Dream homes for sale: What is it like to live in a Grand Design?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

And why are so many back on the market, asks Chris Beanland?

When you see the amount of dedication some people put into the biggest project of their lives – building their own home – it's surprising to think that they could ever find the will to sell up and move on.

Yet some of the people who sweated so much to self-build their home on Grand Designs have chosen to move out – despite enduring years living in rented houses and having the tantrums and traumas associated with a project like this played out in front of the cameras and millions of TV viewers.

"We sold it because of the market and also because it was crazy to just have one person living there," says Jane Ellis, whose Hillcot Barn in Herefordshire home featured on the Channel 4 series in 2006.

"I'd been approached to do a big job for Armani in London... so I had a flat in London. I was spending only 24 hours in the house. My husband was spending all that time in there by himself with two cats. The other thing, is we could see the overcooking of the property market and we were determined we didn't want a mortgage after a certain age."

Ellis and her husband, Robert, bought the barn on the edge of the Forest of Dean in 2004 and sold it at the tail end of 2007. It's now back on the market with an asking price of £795,000. As with all those classic Grand Designs properties though, wasn't it hard to clean? Expensive to heat?

"No, it was designed to be easy to manage, it was easy to keep clean," Ellis says. "Heating bills were okay." What about the space – how did the family fill it? "Actually, we ended up getting rid of lorry loads of furniture from our previous house," she says. So when the time came to sell, was it a wrench? "There's a tremendous amount of emotional attachment when you've bought every bit and piece yourself and put it where it should be. But you've got to be pragmatic. You can't put emotion into it." Ellis now splits her time with her husband between a house in Herefordshire and one in Greece.

If you want to own your own slice of architectural TV history, it's not too late. Several homes featured on the show are currently on the market. Janne Hoff-Tilley's restored Castello di Brancialino in Tuscany was featured on Grand Designs Abroad and is on for €1.95m (£1.7m) with Knight Frank International.

In 2009, Barry and Julie Surtees built The Curve, a one-off modernist edifice on the crest of a hill in Withdean, Brighton. It cost them £1.8m to construct the house – which boasts a unique overhanging cubist bedroom. The six-bedroom home is for sale with Mishon Mackay in Brighton at £2.95m, shy of the £3.5m it was expected to fetch. But pop fans might have an extra reason to purchase: when the Surtees family moved out they let the house to Peter Andre.

Also on the market is Stilwater, a five-bedroom home on the banks of a Stirlinghshire Loch – the house just out over the water. Viewers saw the Fairfull family build their dream home on Grand Designs in 2006 and the asking price for it is £1.5m with Savills, Glasgow.

Another of the show's famous homes is Cecil House in Bath, which cost Tiffany and Jonny Woods £300,000 in groundworks alone during the 2008 build. The £2.2m modernist home, built with help from German kit-house manufacturers Baufritz, is on with Winkworth after being knocked down from its high of £2.85m. The project ran £1m over budget.

In 2009, things got even more bizarre when, faced with a freefalling market, Tim Bawtree – whose £800,000 "Underground House" in Cheltenham wouldn't shift – took to Twitter to try to raffle off the property, which featured on Grand Designs just two years earlier.

Rupert and Julie Upton's Grand Design is currently on the market. Why are they leaving? "We're looking to downsize because one of our kids is away at uni and the other is away at boarding school, there's two of us here most of the time," Rupert Upton says. "And we're looking to free up capital for other building opportunities. We very easily might do it again." The couple's Berkshire superhome is on with Green & Co for £1.45m. Will the Uptons miss their home? "Of course I'll feel sad to leave," Upton says. "But I'll feel more sad to leave the area. Much as I love the house – and I do – it's the outside environment I really love."

So could anyone go on Grand Designs and self-build? "No, you don't want everyone doing it," Upton says. "You've got to be the right sort of person – flexible, adaptable and ready to embrace change. I don't think a lot of people could have lived in the house we lived in for two years while this was being built – with a leaking roof and horribly damp. I don't think a lot of people could do that. We've seen that happen a lot of times on Grand Designs."

Architect Garry Thomas from RRA worked on Jane Ellis's Hillcot Barn. His advice? "That when a client doesn't want to follow the advice of professionals, to walk away sooner," Thomas says. "My advice was that the project would cost £415k. I had a builder prepared to build the project to the quality and specification that was drawn. But the client thought they could save more money by dispensing with a main contractor and picking and choosing the advice from the builder and the professional team.

"The project ended up costing £425k apparently. It took far too long to complete and ended up employing three different building firms. Of course, the TV cameras make the whole thing more dramatic."

But it's that drama that appeals to viewers. Would Ellis do it again? "On balance it was interesting," she says. "It made sure we got finished on time. If you were doing it and you didn't have the discipline of the camera you'd think, 'oh well, I could just leave that bit'.

"The other thing is it put discipline on the contractors. They all loved being on camera though: they'd get dolled up, put on new T-shirts, they'd get competitive. We laugh at all that even now."

She adds: "[Presenter] Kevin McCloud had a wicked sense of humour. My husband loves furniture so the pair of them would often talk about that together."

"I enjoyed being on the show," Thomas says. "In my opinion, Grand Designs is the best of the best in terms of a TV grogramme that documents the build process from start to finish. It measures the tried and tested build process against the realities of site and the peculiarities of client. Its focus is always about the quality of build, the time taken and the final cost. It also helps the viewer at home recognise the delicate role of the architect pitched against the universal expert knowledge of their client."

"Kevin's a star," Upton says. "He's a really nice guy. Very knowledgeable. He doesn't soft soap you but he's very helpful. But having a crew could be bloody irritating – coming home early to be filmed for one hour." And the final product? "Watching it was a bloody cringe. When we did the revisit – I didn't watch it until five years later," he says.

Magic moments: Best in show

The Channel 4 series has an enduring appeal, with 115 episodes under its belt. Here are some of the best bits:

The Medway Eco-Barge

This one didn't go quite to plan. Chris Miller and wife Sze Liu Lai wanted to do up a former barge in March 2007 but the titanic project hit an iceberg when funding began to run out. The boat had to be mothballed in the Thames Estuary, was vandalised, then broke free of its moorings and washed up on a beach near Southend earlier this year in a sorry state of disrepair.

The House Of Straw

Jeremy Till and Sarah Wigglesworth, above, are architects and their Holloway home featured in the very first series of Grand Designs in 1999. It was eco-friendly with a composting toilet and parts of it were insulated with straw bales – hence the name. The building doubles as Wigglesworth's practice. The striking design will be familiar to regular rail travellers on the East Coast Mainline – when you see it on the right-hand side, you know you're almost at King's Cross.

Brum's self-builders

Away from the middle-class moans that characterised many of Grand Designs' privately educated participants, this 2001 programme was about 11 Brummies who set out to build their own homes.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering