Grand Designs couple are selling their restored ‘mini-folly’: 200-year-old Dinton Castle for sale for £850k following year-long renovation
Brave or reckless? – episode one, Aylesbury Vale
A couple in Aylesbury Vale were drawn to a miniature folly. They paid £100,000 for it, with no planning permission, in a move some may call brave, others reckless.
Getting approval to start work took a year, but they had to agree not to add to the original, tiny footprint.
Spanish architect Jimmy Fernandez and his wife Mimi had a budget of just £200,000 and insisted it would be ready to move Mimi and his two children (George, 2, and Luke, born during filming) into in just six months.
Restoring our heritage – episode one, Aylesbury Vale
The miniature castle, in Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, may look like an old Tudor tower, but it wasn’t built for defence. Purely decorative, it was erected 250 years ago to house a gentleman’s fossil collection, and is something of a relic itself, with crumbling stonework and insides gutted by fire.
Kevin sums it up best: “It’s a building that doesn’t want to stand up anymore.”
Surprisingly spacious – episode one, Aylesbury Vale
Finally, six months later than planned and £100,000 over budget, after excavating Anglo Saxon skeletons, securing a loan from family, they get there – and it’s beautiful.
Treehouse delight – episode one, Aylesbury Vale
Jimmy’s pride and joy, a spiral staircase made from giant chunks of plywood, leads up the east turret to a roof terrace, giving them the feeling of “being in a treehouse” and playing into the building’s sense of magic and romance.
Reaping the rewards – episode one, Aylesbury Vale
Kevin concludes by asking: “Was this fossil of a building a folly to take on?”
Maybe, but for the first time in its long history, it now has a meaningful purpose.
Read Jimmy and Mimi’s story in full
Hollywood inspiration – episode two, Padstow
London leavers Harry and Briony have relocated their young family to Padstow, Cornwall with the aim of building a modernist steel and glass house like the one made famous in cult Eighties teen movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Ferris Bueller fanboy – episode two, Padstow
Harry has taken on the role of project manager after developing an “obsession” with James Speyer’s Ben Rose House, whichinspired the classic pavilion seen in the hit comedy. Despite never visiting it himself, he seems sure that he can honour it – in just eight months.
Readjusting the dream – episode two, Padstow
Crucial measurement mistakes and spiralling spending forces them to veer away from their dream by replacing much of the glazing with orange larch cladding. But 14 months later and £100,000 over budget, their new home is fabulous in its own right. Reaching for the stars paid off.
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Ply paradise – episode two, Padstow
The walls of the vast kitchen/diner have been covered in ply to cool, industrial effect and everything is super-sized, from the huge sofa area and 3.5 metre-long island to the ceiling-high custom-built bookcase on wheels that serves as a movable wall.
Proud of their efforts – episode two, Padstow
“Speyer was pure glass and perhaps a bit impractical, but it inspired us and this is our version,” says Harry proudly.
Read Harry and Bryony’s story in full
The most admirable of motives – episode three, Richmond
Born and Elinor’s young sons Pascal, 5, and Avery, 7, suffer from a smorgasbord of life-threatening allergies, from dust and pollen to the chemicals in certain cleaning products, forcing them to spend a lot of time in hospital.
Calling in the specialists – episode three, Richmond
Episode three followed their journey as they built a ‘healthy house’ free from toxins in Richmond, south-west London. They spent time and money sourcing low-toxin materials and installing a mechanical ventilation system to filter the air.
Clever design – episode three, Richmond
They used solvent-free paints, formaldehyde-free MDF panels and flooring low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which slowly release chemicals and produce a charming cloud of toxicity that ends up in our lungs.
The iceberg effect – episode three, Richmond
Since moving into their stunning contemporary home, the boys have had “only one or two” allergic reactions, as opposed to a minimum of one attack every other week. The University of York lent Born and Elinor a VOC monitor to assess their air quality. It shows that their home is performing over 70 per cent better than the average new build.
Enjoying the fruits of their labour – episode three, Richmond
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride but we feel really proud,” says Elinor, explaining that they only went over budget by £60,000.
“The moments that we get to sit down, reflect on what we’ve done and enjoy the house, and see the children enjoying the house, are priceless.”
Read Born and Elinor’s story in full
Starting from scratch – episode four, Leominster
Steph and Alex from Leominster, Herefordshire, sold their comfortable bungalow to spent three years living in a leaky, draughty caravan – including during the Beast from the East – while they built a modern black barnhouse on the site of her beloved late grandad’s farm.
Nostalgia at the heart – episode four, Leominster
When Alex was made redundant unexpectedly, everything crashed down around them. But they pushed on, with Steph taking on extra hours at work and selling off some of the land to fund the build.
Chaos – episode four, Leominster
The end result was worth the ordeal. It’s sizeable, contemporary, stylish and a far cry from the caravan.
Thoughtful design – episode four, Leominster
Overall, they spent £270,000 — just £20,000 over budget — which they felt was justified after three years climbing up the walls of a glorified tent.
Mission complete – episode four, Leominster
“The fact that I’m now continuing my grandad’s legacy on his land, with the kids involved too, would make him so proud,” says Steph. “I think he’s watching down.”
Read Steph and Alex’s story in full
Identical everything – episode five, Sheffield
Identical twins Nik and Jon were living next door to each other with the same cars and dogs when they decided to build two modern-industrial homes side-by-side for themselves and their families.
The countryside contrast – episode five, Sheffield
Overall, they ended up splurging £610,000 which, although extremely impressive for the urban oasis they somehow conjure from a rundown industrial yard, was a whopping £265,000 more than they originally intended to spend. Ouch.
Homage to steel – episode five, Sheffield
The living space looks fresh and the extension has been clad entirely in plywood sheets. Jon’s girlfriend Ali admits she struggled to accept his heavy usage of raw materials, but quickly fell in love with the result.
Warming things up – episode five, Sheffield
Nik’s rooms are more defined and cosier, with everything oriented to make the most of the countryside views outside.
Heads together – episode five, Sheffield
“This is an exercise in getting stuff right and proving two minds are better than one,” says Kevin. “I like that very much.”
Read Nik and Jon’s story in full
‘I’d do it again’ – episode six, Lewes
Dad of-three Adrian’s long love affair with concrete started as a young BMX biker in Glasgow’s skateparks. This passion developed into an appreciation of Brutalist architecture and the obvious next step was to build a concrete house in Lewes, East Sussex for his wife Megan and their young family.
Flawed beauty – episode six, Lewes
Their motto throughout this love-it-or-hate-it, rough and ready build was the rawer and more exposed, the better.
Commanding respect – episode six, Lewes
It is concrete inside and out, with no conventional finishes like plaster or paint in sight. Floor-to-ceiling glazing floods the dank interior spaces with light, giving the house its soul.
Narratives woven throughout – episode six, Lewes
The interiors are as bold and brave as the facade, yet warming. Plumbing and electrics have been installed through surface mounted tubes, giving the place an edge of industrial chic. Everything is chunky and tells a story, from the upcycled university science cabinets the couple are using as kitchen units to the colourful, well-loved furnishings they have owned for years.
Freedom to move – episode six, Lewes
This home is a radical piece of engineering, built beautifully, yet full of the imperfections we all have. It may be made of unfeeling concrete but it is, at heart, a very human home.
Read Adrian and Megan’s story in full
Revisiting the ‘King of Cob’ – episode seven, east Devon
Five years ago, Kevin visited another Kevin, master builder Kevin ‘King of Cob’ McCabe, who had determined to build a family home from mud and straw in east Devon. But that wasn’t all: Kevin also wanted it to meet the highest environmental performance standards ever set in the UK.
Sprung from the earth – episode seven, east Devon
Following a long battle with the British weather and dwindling funds, the house emerged from the earth looking, as presenter Kevin noted, “like something straight off the cover of a Seventies prog-rock album”.
Hidden house – episode seven, east Devon
The roof – undulating to mirror the rolling hills beyond – was insulated and covered with an eco-friendly plastic membrane, soil and seeds to grow a wildflower meadow that would blend in with the surrounding landscape.
Handmade touches – episode seven, east Devon
Kevin handmade much of the kitchen, from the cob wine racks to the worktops cut from his own oak tree. Light fittings hang from branches of birch grown on site as part of his carbon-neutral renewable fuel strategy.
Huge but affordable to live in – episode seven, east Devon
“Size-wise, it’s a manor house, but its running costs are negligible,” says Kevin, proud to have proven that it is possible to “live green” in luxury.
Read Kevin ‘King of Cob’ McCabe’s story in full