Channel 4's Grand Designs show introduction
Channel 4

Grand Designs is back, and how we've missed it.

Before the likes of Selling Sunset, Location, Location, Location and even Homes Under the Hammer left their mark, it was Grand Designs set the benchmark for property shows on telly.

Presenter Kevin McCloud has been taking us behind the scenes of spectacular builds since all the way back in 1999 – and now, big Kev is back for more.

The show has been full of incredible moments over the years, with truly visionary properties brought to life on screen. Unfortunately, though, it’s often the less successful builds which stay longer in the memory.

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From boat house disasters to projects that tore entire families apart, these are the most chaotic Grand Designs creations of all time.

Cloontykilla Castle

Grand Designs - Cloontykilla Castle - Season 12 Episode 1www.youtube.com

Arguably one of the most interesting projects ever tackled on the programme, the Cloontykilla Castle episode focused on Irishman Sean Simon – who acquired the historic building after falling in love with it as a child.

As he revealed his plans to a slightly bewildered McCloud, we learned that the Castle was designed by British architect John Nash and built in 1839, with the intention of being used as a hunting lodge.

A mixture of unforeseen costs hit him along the way. Then, after being faced with a national economic crisis, he was forced to end the project temporarily.

However, the episode ended on a more positive note, with Simon stating how determined he was to finish the project. It remains something of a chaotic Grand Designs classic.


Chesil Cliff House

The build is the most troubled in the show's historyChannel 4

It’s known as the ‘saddest ever episode’ of the show for a reason…

Viewers were left heartbroken back in 2018 when they saw the story of Edward Short and his then-wife Hazel play out on their screens. Despite the grandest of ambitions, Edward’s plan to rejuvenate North Devon mansion Chesil Cliff House backfired spectacularly.

After buying the shell of the building for £1.4million, the construction skyrocketed and ended up costing them £6million and 10 years of their lives. Sadly, the pressure of the construction took its toll on the couple’s relationship and they ended up separating.

Video: Edward admits that his ambition contributed to ending his marriagewww.youtube.com

Edward ended up being left with £7million in debt, and was forced to put the property up for sale at £10million after it was finally completed. The final result is absolutely stunning, but Edward never got to live in the house with Hazel or their two children Nicole and Lauren.

Speaking about putting the house up for sale in an interview with The Sun, Edward said: “It’s got to go because it’s beyond me now.

“I’m quite excited about that final moment when the deal closes. I’ve worked so long to get to that point and now, hopefully, that’s around the corner. It will be nice to get some sort of payback, even if it’s only a pint and packet of crisps at the very end.”


The boat house

Grand Design 2022 The Boat House Full Episodewww.youtube.com

It’s not often that builds completely fail on the show, but it happened in one memorable 2007 episode which featured one of the most eccentric projects in the programme’s history.

It saw one couple decide to convert a barge into a 100-foot long floating home. The idea was intriguing at first, but the design of the thing raised plenty of eyebrows – not least from McCloud and the lead builder working on the project.

The disastrous project sank without a trace Channel 4

For starters, they decided to go with a corrugated iron roof pushing high up into the sky, which was completed with recycled and mismatched windows. After spending £80,000 and falling out with their builder along the way, they decided they could keep the project afloat no longer and abandoned it.

It wasn’t finished there though. It was later vandalised and cut free from its moorings on the Thames estuary. It washed up on an Essex beach, where squatters had occupied it in Southend. Not the happy ending they imagined.


The converted folly

Things didn't end so well for this coupleChannel 4

Another unfortunate story was documented in 2019, when architect Jimmy Fernandez and his wife Mimi lived to regret their decision to buy a Grade II-listed folly for £100,000. The miniature Buckinghamshire castle was envisioned as a future family home for their young family, but they soon went over budget and the space didn't prove to be as family friendly as they hoped for.

One of the reasons it ran over? Jimmy discovered that the folly was built on a Saxon burial ground, which meant they had to get an archaeologist to examine the soil and human remains were quickly discovered.

Thankfully, they got there in the end. But the house was then put up for sale just a few months after the episode went to air.


The water tower

The Kennington property was one of the most impressive conversions on the showChannel 4

Something of a logistical nightmare from the start due to its unique dimensions, this conversion from owners Leigh Osborne and Graham Voce was one of the most remarkable in the show’s history.

The Victorian water tower in Kennington was spread across nine floors and offered incredible views of London, but went way over budget – and was later put up for sale at a far lower price than expected.

The Grade II building was first bought for £380,000 and then converted for an eye-watering price of £2million in the 2012 episode. Things got so bad at one point that Graham had to borrow his grandmother’s credit card to pay off £95,000 of his debt.

It was later put on the market just a year later in August 2013 for the price of £4.75million. Just five months previously in April, they had been asking for £6.5million.


The ‘Gravity defying’ eco house

Things didn't go smoothly for the owners of this Kent propertyChannel 4

In the end, this incredible project ended up being a roaring success, but it was an incredibly stressful journey for eco-enthusiasts Richard and Sophie Hawkes.

McCloud could barely believe them when the pair laid out their plans, after they made it clear they were using a form of construction never seen before in the UK.

The host even called the house near Staplehurst, Maidstone “lunacy”, after hearing that a "gravity defying" arch constructed from 2,600 tiles and held together by plaster of paris would form the spine of the building. One heart-stopping moment even saw the clay arch partially collapse, leaving McCloud with his head in his hands as he watched on helplessly.

Factor in the fact that Sophie gave birth to baby boy Archie during the construction, and was forced to tackle frozen pipes in the caravan they stayed in during a tough winter, plus the fact that the build was £200,000 over budget at £500,000, and you’ve got the recipe for one of the most chaotic builds in the show’s history.

The end result was a real feat of engineering, though, and became one of the first passive properties in the UK, which means it produces more energy than it requires every year. Impressive as they come.

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