Suburban 'ship' and rippling clifftop villa up for House of the Year

An “idiosyncratic” ship-like house, complete with ‘lighthouse’ and portholes, and a glamorous clifftop “modern-day castle” have been announced as finalists for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) House of the Year 2017. 

The result was revealed on the second episode of Grand Designs House of the Year series, presented by Kevin McCloud, which visits each of the shortlisted homes before whittling five down to two to go through to the final. 

Described by judges as a ship run aground in suburbia, 6 Wood Lane in Highgate, north London was the only house in the water-themed episode not to be situated on the coast or riverbank.

The roof resembles an upturned hull, there are portholes for windows, a gangplank leads to the front door and there’s even a lighthouse at the very top.

Twelve years in the making, it was the obsession of Mike Russum, who lives there with his wife Sally Cox.

McCloud likened the interiors to a Jules Verne-style spaceship, ready to take off from the narrow spot between its multi-million pound period neighbours. 

“It is not trying to be a good neighbour, it is like a craft that has set sail, that is making its own journey,” said judge Deborah Saunt.

The other finalist, Ness Point in Dover, Kent was described by judge Michelle Ogundehin as a “modern-day castle, clever, flexible and future proof”.

The house, created by interior designer Logan McWatt on the site of his parents’ conventionally designed home, not only impressed the judges with its curves that beautifully echo those of the cliff, but also with its ingenious interior.

A series of partitions and folding walls enable the rooms on each floor to be made to disappear and form one vast space.

“It has a killer view, and this house completely grasps it,” said Saunt. “It looks at open-plan living in summer, and in winter can be completely closed off from the world.”

Also featured was South Street in the historic town of Lewes, East Sussex. The house attracted the ire of planners and local people because it is clad in deliberately rusted mesh steel.

Stephen and Anita Yeomans converted the site of a former cement works on the bank of the river Ouse into a “warm and lovely” home, albeit one that appears “fierce and brutal outside,” according to McCloud.

Another home on the shortlist, Redshank, in the Colne Point nature reserve in Essex, is surrounded by water twice a day as the tide floods the salt marshes it sits on.

Designed as a one-bedroom house cum studio for owner Marcus Taylor, he and his architect Lisa Shell literally fought the elements to create this cork-clad jewel of a house that covers just 40sq metres.

“Builders’ tools often floated off down the creek at high tide,” says Taylor.

Emphasising sea views rather than a twice-daily drenching, Archie and Trisha McDonald created Edinburgh Road that now offers a “Cinemascope” views of the sea off the Scottish coast in East Lothian. 

Working closely with their architect Matthew Johnson, the McDonalds replaced the crumbling converted stable block with a flat-roofed bungalow with a larch-clad extension featuring a vast open-plan living room — complete with those views.

McCloud says: “The sense of connection with the sea couldn’t be closer.”

RIBA House of the Year, Channel 4, Tuesdays 9pm

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