people and places5 min read

Insider tips: how to embark on your own Grand Design with Kevin McCloud

Grand Designs Kevin McCloud
Grand Designs Kevin McCloud

WordsAmber Rolt


If you’ve ever dreamt about building your own home, you’ve most likely watched and swooned over Channel Four’s Grand Designs. Presenter and designer Kevin McCloud has been running the show for more than 30-years now. He has seen plenty of setbacks, budget disasters and fallouts throughout his tenure of more than 200 episodes. So, what’s the secret to making a design project, no matter how big or small, go smoothly? We caught up with him to find out how best to embark on your own Grand Design.

What’s your advice to anyone undertaking their own design project for the first time?

KM: “I say this to everybody, and I’ve been saying this for 30 years – the world is full of brilliant people that want to help. Whether that’s your aunt, your best mate, your uncle’s friend who happens to be a builder, or your local architect. We show such extraordinary self-competence as human beings - we think we can do everything. But putting up shelves is very different from building a house. Asking for help in our lives is not something that most of us are very good at doing, but it’s a really important thing to do. When you do, your blood pressure drops, your heart skips a beat and you feel good. Just asking for help from any human being is the first step.”

Channel Four's Grand Designs, Kevin McCloud.

What advice do you have for people to try to help them stick to their budget?

KM: “That’s a really good question because it cuts right to the essence of what it is to be a human being. We are a species in which hope drives us. It gives us our ambition and desire to change our world – to make a better living room or bedroom, to build a new house, or to change our street. All of these things are good motivations, but with hope comes desire and an inevitable drive to overreach. We think we will get more done in a day than we can and we think we will build a house cheaper than we actually do.”

It’s like they said in the military: ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. If you plan and prepare it’s where you will save money.

Kevin McCloud

“If you get a good quantity surveyor on board who can look at your project dispassionately and tell you how much it’s going to cost, then that’s a good start. It’s asking for help, and you need someone pragmatic to help you. It’s like they say in the military: ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ If you spend three years planning a project you will spend three years building it, but if you spend five years planning a project then you may only spend one year building it. If you plan and prepare it’s where you will save money.”