Welcome back Grand Design fans for the fifth and final instalment of our blog series following the ups and downs of this (and previous) season’s much anticipated projects. This week we’ll be giving you another double low-down visiting both a brutalist concrete abode in Lewes and an environmentalist’s dream in the West Country. We will take you through the projects themselves and let you in on our tips and tricks for recreating their interior looks.
Skating fanatic Adrian and wife Megan’s concrete vision for their new home couldn’t have been further from Kevin ‘King of cob’ McCabe’s plans to create a mansion predominantly with a mix of clay, sand, straw and water. Where the projects did collide was their outrageously ambitious nature, both representing plans that no sane self-builder would attempt.
Though most architects left brutalism in the late 1970s, Adrian’s fascination with the creative potential of concrete inspired him to design a home almost exclusively with the substance in a style which Kevin McCloud calls ‘the brutal end of brutal’. On the other end of the spectrum, Kevin McCabe’s vision belongs further in history with a popular building material from the 18th Century: cob.
The similarities don’t stop at their nostalgic and ambitious natures either. The two projects are unusually generous with their funds, they’re both exhausted of course, but neither are as unforgiving as the budgets that we typically expect of Grand Design. Both also face planning issues due to their irregular styles and while Adrian and Megan manage to complete their brutalist build in just over a year, Kevin’s carbon-neutral cob home ends up taking seven years to finish!
These huge houses share spaciousness but have nothing else much in common interior-wise. The concrete fortress is harshly industrial and cries out for bright colours and gentle textures to soften its uniformly grey walls. Cob castle on the other hand is inherently warm and welcoming with a meadow sown on its roof and myriad windows connecting the two round houses.
Stylistically speaking, Adrian and Megan embrace their creation’s industrial style and follow the theme using upcycled university science cabinets as kitchen units and their own well-loved furnishings to add warmth and colour. Kevin also builds on his farmhouse interior, continuing to use cob as a feature throughout the manor combining it with warm wood surfaces and cosy furniture selections.
Getting the Look
Despite their differences in design, what we can take away from both projects is to work with, not against the theme of your home. You can still add your own character and personal style, but to create an interior that sings we have to consider our property’s idiosyncrasies and make a feature of these. Whether you have a traditional cottage or a modernist escape, to some extent you will have to get on board with the style. A mock Tudor house with a 1970s interior just will not do.
Once you have researched the history of your home, you can then begin to choose your furniture and accessories. For a warm, farmhouse feel like cob castle, select wooden furniture; a large oak dining table for example is a staple in any farm-style kitchen-come-dining room. Pair these with shabby chic accents in antique whites and pale pastels and invite the for outdoor in with designer vases to hold gorgeous sun flowers as Kevin has.
In some cases, if you are designing your home from scratch like Adrian and Megan, you will be holding all the cards when it comes to styling. In this case, say your new home has a more industrial modern theme, you can choose to heighten and/or brighten the look. To go full-on factory-esque choose a concrete chest of drawers paired with a table lamp featuring metal accents that echoes exposed piping. For a softer feel, bring in colour and texture with a patterned rug and brightly toned wall art.
It’s all very well planning our home’s theme on our forgiving Pinterest board, but for seamless interior design we must take into account the style of the house itself. Blending the property’s originality with our own taste brings a sense of harmony that interior styling cannot achieve on its own. If you are in a new build or a home of your designing, the choice then becomes whether to dive headlong into your chosen theme or to soften it. Exciting decisions lay ahead!
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