A couple who ran out of money building their dream family home on Grand Designs have been slammed for their decisions by viewers – with some comparing their striking red unfinished home to a Monopoly hotel.
Architect Graeme and graphic designer Mel, who appeared in last night’s episode of the Channel 4 programme, built their own unique north-east London house in Hackney Downs on the site of two garages – creating something of a departure from the terraced yellow-brick houses lining the rest of their street.
They hoped to build a three-storey, three-bedroom home designed by Graeme with enough space for Mel’s daughter Indie, 13, and Graeme’s daughter Isla, 15, to each have their own room.
But after two years on the project, Graeme told presenter Kevin McCloud he may have to resort to selling the property as they have run out of money to fix issues with the basement – where the girls’ bedrooms were supposed to be.
Although Kevin McCloud gushed over the almost finished home, viewers took to X, formerly Twitter, to voice their strong disagreement – branding the house covered in red cladding ‘fugly’ and also criticising the couple’s financial decisions – including taking a trip to Morocco to pick out floor tiles.
A couple who appeared on last night’s episode of Grand Designs have been mocked on X, formerly Twitter, for their ‘fugly’ house
Graeme and Mel, from Hackney Downs, north-east London, claim they may have to sell the home after they ran out of money towards the end of the project
Viewers posted on X about the look of the finished home – with one person likening it to a Monopoly hotel
On Kevin’s first visit to see Graeme and Mel, the couple revealed the tragedies that the family has been through, with both girls losing a parent at a young age.
Isla’s mother passed away within weeks of Indie’s father’s death, so Graeme stressed the need for their new home to be a fresh start and a ‘statement’ for the family.
Graeme, who met Mel at a wedding after spotting her on the dancefloor, told Kevin: ‘We are creating a brand new family from two families.’
He described the house as ‘symbolic’ by giving the family a chance to create their own identity. ‘The new home is just perfect neutral ground for everyone to buy into,’ he says.
Mel stressed how she and Graeme were doing their best to build new family traditions, but also keeping the old families’ memories alive.
The ambitious project has three floors and was described as Graeme as an ‘upside down’ home which makes use of the limited space they have to play with on the plot. He revealed the girls’ bedrooms would be in the basement, his and Mel’s bedroom would sit on the ground floor and the living, kitchen and dining area would be on the first floor.
‘We’re a modern family, if you like, and it’s a modern house – a shamelessly modern house,’ Graeme said.
The unfinished basement in architect Graeme and graphic designer Mel’s home
The modern house, which is covered in red cladding, was built on the site of twin garages
The interior of the home is still quite bare as the family had not moved in by the end of the episode
After a positive start on the project, it was blighted by issues in building the basement when their first contractor pulled out. Once the couple finally found a new contractor, the dig began – but the team ran into lots of problems.
Eventually, just when the finish line was in sight, concerns about the basement came back to haunt the couple after a test on its concrete walls raised fears about the amount of cement in them and their longevity.
‘I’m trying not to be too down about it, but I’m really distraught about this,’ Graeme explained. Mel said she was ‘hugely disappointed’ and ‘worried’.
A modern staircase leads from the ground floor, where Mel and Graeme’s bedroom will be, up to the living area on the first floor
The kitchen is kitted out with red cabinets and work surfaces to match the red exterior of the home
Viewers expressed their dislike of the house on X and questioned the couple’s financial decisions
Kevin’s final visit to the couple’s home in September revealed that it was built, watertight and covered in red cladding.
Although the couple were pleased with the house overall, Graeme admitted the unfinished basement was a ‘void’.
Sitting around the table at the end of the episode, Graeme told Kevin: ‘At the moment we can afford to finish the project, but not to pay for the remedial costs of the basement.
‘It’s a question mark as to how we fund that right now. We don’t honestly have the answer to that.’
Graeme revealed the total cost of the project has exceeded their initial budget of £450,000 and is now looking to be more like £550,000 in terms of the mortgage.
Despite having had a bumpy ride on the build, Mel believes it has been worth it to live in their dream home.
She said: ‘I’m totally in love with this building, and we are at one with this building now.’
However, viewers weren’t so keen, and took to social media to voice their dislike of the big red building.
Likening Graeme and Mel’s home to a red Monopoly hotel, one person posted a picture of one of the plastic tokens used to secure lucrative London hotspots for profit in the board game, and joked: ‘I’ll take a hotel in Hackney please.’
Another said she could understand if the couple’s neighbours were annoyed by the design, which they said ‘sticks out like fugly sore thumb’.
Others mocked the couple after they were left without the funds to finish the project – pointing to the fact they took a trip to Morocco to pick out floor tiles for the property.
‘And you wonder why they overspent,’ one said, adding in another post that they had ‘no sympathy’ for the couple.
Some people wondered how the sketches for the house ever got over the line in the first place. One person said: ‘How planning permission was granted for that monstrosity is beyond belief.’