Grand Designs viewers branded a £700,000 dramatically cantilevered steel-framed house built on a flood plain on the Essex coast ‘hideous’ and one of the ‘worst’ they’ve ever seen.
In last night’s episode of the Channel 4 show, Geoff, 63, who grew up in the East End of London, explained how he planned to spend his retirement building a flood-resistant pedestal palace on an ambitious eight-month schedule.
Not only did he have to move into a caravan for two years while he project managed the construction – with very little experience – the ex-advertising man also had to sell his luxury villa in Spain, where he had lived for 20 years, to take on the biggest challenge of his life.
But while Geoff managed to overcome a number of hurdles including the interruption of Covid and a collapse in the Spanish property market – delaying the money to complete the build – viewers were left unimpressed by the end result, with presenter Kevin McCloud even admitting the interior, which included a blue carpet and orange sofa combination, wasn’t ‘fashionable.’
‘Awful house, awful decor. One of the worst houses I’ve ever seen,’ wrote one, while a second penned: ‘What a f**ing hideous house!’
In last night’s episode of the Channel 4 show, ex-advertising man Geoff, 63, who grew up in the East End of London , explained how he planned to spend his retirement building a flood-resistant pedestal palace with an ambitious eight-month schedule. Pictured, the exterior
After seeing the complete living room (pictured), a shocked Kevin said: ‘I’m loving the carpet and sofa combination, Geoff. You’re a man of interesting tastes’
The utility room featured mustard-coloured tiles and pastel green units which were not to everyone’s tastes (pictured)
The three bedrooms each have a slice of the views and have their own en-suite bathrooms. Pictured, one of the bedrooms with a view out onto the estuary
Unlike his daughter, Geoff saw no risk in sinking every penny he had into the unusual building and moved into a small caravan on site.
‘I’m at the stage in my life now where I don’t know how long I’ve got left, so what I’ve got left, I want to enjoy,’ said Geoff, whose early retirement was soon followed by the breakup of his 32-year marriage. ‘I’m 63 but I still feel like I was when I was 23. I don’t feel that I’m old.’
Presenter Kevin McCloud explained how the plot of watery wilderness was an empty canvas on which Geoff planned to paint a new life and was an impressive 7 and a half acres big – but it didn’t come without its problems.
‘A large site it may be, but it is a flood plain so the planners have insisted any house here would need to be flood-resistant,’ explained Kevin.
Geoff – who wanted to get involved with the construction despite no previous experience – predicted the build – a resilient, radical heavy-duty response to the ever-changing threat of our climate – would be approximately 15ft or so above the ground.
As Kevin McCloud explained: ‘Geoff didn’t have a say in designing this gravity-defying building. He actually bought the land with planning for £325,000.’
He added that the original architects who have a lot of experience with flood-proof houses wouldn’t be involved and that Geoff wasn’t even using a professional project manager – because he planned on doing that job himself.
Despite several setbacks – including Covid and a drop in the Spanish property market – Geoff remained positive. Pictured, the study area which has green carpet
Taking to social media, one impressed viewer wrote: ‘Awful house, awful decor. One of the worst houses I’ve ever seen’ (pictured)
Noting how it was a really complex house to build, Kevin continued: ‘Arguably, the most important part of Geoff’s solo project will be underground. Here, 30 heavy weight, concrete steel piles will be drilled 14 metres deep.
‘These piles will be key in anchoring this house to the ground. Some will have to resist upward forces of over 200 tonne. The piles will connect to an industrial steel-strength frame, comprising 560 steel girders – forming one huge cantilever. The frame’s job is to transform the load of the building into the earth.’
He continued: ‘The ground floor will be poured in waterproof concrete and will house a utility area and a garage.
‘Upstairs, the external and the partition walls will all be made from timber – wrapping between and around the steels. On this floor, an open plan living room and kitchen will lead to a large balcony through floor to ceiling windows, with views that will stretch out across the estuary.’
Kevin went on to say that the three bedrooms would each have a slice of the views and their own en-suite bathrooms, while an eye-catching, jagged roof finished with solared tiles would help to power the highly unusual island home.
He added: ‘Should the local flood defences be breeched, a bunged wall will keep Geoff’s garden dry, but if the waters rise further, his power supply and drainage will be protected and the living spaces will continue to function.’
The 63-year-old explained how he decided to build the project right on a flood plain with a £700,000 budget and ambitious eight-month schedule. Pictured, the dining area
Geoff didn’t have a say in designing the gravity-defying building because he actually bought the land with planning for £325,000. Pictured, the complete kitchen
Geoff planned to build a flood resistant architectural marvel on the Essex coast budgeted at a whopping £700,000. Pictured, the exterior and estuary views
Having sold his UK home, Geoff had to find somewhere to live for the duration of the build – a caravan (pictured)
The plot of watery wilderness was an empty canvas on which Geoff could paint a new life and was an impressive 7 and a half acres big, Pictured, the exterior of the finished build
Geoff predicted the pedestal palace – a resilient, radical heavy-duty response to the ever-changing threat of our climate – would be approximately 15ft or so above the ground. Pictured, the living room after the transformation
Geoff admitted he liked ‘outrageous’ and added that he’s the one that’s living in it so it had to be ‘pleasing’ to him. Pictured, the kitchen-dining area
Geoff – who explained that he had already sold his property in London to buy the land – said that he did have enough money to start the project but to finish it, he needed to sell his villa in Spain, which was already on the market.
Having sold his UK home, he had to find somewhere to live for the duration of the build – a caravan. This was his base through wind and the rain as he project managed the complicated construction of a house designed to be safe in a one in a thousand year flood event.
But ten months on from when he started, after £190,000 worth of anchoring steel and concrete foundations were drilled over fourteen metres into the ground, Geoff hit double trouble – not just Covid but a collapse in the Spanish property market, meaning he struggled to sell his villa.
Without funds to continue and trapped in his cold caravan, the odds became stacked against him – and Geoff was delayed for another agonising five months.
‘This could be one of the last building days for a long time yet until I get some more money,’ he admitted. ‘Everyone thinks I’m making a mistake – my bank manager thinks I’m making a mistake, an awful lot of people I know think I’m making a mistake. But, the more people who think I’m making a mistake, the more I think I’m doing it right because I’ve been told that my whole life.’
But soon, Geoff encountered another issue when the building team realised they had been working off the wrong plans, which they claimed they ‘hadn’t been made aware of.’
Geoff’s finished living room (pictured) featured bold blue carpets, a red sofa and breathtaking views of the estuary
As a result, some of the columns the team installed weren’t lining up where they thought they’d be, which added a further six weeks onto the project length.
While the steel team swallowed the extra costs, Kevin McCloud noted that you could argue it was the project manager’s responsibility.
‘I can’t ever be at fault – I’m the project manager,’ said Geoff. ‘I’m never at fault!’
However, positive news finally came when early in the New Year, Geoff accepted an offer on his villa for just over £1million, so he had enough money to progress with the ambitious build.
And when Kevin revisited two years after Geoff had moved into the caravan and three years since he decided on the build, he was gobsmacked by the end result.
‘Oh my word – how could I have doubted Geoff’s new beginnings?’ said Kevin. ‘The closer you get to it, the kind of wilder, bolder it is. That overhang from here looks impossible. It looks as if it shouldn’t be there. It looks as if it’s floating.’
He noted how once on the landing, you’re drawn out into the main living space.
Speaking of the living room, he gasped: ‘Ah look, this is the main act. Wow! That is a showstopper that one. I was thinking about the sofas in fact. I’m loving the carpet and sofa combination, Geoff. You’re a man of interesting tastes.’
Geoff replied: ‘I like outrageous. The most important thing for me is that I’ve got to look at it for whatever I’ve got left, so it’s got to be pleasing for me. I like it! This is my home, this is where I’m going to live.’
Kevin went on to say how even Geoff’s colour choices are muted by the views out to the estuary – but not all viewers agreed.
‘Oh lord, that looks fkn awful,’ commented one, while a second wrote: ‘Hopefully a few more finished houses in the next series. Not sure it would save this one, though. Hideous!’
Geoff said that he had enough money to start the project but to finish it, he would have to sell his villa in Spain. Pictured, the finished kitchen
Geoff (pictured left, with Kevin McCloud, right) saw no risk in sinking every penny he had into his unusual building and moved into a small caravan on site
A third added: ‘That sofa is hideous,’ while a fourth went so far as to brand it the ‘most hideous house I’ve ever seen.’
Elsewhere, a further penned: ‘Ha ha ha ha ha that’s awful.’
As he continued his tour, Kevin explained: ‘Geoff’s bedroom is entirely unsupported from beneath and has acres in views from the local sailing club. Moving through this house, there’s even more showstopping surprises – guest bedroom…very nice, looking over the garden and some woodland.’
He went on to say how Geoff’s interior choices have clearly been void in the knowledge that he only person he needs to please is himself.
‘There are two more guest bedrooms, each with their own intoxicating views – and there’s even room for a study. Look at this, this is respectable Geoff,’ said Kevin. ‘Beautiful green carpet connecting to the landscape outside.’
He added: ‘This house doesn’t look like a furniture showhome – it’s not bland and it’s not grey. It’s not fashionable but it is Geoff’s autobiography. It’s everything that means something to him – and that’s quite humbling.’
‘One of the worst houses I’ve ever seen:’ Grand Designs viewers slam ‘hideous’ interior