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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 2 June 2017
Great, just as advertised
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on 6 April 2017
Clear and easy to understand not full of jargon
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on 10 January 2007
I think the review by D. Lundholm says almost everything that my review of this book would say.

Just a couple of additional observations:

* This is more of a how-to (think about and then build your own home) book than a book of ideas you can directly use. Not a bad thing, there are plenty of other glossy books to get ideas from.

* Related to that, there are no floor-plans for any of the designs referenced. Personally, I would have preferred to see some, but it doesn't really detract from the usefulness of the book.

* It is an engaging and thought-provoking book - certainly well worth buying at half-price!

* My only real gripe is the way the text references pictures of properties that are not adjacent to the text. i.e. reading page 100 you might be referenced to pictures of the building concerned on pages 94 and 115-117.

Overall, highly recommended for both dreamers and those seriously planning to build their own home.
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on 9 September 2006
This is an intelligent, thoughtful book by one of the most articulate commentators on modern architecture and building design. For many UK TV viewers, Kevin McCloud's regular Grand Designs programmes are compelling viewing, illustrating both the practical issues that self-builders and developers face, as well as challenging the motivations that inspire people to create their own homes. This is far from just a "book of the series". It's a guide to building your own home - equally of value for extenders, developers or those thinking about how to improve the design of the space they live in - written in three sections - thinking, dreaming and doing.

Thinking challenges lots of the traps self-builders and remodellers fall into - in a way that engages you and walks you through the process of trying to identify what we want of of our homes. I guess there's a danger post Grand Designs that we all tend to think it's easy to articulate exactly what we want, and what we need, and that programme only engages after the thinking has been done (and it probably doesn't make for great television either, seeing people try to figure this out). But (from personal experience) it's actually the most difficult bit, yet the bit that makes it more (or less) likely that you're going to end up with a house that truly delivers what you hope it will.

Once you kinda know what you want, and you've engaged with an architect (a theme that runs very strongly throughout is to seek professional advice, at every stage), the dreaming section illustrates 5 different approaches to build - from New Urban, New Suburban, New Rural, New Use (eg change of use from industrial to home) and New Life - renovation and repair. Amply illustrated with houses from Grand Designs, and others, you get lots of helpful comments that don't just detail what the owner/architect has done but also explain why it delivers more light, adds more space, gives more connection with the outside. Even if you think you know why you "like" what you see, having it explained in this way helps you identify whether it would work in your planned home.

The final "doing" section is lots of practical "how to move you through the phases - from initial plans, the dreaded planning application, working with drawings, building regulations and how to manage the project and its finances. Well organised, step by step, guidance that I suspect I'm going to refer to again and again.

Throughout, there is plenty of checklisted, "think about this", do this and don't do that, stuff, and there are several hundred illustrations, mainly of homes featured in Grand Designs.

IMHO, it's an opinionated, highly approachable guide, written with clarity, laced with wit and Kevin's laconic observations.

If you like what you've seen on Grand Designs, you enjoy Kevin's style, and you're considering extensions or self-build, I'd recommend this very highly.

If you don't like him, or Grand Designs, he does forewarn you: "You might find the range of my choice [of homes] rather limited. But if you don't like any of them, you probably don't like what I have to say either, and so shouldn't have bought this book in the first place".

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on 14 October 2010
The subtitle including the word "blueprint" is probably a bit misleading - this is not a practical design book - it's a book about concepts and ways of thinking about your new "dream home". Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily - there are plenty of other good self-build titles out there that cover the practical aspects of house building.

The book is well illustrated with attractive pictures - it reminds me of Jamie Oliver cookery book in fact. But the general tone of the text is slightly condescending - there are many ways to build a house, but McCloud's way is unquestionably the best way. There is little discussion of pros and cons of various design, procurement or construction options, just Kevin's opinion of the right way to go about the project.

Which is fair enough - it's his book after all! But unless you're a massive fan of Kevin, his style and the Grand Designs programme, this is a book to borrow from the library and flick through, rather than buy and keep as a reference for your building project.
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on 16 June 2013
While some have their own opinions on Kevin McCloud and his views on building, we all really know what to expect in his approach to building a new house.

Bought because we are at that point of building a new "grand design" for ourselves, it has lived up to its promise. Interesting that the other book I bought at the same time ("The Passivhaus Handbook") mentioned this title as useful for thinking through choosing an architect.

Having many designs I recognise from past "Grand Designs" being referenced is useful. At least most of us are well acquainted with the struggles and development of many of these projects.

With the lion's share of the book devoted to the "Dreaming" part of building a new house, with the initial part devoted to general thoughts on housing, and the final part to the doing of it, it could seems a little unbalanced. But as Kevin mentions this is the part we do not get to see on "Grand Designs". By the time his team are involved in filming people are at the doing stage. And the dreaming to ensure we really get the house we not only want, but also will love and that will serve us well and enhance our lives for years to come seems super important for any project. It certainly brought home to me the value of seeking out the essence of what I really want for my new house rather than just specific elements that I would have in a "Must Have" list. In other words more the way I want it to make me feel and interact with us in the future. It has lead to some re-evaluations of the size of what we really will need for the future.

By covering urban, suburban, rural and redevelopment-type projects in this section Kevin has offered suggestions and obviously opinions on what he considers important and relevant in each of these areas. It is not prescriptive really. Just thought provoking.

Reinforcing his ideas about having a really well developed team from all aspects from design to costings to construction, Kevin is really just re-iterating what he shares in "Grand Designs". But anyone who has watched these programmes will be well aware of the challenges any number of the aspiring home builders have encountered by not employing any number of such essential professionals.

A book to cover fully and then delve back into for the specifics we need and will be needing at different points in our new development.
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VINE VOICEon 27 December 2007
I read this book because we're planning an extension, and I found it to be extremely helpful.

Kevin rationalises the emotive process of designing your own dream. He provides loads of tips and many helpful checklists.

More than anything he provides a compelling case for finding good architects for your project and working closely with them - he makes a convincing case to illustrate that their work will effectively cost you nothing.
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on 29 March 2014
Purchased for my partner, he loved it some good ideas. Worthy buying, would recommend it as a gift for persons interested in construction and DIY.
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on 20 December 2013
Arrived promptly and in good condition, so from that angle no complaints. Not yet to build our dream home so can't vouch for its usefulness when it counts but it's gone down a storm as a gift and it's packed full of handy hints that get you thinking about all the various elements that combine to make a great build.
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on 3 August 2015
This Is a coffee table book. I imagine the chattering classes loved it but i wanted more more detail so I shall need further reading matter. having said that, it's a good read and I shall follow Kevins advice about an archiect. Buy one, second hand as I did and you will not waste your money. Thank you Kevin.
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