on the most important item of all – Flowers & Wine for Irate Neighbours. No matter how lovely, reasonable, upstanding, accommodating and decent an all round skin you may consider yourself to be, at some point, you, your builders, your constant stream of deliveries, your early morning starts and late evening finishes, your drilling, digging, vibrating, dust generating and general coming and going will get seriously on someone’s nerves somewhere in the close vicinity of your wannabe Grand Design. And at that point all you can do is accept that you are on the back-foot, capitulate, apologise, apply flowers, wine, contrition and repeat as necessary. Play nice people and remember, they may get asked about you in the end of show Vox Pop…
Top Tip #3
If there is one thing that can be relied on to permanently de-rail your time-line, sap your energy, drain your resources and pull focus entirely from the task in hand it is Having a Baby. Why people will insist on having babies in the middle of building works is completely beyond us. Have they never seen an episode of this show? Don’t they know that every extra family member they add whilst building a Grand Design is a guaranteed twelve months longer spent living in that caravan on-site or in Aunty Mabel’s spare room or stuck in that squalid too small studio rental they have to pay for in advance on a rolling six month basis. Frankly how people can find the energy for that kind of thing at all, mid-project, is beyond us.
Top Tip #4
Do not, under any circumstances, peg your moving-in date to Christmas or indeed to any other major celebration in a church calendar of any description or indeed that of any other major or minor world religion. That way lies bitter disappointment, recrimination and rescinded invitations to hordes of relatives. First off, the world and its grandmother is targeting that same arbitrary deadline thereby placing an impossible strain on the finite number of construction professionals and building material suppliers available to meet the demands of all. Similarly, though on a more secular note, do not count on receiving mission-critical components for your build from any part of Italy or indeed large tracts of Southern Europe during the month of August when factories shut down – completely - and the people who work in them very sensibly go on holiday. For the entire month. Lucky them. You have been warned.
Top Tip #5
Your entire project depends on the installation of a reinforced steel joint equivalent in length to the wingspan of an Airbus A380. The site for your Grand Design lies on the end of a delightful country lane with grass growing up the middle and hedgerows either side you can’t see over. You’re probably in Devon but I digress. Your options are to a) helicopter in the extremely long, extremely heavy beam, b) level the hedgerows thereby eliminating most of the local bio-diversity and slightly irking the neighbours (see Top Tip #2) or c) plan early and often to avoid nasty but entirely foreseeable surprises of this nature.
You are now armed with the benefit of our penetrating insights. What can possibly go wrong? We can recommend some great structural engineers by the way..!