Tucked away in a corner of leafy South East London is a Grand Designs build with impressive angles. The 'cheese wedge' shaped home is the vision of Corinne Rowe, a private chef and newest member of the Grand Designs family, whose innovative house build was showcased on Channel 4 yesterday (you can watch the episode here). Join us as we chat about her journey to creating her tranquil home, with some very special pieces from Case.
How do you start your day at home?
"Two mugs of very strong tea, followed by overnight oats made with almond milk, shaved nuts and berries, topped with roasted almond butter. I make all my almond milks and butters myself. I also start the day by getting organised – I always have a plan for my day ahead, which is a must have when you’re building a home!"
What led you to deciding to build your dream home?
"It was a challenge for me - I was lucky enough to have a slice of land at the side of my house in London that felt like a real opportunity to do something with, and I thought I’ve had so many missed opportunities in life and couldn’t let this one pass me by – there's only one person that could make this happen, and that’s me.
First step, I googled how to build a house! I had no idea where to start, and I’m not a risk taker, so for me it was about figuring out how much of my savings I could plough into this project, to see whether it’s a viable option. It was a risk and one I had to do on my own.
My google search took me to a course at the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon. I booked it straight away, which is not like me at all, I normally ponder things and then go back to them – but if I didn’t book it, I would put it off and other things would take priority."
How long did the process take from start to finish?
"We broke ground in November 2021 on the build, but it began in 2017 when I applied for planning permission and then conservation licenses in 2018. In normal builds, the planning permission would be the quickest part and the build the longer part, but because of conservation in the area I live in, it was the other way around and it took longer to get everything signed off before we could break ground."
"I got ill at the beginning of Covid - I was diagnosed with cancer 3 days into the national lockdown. I applied to Grand Designs while I was waiting for my operation, to focus my mind on something else during this period and keep pushing the build forward. I took the plans, notebooks etc into hospital with me and ploughed ahead with the build. There are certain situations you are thrown into which are a sink or swim situation, and you realise that it's up to you to float to the top or you’ll easily sink.
It hasn’t really hit home what I have achieved yet, but I think seeing it come to life watching the Grand Designs episode will help. When I start cooking in the kitchen and having friends' round, it will start to feel more like home. Recently coming home from holiday and opening the door was a surprisingly nice feeling and has helped me feel attached to the house."
Tell us a bit about your favourite room in your house?
"It’s a hard call, definitely the kitchen and the dining area, but even more than that it’s probably the bedroom and the bathroom area because it is all mine, a total sanctuary. It’s all been designed and built to how I wanted to live. This wouldn’t be a house for very many people, but it’s definitely a house for me."
How did you find your interior style? Has it changed from your previous home?
"I just went with the framework of the house first of all. I’m not a real follower of styles and trends you see on Instagram - I was adamant that I didn’t have anything generic and also that I didn’t want plain white walls everywhere. I wanted a functional, simple and easy to maintain house. That was my mantra through the design and build, everything had to fit that.
Once I started making decisions, it’s hard to make the first ones, but once you start making them, the others fall into place around that, you can start building up a mood board and carrying samples around with you wherever you go!"
"I’ve always liked quite minimalist interiors and have always saved up and bought pieces of furniture I wanted, rather than go for something that wouldn’t bring me years of joy. For example, my B&B Italia sofa that I have had for 20 years, I saved up for 7 years to buy it, and had it reupholstered for my new house.
Buying good quality furniture is so much more affordable these days, but it’s the detail in design that I like more than anything else. With the Profile dining chairs by Case, it's the attention to detail in the joins, the way they curve at the back, how the legs sit off the floor, the way to two bar stools sit beautifully together. Case furniture is very practical – the dining chairs stack for example. Everything is very considered in its design."
Seen above: Profile Stools
"It’s a house I’m going to be living in permanently and I want to enjoy looking at the things I have in it. It’s such an awkwardly shaped house, that everything in here has got to be absolutely correct.
I was lucky enough to build really good relationships with people and seek the expert advice. For example, the bathroom, I knew what I wanted but I didn't know what would be best for my budget. You can find a beautiful tile that costs £190 per square metre, but you can also source a tile that’s £70 a square metre that’s not far off the look you like.
I am a good decision maker – if something was right, I knew it was right, which helped when there are so many decisions to be made quickly in a project like this."
Favourite piece from Case?
"When it came to the furniture in my house, I didn’t want to spend months and months trying to put together things that looked cohesive from many different places – in a small house like this everything needs to fit, so Case was the one stop shop for me.
I haven’t got a favourite as they all serve a different function which is pleasing, and all the pieces fit really well with the space. I’m sitting in the Ella lounge chair as we speak and it’s so comfortable with the Ottoman to put your feet on.
The Dulwich dining table is beautiful to look at – all of the details are perfect and it’s beautifully crafted, and the smoked glass table next to my sofa; I look at it and think that is such a good table, the height and shape works so well with the height of my sofa."
Seen above: Lucent Small Side Table
"The smoked glass mirrors in the spare bedroom and bathroom are beautiful and get so many compliments – it's nothing generic that you see everywhere; it’s great to have unique pieces in my home."
Any plans for another Grand Designs project in the future?
"I wouldn’t be sitting here now if it wasn’t for my architect and builder – I knew I chose the right team, I persisted with them until they were on board!
To do it once and have such a good outcome, permanently on file via Grand Designs has been amazing, and a really good way to document my achievement.
I would do renovations in the future – now I know so much about the building blocks, where to get things from, and the sequence of events, it would be stupid for me not to use that knowledge going forwards. I'm going to give myself a bit of time to enjoy this, and then I might dip my toes into renovating some properties.
Watch this space!"
Seen above: EOS Outdoor Furniture