skinny home, slotted into a disused alleyway in London, and a magical extension designed to bring joy to two little boys have been shortlisted for the RIBA House of the Year 2021 competition.

Size mattered in last night’s show.

The first finalist selected was a Tardis-like 2.8 metre wide home and the second a vast extension under a complex wooden roof which comes out 11 metres.

In the second episode of this sixth series of Channel 4’s Grand Designs: House of the Year architectural guru Kevin McCloud, supported by designer Michelle Ogundehin and architect Damion Burrows, visited five more cutting-edge residential projects.

These long list entrants were whittled down to two finalists for the annual competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). This week’s show featured the category, materials used in a new and beautiful way and followed last week’s theme of homes that take you by surprise. For those who missed it, here is the lowdown on the two winners and the projects they were up against.

From disused alleyway to skinny home

The Slot House

Architects Sandy and Sally Rendell invited Ogundehin into their skinny home which is only 2.8 metres wide.

The pair had challenged themselves to design and slot in a joyful home into the narrow access route in south west London.

Using a handmade slimline steel frame rather than bricks and mortar saved them half a metre of wall and the exposed materials of the house (such as timber beams) double up as funky interior design and the functional freeing up of space.

There’s a double height kitchen and living room on the ground floor with the whole of the rear of the house glazed to let in light.

Upstairs is a mezzanine study which hangs over the living room, a bathroom and a study. The floor in the open space is made from cork to minimise sound and in places they have pushed back the thin ply cladding to create shelving.Even the stairs are fixed onto the steel frame to save space.

Slot House

/ Jim Stephenson 2019

On the outside the pair used handmade, biscuit-fired, glazed brickslips instead of full bricks which are a third deeper.It’s a contortionist of the building where the perfect use of material has created a real jewel of a home, said Ogundehin.

Finalist: A magical tree canopy

House for Theo and Oscar

The last house on the long list was hidden in the Surrey Hills.

Around the back of an ordinary 1930s cottage was an incredible extension under an 11 metre complicated lattice, wooden roof which stretches deep into the house and far out into the garden.This magical canopy was designed by architects Tigg + Coll to delight 10-year-old Theo and eight-year-old Oscar, who were both born with a rare genetic and degenerative disorder called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

They live here with four-year-old Luca and parents Nick and Clara.Theo and Oscar’s “fun” rooms opens onto the garden and have been designed to feel like treehouses.

House for Theo and Oscar


The roof gives shade and creates a dappled light effect onto the floor. It’s both expansive and almost appears to float, but it had to be strong to hold the hoists that Theo and Oscar will need.

The whole house has been future proofed for wheelchair access too. Such a project is expensive but a property developer and suppliers gifted the expertise and materials.

The family lived for 13 months in a cabin at the bottom of the garden but the wait was worth it – the extension has greatly enhanced the boys’ lives.

Ogundehin said it shows the power and possibility of architecture.

The runners up: A house of beautifully crafted concrete

Wolds Barn, Lincolnshire

McCloud took a trip to rural Lincolnshire, a landscape dotted with agricultural barns. But he found a barn with a difference. It was the new home of civil engineer Henry and Jen, and their young family, made from corten (or weathering steel), concrete and black laminate cladding.

Wolds Barn


Downstairs consists of a minimalist polished concrete kitchen which runs into an open plan dining and living area. The glazed doors slide all the way back to open up the sides of the ground floor and its flat top is covered in vegetation. The rust-coloured barn with a pitched roof creates the first floor.

It houses four bedrooms each with a glazed door onto the view. In the cantilevered black pod is the master bedroom suite which overhangs the living area.

Challenging as it was to build – the foundations consist of 90 metre piles that plunge through layers of sand and natural springs to sit in the chalk bed – McCloud described it as “exceptional” and “open minded.”

A Scottish Scandi fusion

Kyle House

A derelict old farm house, that was almost windowless, has been carefully converted into a reimagined stone lodge in the highlands. Burrows visited the rental home crafted from locally-quarried stone with a slate roof on the outside but modern Scandinavian fixtures and fittings on the inside with the rooms clad in, and made from, kiln-dried Danish oak. Even the toilet was cleverly hidden in natural wooden joinery. There are pocket doors that disappear seamlessly into the walls too. On the ground floor is a kitchen and living area and upstairs are the bedroom and bathroom.

Kyle House

/ Alexander Baxter

On the side of the building, but low down, the architect has punched square, timber lined holes as windows which look out onto the dramatic landscape.It is high end and polished by an architect who felt it was his duty to rescue this dilapidated old building and also move the conversion on, Burrows said.

A world of wood

Grain House

As the name suggests, McCloud stepped inside a world of different woods in the Grain House. Behind a traditional Victorian terraced house in east London is a new extension made of Siberian Larch batons, some charred and some left naked to weather in the elements. The new space contains a sunken kitchen and dining room and a snug at the very rear, then up stairs into a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom.

Stairs run up the side around a double height courtyard which has live trees growing in it. It all belongs to husband and wife Matt and Lucy and their five-year-old daughter Sylvia – which means spirit of the wood. Ash, Douglas Fir, Oak and Walnut are used for different purposes: the staircase, the floor, the atrium and the kitchen cabinets. Upstairs strips of Ash are woven together to make cupboard doors.

Grain House

/ Kilian O’Sullivan

Other materials are on display too such as Italian marble on the work surfaces and blush pink handmade tiles on the steps. “We get a sense of calm just by looking at the wood,” said homeowner Matt. The Slot House and a House for Theo and Oscar join The Water Tower by architects Tomlin Liu and House on the Hill by Alison Brooks Architects.

Tune into Channel 4 at 9pm next week for the next round.

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