Grand Designs Live

Grand Designs Live is the bi-annual ‘must see’ home improvement and self-build show hosted by Kevin McCloud.  This year, I was invited to design and install a space at the Grand Designs Live Show at Birmingham NEC, in October as part of the ‘Under The Stairs Project’.

Under The Stairs Project

The ‘Under The Stairs Project’ is an interior design competition aimed at inspiring show visitors to make best use of a tricky space.  Focusing on elevating the use of unconventional spaces as part of a residential interior design scheme, the brief was to design and dress the space with products easily accessible from current British retailers, manufacturers and designers.

Design Analysis

Approaching the competition in the same way I would a conventional interior design project, I began with a client personal profile, imagining the sort of client that might live in a home. A comprehensive client profile is an invaluable part of the analysis that happens between taking a client brief and narrowing down a creative direction, which is why is interior designers ask you about more than just your decorative preferences. Understanding your preferences, lifestyle, hobbies, aspirations and personal values is crucial to finding an appropriate interior design solution.

Grand Designs Live Under The Stairs Project, Johanna Davies
Concept Board, Grand Designs Live

Client Profile

Mike is a 32 year-old singleton working in the creative industry. He works centrally but lives in a Victorian terrace within commuting distance of work.  Having grown up in the Peak District, he loves nothing more than getting away at weekends, leaving his busy job to explore the countryside and enjoy time with friends. Autumn is his favourite time of year. He loves adventuring on his bike and enjoys a good pub lunch in front of a roaring fire.  He has a preference for natural materials and a colour palette informed by nature.  Because he lets out 2 of the rooms in his house and has no dedicated office, the little space under the stairs makes the perfect study space to recharge both his tech and plan weekend trips where he can find space to breathe and recharge his life batteries. 

Creative Concept

A palette of deep blue, muted grey and natural tones, elevated with silver, chrome and black details.  Period wall features are reminiscent of the architecture with angles and graphic details symbolic of both engineered forms found in the city and natural forms found in nature.  Softened with accessories in natural materials – wood, bamboo and wool.

Sustainable interior design solutions
Grand Designs Live, Under The Stairs Project

Interior Design Sourcing

In line with my principles of helping clients create practical low-impact spaces that promote wellbeing, all finishes were selected with sustainability and low chemical content in mind.  My interest in Biophilic Design principles informed the colours, shape and textures, as well as the planting. To demonstrate how bespoke pieces can be both statement pieces and really elevate a space, I collaborated with Bristol based furniture designer Alan Flannery who created the bike pegs from furniture offcuts, creating a neat storage solution for the owner’s bike. 

Wall light – Astro Lighting, Joel Grande

Paint – Fired Earth (Under the Wave, Silica White)

Wallpaper – Engblad & Co (Diamonds) via Brewers

Floor – The Bamboo Flooring Company

Chair – Solid Wool, Hembury in Herdwick

Fleece – Solid Wool

Architectural detailing – Corston

Hanging Planter – Tom Raffield, Morvah Ceiling Planter

Footstool – Modern Wire

Leather Travel Journals – Stamford Notebooks

Phone charger – Touch Down Charging

Stair stringers & handrail – Handrail Creations

Thank you to Homebase for the wall panels, skirting and dado rail, to The Cambridge Satchel Company for the laptop bag, Fox Barn for the loan of the electrical props and Bristol based bike maker Temple Cycles for the loan of the Classic Lightweight Temple Cycle in slate. The hanging plants were purchased from Pilea Plant shop in nearby Frome.

The judging panel consisting of Kevin McCloud (no introduction required!), Jenny Gibbs, principal of KLC School of Design and  Harriet Forde, President of British Institute of Interior Design.  They were incredibly generous with their time, spending time exploring the Under The Stairs spaces and discussing the designs with each of the design professionals. 

Johanna did a wonderful job and we believe that this is a beautifully executed and very practical solution to a tiny space. She has taken a lot of care to make sure her sourcing is sustainable and there is beautiful architectural detailing

Kevin was particularly interested in the bespoke pegs created to hang the Tom Raffield planter (remember the Grand Designs episode where he followed the build of Tom’s house in Cornwall) and was also quite taken with the coffee cup made from coffee grounds. 

Delighted with the outcome and even more delighted to have made some new acquaintances who are as driven as me about highlighting the sustainability agenda in interior design and in designing interior spaces that support wellbeing.