PICTURES: Inside the stunning County Down home featured on TV’s Grand Designs

Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud (left) was very impressed with the family home designed by architect Micah Jones, pictured here with wife, Elaine.
Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud (left) was very impressed with the family home designed by architect Micah Jones, pictured here with wife, Elaine.

Inspired by his father’s love of sheds, a Co Down architect has built a house which is now the envy of thousands throughout the UK.

And since his unique home featured on this week’s Grand Designs programme Micah Jones has already been receiving calls enquiring after his services.

Grand Designs' Kevin McCloud visits Co Down couple Micah and Elaine Jones at their Ballygowan home

Grand Designs' Kevin McCloud visits Co Down couple Micah and Elaine Jones at their Ballygowan home

A 40-strong audience of friends and family – including two young boys up past their bedtime – watched Wednesday night’s episode of the Channel 4 show in the same Ballygowan home as was being featured on the television.

The house which was designed by the 31-year-old architect is based on the old, dilapidated barn which it replaced and the stones which clad much of the house’s exterior come from that same barn.

It is a far cry from Micah and his wife Elaine’s first married home, a two-bedroom terrace on Gilnahirk Road in east Belfast which they sold for £121,000 in 2015.

The new house was two years in the making and saw the couple and their two boys – Zach, now five and Toby, now four – take up residence in a caravan beside the work in progress.

The view from downstairs

The view from downstairs

Micah said: “We actually quite enjoyed living in the caravan. Especially during the summer, it was like being on holidays. In the winter, less so. We had an incredible amount of mice come in. By the end of the winter we’d caught 55 mice.”

Micah explained that the Grand Designs team began filming when construction got underway in May last year.

Their final visit was on the Twelfth of July – an inconsequential date for presenter Kevin McCloud and the show’s UK production team, but a date that caused a frenzy for Micah.

Micah said: “Because the builder’s yard was closed for the Twelfth week, we were there frantically getting everything that was needed to finish the house before Kevin’s visit.”

The Jones' home in Ballygowan

The Jones' home in Ballygowan

Speaking to the News Letter on the morning after the show aired, he said: “I’ve had calls from people who saw the programme and were interested in some of the elements I used. It’s a unique design and has attracted a fair bit of attention. I’d be lying if I said it isn’t good for the business to have this sort of exposure.”

While the downstairs part of the house is below the level of much of the garden, the huge open-plan upstairs living area leads towards a south-facing veranda boasting breathtaking views of Co Down’s rolling hills with the rugged Mourne Mountains as a backdrop.

Micah explained: “All the rooms are a reasonably normal width of 4.5 metres but the house itself is 25 metres, the length of a swimming pool. This led me to keep the upstairs part of the house as open as possible to maximise that view.”

The total cost to build what is an extremely impressive home both inside and out was a very reasonable £245,000.

A corner of the kitchen in the Ballygowan home

A corner of the kitchen in the Ballygowan home

Micah said the costs were kept down by using cheap materials, though it was not a case of being frugal for frugal’s sake.

He said: “We used cheap materials because we also liked those materials. It just so happened that a lot of them were cheap.

“The kitchen work tops, all the fires, hearths and surrounds are all concrete. The bathrooms are all done in steam-bent timber which again was a quarter of the price of doing it in tiles.”

During the build Micah and Elaine had a third child, Zoe, who is now three. She made her TV debut as part of the show at just one month old.

“The drive for us in doing this is the first place was that we were really keen to jump from our first house to our last house,” said Micah.

“Maybe if we’d been doing this in 10 years time the money side of things would be a lot easier but we wanted to do it when the kids are small so they can actually grow up here, go and build little huts and do all the things that kids do.”

The stunning office

The stunning office

Micah said: “In building this house I wanted to mirror my childhood. I grew up just outside Saintfield, at ‘Shedland’.”

Micah’s said his father’s obsession with erecting sheds made for a “wonderful childhood” and had a huge influence on his new home which he said could be described as a “giant shed”.

Wednesday night’s episode which aired at 9pm was the first time Micah had seen the programme featuring his house.

He said: “It was great craic watching it with friends and family and people who have been here helping out. For the final six months we were working at it night at day, until 2am some mornings.

“On Wednesday night the boys were allowed to sit up past their bed time to watch themselves on TV.

“Reading the comments on Twitter and Facebook has been interesting. They’ve been really positive.”

On Twitter one fan of the show wrote: “One of the best #granddesigns I’ve ever seen. Lovely couple, lovely shed.

On Grand Designs Facebook page someone left a comment to say: “Tonight’s property is the epitome of good taste. Congratulations to the couple and to GD for following.”

Micah said: “There hasn’t been a Grand Designs in County Down before so it’s nice to have my home county featured on the show.”

He said the most fulfilling part of the build was seeing the cross laminated timber (CLT) frame for the house going up.

“As far as I’m aware this is the first CLT house in Northern Ireland,” he said.

The CLT – an exceptionally strong panel consisting of layers of wood glued together at right angles – came from Austria. This in turn had led to the most stressful part of the build.

Micah said: “Getting the CLT delivery lorry up the lane was by far the most stressful experience. It lashed the night before and the lane was just mud the whole way up. The lorry spun its wheels in so many locations but the Austrian driver was so determined to get up.

“Plan B would have been to bring each panel up on a tractor and trailer and that would have taken a huge amount of time.”

The young architect set up his own firm after graduating in 2012. He said: “It was a slow start at the height of the recession, a hard graft, but we’ve built up a reputation.”

Of the Grand Designs host he said: “Kevin (McCloud) is a really lovely guy, incredibly down to earth and knowledgeable. He’s a really genuine guy.

“We’ve watch the show for years, as an architect I’m usually shouting at the TV, ‘What are you thinking?’”

The episode of Grand Designs featuring the Jones’ family home in Ballygowan is available to download via Channel 4’s catch up service.

The view from the bottom of the staircase

The view from the bottom of the staircase

The former Jones household in east Belfast

The former Jones household in east Belfast