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House of the Year 2017

Channel 4’s Grand Designs awarded the magnificent Caring Wood the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects House of the Year 2017 award

Not only is Caring Wood a modern vision of an English country home but it is also designed to accommodate three generations of one extended family during the holidays. This grand home took an astonishing seven years to build and sits on 84 acres of farmland near Maidstone. Each generational family has their own privacy which is the same size as a three-bedroom flat.

The design was inspired by a building that is uniquely associated with its location, the traditional oast house; circular buildings designed for drying hops as part of the brewing process when making beer in the 16th century.

Grand Designs presenter, Kevin McCloud, said that the house has no pretensions to grandeur with a relaxed informal feel for the separate dwellings. McCloud also concluded: “It is organic, free range and organically grown.” The house features a performance space with a grand piano and seating for up to 50 guests, an art gallery, a multi-storey courtyard and underground tunnels connecting the four living spaces. This home really challenges the concept of multi-generational living.

Within the build itself more than 150,000 handmade tiles were used on the roof tops and over 27,000 trees were planted on the estate. Niall Maxwell, the architect who designed the impressive home, along with James MacDonald Wright, said: “It makes you think differently about what a home is and what shared and private space becomes.”

Making it onto the shortlist for the award was the Hidden House, which Deborah Saunt, RIBA judge said: “It felt effortless because of the natural light that is balanced by those extraordinary roof lights.” Others included The Newhouse, Shawm House, The Quest, 6 Wood Lane and Ness point.

What is the RIBA House of the Year?

The award is given to the best new house designed by an architect in the UK and is announced as part of Grand Designs: House of the Year; a special four-part Channel 4 TV series presented by Kevin McCloud, Damion Burrows and Michelle Ogundehin.

The 2017 jury included:

  • Deborah Saunt, DSDHA, Jury Chair
  • Richard Murphy, Richard Murphy Architects and 2016 RIBA House of the Year winner
  • Sandra Coppin, Coppin Dockray Architects
  • Sebastian Cox, Sebastian Cox Studio
  • Jenny Eclair, writer, comedian and client of 2005 Manser Medal winner Stealth House

How to make your very own house of the year


Using your own space wisely is a great step into making your home more efficient. Your wardrobe space may need upgrading, however it might not be that simple; you might have just run out of space. Invest in some vacuum packed bags and store your out of season clothing under the bed; making room for all your cozy winter jumpers. You can even maximise storage by taking advantage of installing shelving above doorways and beds.


You may also find that some rooms don’t often get used. Use your home office for much more than paying the bills and taking phone calls; turn it into a place for homework for the kids or allow it to be transformed into a craft room at the weekend. Just ensure all your paperwork is filed away accordingly!


Keeping the exterior and presentation of your home neat and tidy often reflects well with how others perceive the interior of your home. An unkept and overgrown garden can give the idea of an unwelcoming home on the inside. Ensure your outdoor space is kept presentable, keep the lawn cut, flowerbeds weed free and ensure you have a welcoming clear entry that you admire; setting an inviting tone.


Fill your home with as much natural light as possible. Open up your curtains and blinds fully and allow the natural light to pour in; this will make your room feel bigger. When it comes to your living room ensure the TV doesn’t block any windows as this will cast a shadow and create a darker space. You can also boost brightness with artificial lights which can enhance any natural light in your home. Pay attention to awkward corners, corridors or alcoves. Dimmer switches can also be a great tool and give you the control over how a space is lit.