Ian and Jenny dare to transform a Grade II listed house into a black, modern and minimalist family home in a walled garden in the middle of a historic Scottish estate.
In tonight’s episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, architect Ian and his wife Jenny leave their lives in Edinburgh behind and move north to County Perth and Kinross to convert an old garden (or shed) in their home forever.
The daring and ambitious project will attempt to save the rotten hut and attach a brand new low-slung box to it with the wall in between – connected by a hole in the stone.
To do this, they must deconstruct the much-loved garden and recreate it – all under the scathing watch of the other residents of the estate.
The main property of the estate was a Georgian mansion, extended by Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer in the 1890s into an Arts and Crafts style castle. The other buildings include a farm, banquet hall, gatehouse, pavilion and both in its stone walled garden – all with different owners.
As presenter Kevin McCloud warns, the great heritage country houses of the UK belong to everyone – they are part of our history.
âThey are part of our culture like football and shopping and they influence the way we build now. If you play with big buildings, you risk playing with our common culture, âhe says.
With their two young children in tow, the daring couple have a tight budget of Â£ 350,000 to spend on three different phases: the two, the new build and the garden. That’s well below the Â£ 500,000 that McCloud estimates such a program should cost. Paying rent at a nearby cottage also means they only have 11 months to complete it and move in.
Due to its listed status (known in Scotland as Grade B), both must remain intact and look the same from the outside as they always have. The plans show the main entrance to the house through the middle door of the two into a cloakroom. The children’s bedrooms and the guest bedroom will take place in this 19th century building.
Then, with a sense of drama, a door pierced through the old stone wall, under a 13m glass skylight, will lead to the new part of the house. The black wood-clad box should be located just below the top of the stone wall, effectively hidden from view of the rest of the estate.
The main kitchen, dining room and living room will be lit by huge lanterns with sliding doors that open onto the reworked garden. In this part of the house, there will be a cozy, intimately lit corner, a games room, an office, bathrooms and the master bedroom.
âI don’t envy them,â McCloud says. “Ian must magically fit the freakish old man, a bulky black box, and a historic garden into a satisfying hole.” Quite right under the noses of the inhabitants who have lived and love this area, âhe continues. “Ian and Jenny took a huge duty to get it right.”
Covid-related delays and rotten wooden beams in both present conditions as harsh as the Scottish winter. In order to transport the Â£ 62,000 of insulated panels and steel to the garden, Ian must apply for permission to drill a hole in the stone wall (which will then need to be painstakingly reconstructed). The uprooting of mature trees, including lovingly topiary yews, would also become the source of controversy both between Ian and the former gardeners and between Ian and Jenny.
âWe are just the temporary caretakers of these buildings,â says a neighbor. “Let’s just hope they put it back to what it was before,” adds another.
McCloud sums it up: âIf they don’t do good gardening, the whole project will failâ¦ and I would go so far as to say that Ian’s professional reputation depends on it.
But, somehow, Ian and Jenny create peace between the old and the new.
As you approach the restored house, there is a romantic glimpse of a secret garden behind the wall, accessible only through the old stone structure.
Saving the 19th century building cost more per square foot than the black box, nicknamed the âstealth boxâ by Ian. Halfway through the project, rotten beams were revealed and a whole new roof was needed, stretching the budget further and forcing the family out of rental accommodation to move into their new, half-built home.
However, the meticulous lead work takes the eye away from the new slate tiles and heads towards the restored “bothy green” gabellised end. Ivy and moss still cover the garden wall and climb up through both while the original lime pointing and refurbished terra cotta floor tiles make what McCloud describes as a “faithful reproduction.”
The hole in the stone wall is a âfounding momentâ. With the sky visible through the glass above, it’s sort of like a garden wall in the middle of a house.
Sliding doors reveal a raised straight lawn surrounded by teasing greenery, beautiful walkways, and wrought-iron gates covered in climbing flowers.
More subtle than McCloud thought, he described the single story building clad in black as a shadow and the glass windows as reflecting the greenery. Even the neighbors say it’s a success.