For identical twin brothers Nik and Jon Daughtry, their shared dream to self-build matching family homes next door to each other seemed natural—after all, they already had matching cars, dogs, and a shared workspace at their Sheffield-based design studio DED.
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Working together with local architects CODA Bespoke, Nik and Jon purchased a nearby lot—conveniently located behind the two neighboring cottages the brothers were renting—for £175,000 ($222,500 USD) and began the ambitious and challenging process of bringing their dream homes to life in their spare time.
"We wanted to build two contemporary family homes that pay homage to the industrial past," said the brothers, referring to the site’s former corn mill and existing 200-year-old milldam and half-acre millpond. "We also wanted to regenerate the dam and increase its biodiversity, connect the houses with the natural beauty of the site, and create open, bright spaces to be shared and enjoyed together."
Constructed after an arduous 18-month build process documented on a 19th-season episode of Grand Designs, the project—dubbed Corn Yard—cost £620,000 (approximately $788,000 USD). The two houses span a combined footprint of 4,660 square feet and house Nik and Jon along with their partners, Emma and Ali respectively, and a total of eight children between them.
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Raised on stilts to the level of the pond, the black, corrugated-steel-clad buildings are made of materials selected for durability, low maintenance, and cost performance.
Pre-cast concrete slab flooring, black steel framing, and exposed concrete block walls give the homes a minimalist, industrial appearance. Meanwhile, plywood wall surfaces and floor-to-ceiling windows pull warmth, light, and landscape views into the interior.
"The houses needed to be multi split-leveled to draw the occupants up through the spaces to navigate the five-meter dam wall and arrive in the main living space level with the water," explain the brothers.
According to the project brief, "The most challenging part was that in order to protect the original dam wall and an exposed waterwheel pit (some eight meters deep), the houses were built two meters away from the wall on stilts that bridged the waterwheel pit on a cantilevered level with the dam."
The brothers also transformed the pond into a haven for biodiversity, while harnessing the dam using Nuenta energy blades to generate enough heat for underfloor heating and to meet the hot water requirements of both homes.