Elderly advertising man Geoff is trying to sell his luxurious Spanish villa to build a Â£ 700,000 water-resistant island house in the remote floodplains of Essex.
In the latest episode of Grand Designs on Channel 4, the recently divorced 63-year-old with a Peter Pan complex returns to the UK to build a spectacular three-bedroom house on steel stilts. He wants to see his grandchildren grow up who also live in Essex.
âThis is the first time in 32 years that I can do what I want to do,â says Geoff, who grew up in the East End. But will he heed the warning from presenter Kevin McCloud? âArchitecture can do a lot of things, but it can’t keep you forever young,â says McCloud.
For Â£ 350,000, Cuban cigar smoker Geoff bought 7.5 acres of land overlooking the aquatic wilderness with planning permission. He doesn’t have to design the structure, he just has to follow the plans.
The cantilever house will stand 15 feet above the ground on 30 heavy concrete and steel piles that will be driven 14 meters deep.
They will support an industrial strength steel frame comprising 560 steel beams which will transfer the load into the ground below.
The stairs will be made of wood just like the walls that will surround the steel. The property will be enveloped in bay windows with an eye-catching jagged roof covered in solar panels.
Each of the three bedrooms will have a view of the water. A glass elevator will cross the center of the house.
A protective wall will protect the garden and in the event of an extraordinary 1,000-year storm, the water will cover the garden and the ground floor but will not reach the living room. The power supply and drainage system will all be protected. âIn the event of such a storm, Geoff will only need one boat,â says McCloud.
The project kicks off and all the foundations are dug before Geoff hits his first major stumbling block. In order to complete his island home, he must first sell his villa in Spain.
The plush pillow priced at Â£ 1.5million has been on the market for a year and Geoff refuses to accept an offer of Â£ 1.2million.
If he can’t sell in Spain, Geoff can’t afford to build the rest of his gravity-defying dream home and will have to spend wet winter after winter in a static trailer on site as he manages the project all by itself.
The villa in Spain finally sells and Geoff prepares to put his house on stilts. But once again the relentless strength of Geoff (a boxer in his childhood) meets a stationary object: the Covid-19 strikes and construction stops again for five months.
Come summer 2020 and the property begins to take shape atop the cantilever column. An optimistic Geoff is determined he will be by Christmas – much to McCloud’s skepticism.
Realizing that he was eating away at his retirement fund, he saved money by shortening the dike wall and replacing a lower concrete wall with wood.
When finished, although not yet fitted out, McCloud makes one final visit. Filled with quirky and daring interior design choices, he describes the house as “an autobiography of Geoff and everything that means something to him.”
The master bedroom is completely independent due to the clever shape of the house with a view of the sailing club. The view from the protruding balcony, which is also the overhang, stretches out over the estuary and watches for wetland wildlife.
Geoff’s lowest point was when “it kept raining” and he had to build his house against the rising waters. As McCloud says, âThis building is a survivor and so are you. It was built to withstand gravity, weather and the tide.
Grand Designs airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Channel 4. Episodes are also available to stream through All 4.