Grand Designs

Whilst visiting London we took the opportunity to visit the Grand Designs Live 2011 show to seek inspiration for our next project.

We decided to start off in the Grand Build section to check out windows, velux’s & other new developments. As expected there was a lot to see including huf haus and other passive house developers.

As our next project is a renovation we weren’t so interested in these but we do hope to make our future home as energy efficient as possible which means investment up front in excellent glazing, thermal insulation & green energy.

The windows suppliers we looked at were Internorm an Austrian company who supplied Glazing units for the Grand Design Crossways based on Richard Hawkes’s immaculate design of an energy friendly house which is one of U K’s first code level 5 passive houses.

Kloeber (surprisingly a UK based company) who manufactured the Glazing for the Grand Designs Groundhouse in Brittany.

and Solarlux for sliding doors & Velux for their funky CABRIO® Balcony System (GDL) which fits snugly to the roof when closed, but when opened it becomes an instant balcony in seconds.

We were pleased to see the majority of suppliers exist in France too so we can source them from France but it’s good to have all the info in English, saves a lot of translating time.

The great thing about the windows & doors we saw was the flexibility in the product but at the same time the superb build quality. Whilst it is nice to have a local carpenter build your windows & doors (as we did on our last project) it is less likely that you can achieve the same energy efficiency as from these manufactured units.

We like the idea of the integrated fly screens, sun blinds on some of the windows also seems like a good idea. Not sure about whether to go for the metal oxide window coating which whilst great for keeping the sun/heat out in the summer, would reduce the free heat/light available to be absorbed in winter…a quandry.

The insulation in the windows looked fantastic & the fact you could have wood on the inside & aluminium on the outside giving a warmer feel indoors but being practical for the exterior.

Has anyone else used similar window suppliers in France - we’re looking for triple-glazed high energy efficiency type. So many options…

Next we moved onto the Grand Kitchens area. This is by far the most interesting part of the house for me & where we spend most of our time as a family. It was good to walk round the showrooms for the rich & famous with the likes of Mark Wilkinson etc to get an idea on storage solutions, layouts etc. I was totally impressed by the SubZero refrigerators but a little taken aback by the price. I keep saying to my hubby that its the most important room in the house so we should spend most of our budget there, but this doesn’t wash when it means a whole floor of the house would be left unrenovated…so where would the kids sleep? Tents might be fun… if it wasn’t for the snakes, scorpions, rats, mosquitos on second thoughts we’d better make sure we do the bedrooms.

We quickly passed through Grand Interiors where lots of small stalls seemed to be succeeding in selling tacky rubbish to the swarms that passed by. Everyone seems to want their bit of a Grand Design even if its a tacky JML supermop!

I wanted to have a good look around the Grand Gardens section but this was immediately halted when the 2 year old spotted the kids garden toys section & found a little pink cabrio car to poodle around in. Everywhere we turned in the garden section seemed to lead back to the pink car…I need pink car Daddy…

I think we will definitely need to allow for parent & child parking as the only way we could get out of the garden section was to agree to buy her the pink car (on the condition that when the garden’s finished she can have it, by which point she will be about 18 & probably want a real pink car…oh well better start saving for that too)

Finally we had a look around the swimming pools suppliers including Desjoyaux which clearly is French and seems to offer a pipe free filtration system avoiding the need for a pump house. Seemed pricey…we have no experience of these pipe free systems does anyone else? Or would you recommend the traditional pipe solution? Any rough ideas on prices of installing a pool?

So after a day of dragging the kids around the Excel centre, we took the DLR back to skyscraperville & spent the next day dreaming of our Grand Design…we just somehow need to find a money tree in the garden to pay for it.

Hi Suzanne,

The pool is less than 2 years old. The pool cover was fitted separately. It simply rolls up - you can see pool with and without cover here

Running costs are hard to say at this point - it takes a lot of water to fill up for the first time! (if you’re on a meter), pump is on a timer - so electric is variable, then you have chemicals to keep it in right condition, pH … Periodically you will have to replace the filter bags ~40 Euro.


Hi Chris,

How long have you had yours? Did Desjoyaux fit the pool cover? What would you say are the running costs? Have you had to replace any of the parts?


Hi, we have Desjoyaux pipe free pool with integrated pool & filter. Seems to work pretty well. One drawback is the integrated housing at the end of the pool interferes with smooth operation of our pool cover - you would not have this problem with a separate pump unit.



I’ll let you know as our plan is to get a quote from both countries & then try to bargain!