Grand Designs viewers were left baffled after a couple splashed out on a tennis court ahead of building their dream ‘floating’ house on last night’s episode.
Architectural designer Dan and his wife interior designer Nina bought a plot of land – which housed a tired 1930s home they had to knock down – in West Sussex for £850,000. It included a swampy pool they turned into a natural pond – and had enough space for a huge family home for them and their two daughters.
They set out to build the property, which would ‘float’ over the pond, on a ‘tight’ £650,000 budget but even still Dan found the money to build a tennis court as a ‘treat for himself’.
The tennis court was the first part of the property to be built, following initial delays, and the decision left viewers questioning their priorities. One tweeted: ‘When building a house I highly recommend building a house first and a tennis court after #granddesigns.’ Another posted: ‘He’s built the tennis court before the f***ing house? #granddesigns.’
But ultimately the gamble paid off and the couple produced a breathtaking home, going just £8,000 over their £650,000 budget.
The bright and airy finished result left viewers in awe, with one saying it was ‘the best’ Grand Designs build she had ever seen.
Another tweeted: ‘One of the best houses I’ve seen on #granddesigns tonight. I could fully live there forever, never needing to leave. Just plopping myself into the newt friendly pond and loving life. Everything from the build to how it’s been styled… just perfect.’
Architectural designer Dan and his wife interior designer Nina bought a plot of land – which housed a tired 1930s home they had to knock down – in West Sussex for £850,000. It included a swampy pool they turned into a natural pond (pictured)
They set out to build the property, which would ‘float’ over the pond, on a ‘tight’ £650,000 budget but even still Dan found the money to build a tennis court as a ‘treat for himself’. It was the first thing built on the plot
The bright and airy finished result left viewers in awe, with one saying it was ‘the best’ Grand Designs build she had ever seen. Pictured, the kitchen-living room overlooks the pond and features the same wood that was used for the outside cladding
The couple, pictured with Kevin, outside their wellness hut, said the pond, which runs through the property, is a highlight
The tennis court was the first part of the property to be built, following initial delays, and the decision left viewers questioning their priorities
Father-of-two Dan, who runs his own business in London, explained he wanted to finish the build within two years as his father was diagnosed with leukemia a year before they started construction.
He said: ‘There’s definitely an anxiety to get the project done as soon as possible because my dad’s so poorly at the moment. He was diagnosed with leukemia a year ago. It was terribly sad because I just want to desperately to finish this so we can share it together.’
During the programme, Dan rings his former farmer father, who taught him how to layer bricks, drive a digger and weld, for advice.
‘It’s overwhelming,’ admitted Dan during the early stages of the project. ‘Everywhere I seem to look something seems to be happening and truth be told I haven’t done many new builds. So its a pretty massive undertaking and I just really hope I can deliver.’ Sadly, just three months into the gruelling project, Dan’s father passed away.
Dan said: ‘The first time he acknowledged to me that he thought he was on his way out, was when he said “I’m not going to see the finished project”, which was about a month before he died, which was a sad moment.
Kevin commented on how the couple had used the same wood for the cladding and the kitchen furniture, pictured, creating a connection between the outside and the in. The use of windows and glass doors means the space is flooded with light
The master bedroom, pictured, is soft and romantic and has views out over the tennis courts (just seen through the window)
At the centre of the property is a triple height structural staircase, which leads to an open landing (left). Right, a dining table
‘But it just installed in me the fact that he was so proud of me, of what I was doing and I think that’s what I’ve got to take from it and I’ve just got to push forward and make sure I do the project really well.’
Dan hoped to finish the project without an overload of builders by doing much of the work himself to save costs, admitting he would be giving ’90 per cent of my time getting involved’.
The couple were hoping for a £650,000 budget – which presenter Kevin McCloud called “tight and ambitious” – by selling their home, remortgaging a flat in London and from their income from their own businesses.
However, they were dealt a blow when a remortgage loan fell through and they were forced to sell the flat instead.
In August 2019, they finally sold their flat which paid for the whole build, as well as a tennis court for Dan as a ‘treat’, with the father saying: ‘I can’t wait to play on it with the kids and the new puppy.’ The couple also spent a staggering £10,000 on trees.
By the time another winter came around, Nina bemoaned having to spend more time in the 1930s house, explaining: ‘There’s no insulation, there’s holes in the window’, and the family also have to top up their baths with water from the kettle.
The home was designed for family living, with a large kitchen island and a comfy sofa nearby. Pictured, Kevin and the couple
Each of the couples two daughters was given her own room, including this playful pink space with an en-suite bathroom
Meanwhile, Dan is at one point filmed building at night as he tried to complete the project, saying: ‘I always remind me of my dad because he’s the only one that would do this kind of thing. I dreamed about him last night and told him about the project.’
But Dan felt torn through building as he is late to a camping holiday with his family and unable to help Nina put the kids to bed, saying: ‘I want to be the best dad… but also have to work to pay the bills.’
By February 2020, the house and pond structure was built, however due to a misunderstanding with the window supplier, the £70,000 worth of windows were delayed by weeks – putting the whole structure – and the decorations that have been started inside – at risk of weather damage.
Potentially resulting in thousands of pounds worth of implications, Nina said of the windows: ‘I think that would make such a different to our emotional state because it feels really cold and windy and grim to be honest on site.
The large master bathroom features a freestanding tub and walls in a neutral putty colour. The bedroom is seen beyond
Outside the couple enjoy a view of the pond from their outdoor dining table (left). Right, the spiral staircase in the property
Kevin McCloud was blown away by the finished result, including the beautiful natural pond at the centre
‘It has a massive impact on Dan, his sleep, his eating, it affects our relationship but we’re trying to be there for one another but it’s not been easy. It’s been really, really tough.’
Dan added: ‘[The company] wanted all the money up front. We’re totally at their disposal. The implications are massive.
‘You put your life savings and everything you’ve emotionally got into it and you’re kind of at the disposal of waiting for these windows that never arrive.’
In March 2020, Nina, whose parents are isolating at that point due to both having cancer and because of the global Covid pandemic, said: ‘I’m praying that one day it ends so that we can just get this b***** house done.’
However it was good news when Kevin returned at the end of the episode to find the completed house, including the breathtaking pond outside.
The presenter was full of praise for the work Nina and Dan had done, while the couple agreed it had been worth all of the hardship it had taken to build.
Grand Designs airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 4