Teacher’s Grand Design not so Gloomy After All

Former Brentwood School Head of Art, Mrs Michelle Parsons, was the star of Grand Designs last night when her woodland hideaway came under the Channel 4 spotlight.

Mrs Parsons’ desire for privacy, which lead to a radical decision to eliminate windows from the front of the house, perplexed presenter Kevin McCloud. “It looks like a bunker on the outside and it feels like a bunker on the inside at the moment,” he said grimly halfway through the build.

But when the credits rolled at the end of the show, a sleek, black-clad, three bedroom house with separate studio emerged from the proverbial ashes and Mrs Parson’s grand design was unveiled. A painter and printmaker, Mrs Parsons left Brentwood in the summer after 14 years as a teacher and Head of Department.

Mrs Parsons’ recovery from serious illness prompted her and her architect husband David to seize the day and build the private hideaway they’d always yearned for. The couple found the perfect plot in Billericay two years ago and the build took 12 months from start to finish.

The Channel 4 crew followed the Parsons’ story from June 2015 and filmed every three weeks. Despite it being quite stressful, Mrs Parsons said the process helped crystallise what they were doing as they explained their project. “It is nice to have a memory of the build”, she said.

The practising artist was really pleased with the finished outcome. “It is a whole new lifestyle and I can work from my studio. It is very peaceful.”

Torrential rain and a potentially disastrous gas leak did not deter the couple who project managed the build themselves with a modest budget of £230,000. As construction on the ‘series of boxes’ got under way, Kevin wonders whether the couple’s decision to eliminate windows on two sides of the property may leave them living in a gloomy bunker. “It’s a bunker in a glade”, he feared.

The end result – several black cubes joined together with roof lights and a sedum roof – is a million miles away from conventional architecture. The house even has its own website! http://www.dapplehouse.co.uk/

Mrs Parsons now works as a practising artist and her work can be seen at http://www.easelandcanvas.co.uk and http://newbloodart.com/artist/2803/michelle-parsons