Grand Designs comes of age this year after 20 glorious TV seasons of spiralling budgets, building site calamities, arguing couples, failed marriages, happy conclusions and big reveals.
Each story on the Channel 4 series ends with presenter Kevin McCloud delivering his verdict on the project at hand. But the story does not finish there.
We’ve been catching up with Grand Design participants, sharing their stories from when the cameras stopped rolling to discover whether their house really did turn out to be the home of their dreams — or if it left them with unmanageable debt and unforeseen design problems.
The Castle House, Yorkshire
Owned by Francis and Karen Shaw
So epic was the task of transforming Hellifield Peel Castle from a “pile of rubble” into a seven-bedroom family home, Grand Designs was extended to a one-off hour-and-a-half slot.
Architect Francis Shaw and his wife Karen bought the castle, near Skipton, Yorkshire, for £100,000 in 2004.
They immediately spent £50,000 hooking it up to electricity and water, then, over the next three years, turned the ruin into a castellated country house.
The build cost £850,000, wiping out the £350,000 they had in savings.
As the project stretched on, their original lender “pulled the plug” and requested they repay their entire debt within a month.
The Shaws had to rapidly remortgage mid-build and moved into the castle attic with their two young daughters, now 24 and 22, to save cash while work continued, finally completing in 2007.
To pay off credit card bills from the build and help with the mortgage, they opened the castle as a B&B. “It got us out of a hole and we did it for around 10 years,” says Francis, MD of Shaw & Jagger Architects, Harrogate.
In 2016 the couple put the house on the market for £1.65 million, but the Brexit vote put the prime country house market on hold. Several offers fell through and they took the castle off the market. Now in their fifties, they plan to stay put until their daughters finish their educations.
Francis thinks the house is worth about £2 million today, twice their original investment. But they’ve waited 16 years to “earn” it.
Despite the ups and downs, Francis has few regrets. “If I’d had more money I would have loved to have dug out the cellars, too. But it is all about money. That would have probably cost another £200,000 to £300,000, which I didn’t have.”
VERDICT: creating your dream house can have its nightmares.