Amateur architect butts heads on Grand Designs: The Street

Amateur architect butts heads with the pros, makes 11th hour changes to a huge paint job and admits she’s £30,000 short on her budget for a £310,000 ‘Spanish-inspired home’ on Grand Designs: The Street

  • New group of self builders appear on Grand Designs: The Street as series returns to Channel 4 tonight 
  • Carlos and Spanish-born Maite wanted to build a Spanish inspired home at Graven Hill in Oxfordshire 
  • Confessed they only had £280,000 when they started the project – and were short £30,000 of the budget 
  • Meanwhile amateur architect Maite argued with the professional throughout as she insisted on own design 

An amateur architect with no qualifications butts heads with the professionals overseeing the project as she sets out to build a £310,000 home on Grand Designs: The Street. 

Spanish-born design enthusiast Maite and her husband Carlos are among the 10 owners who have bought plots of land along the same road in Bicester, Oxford, as part of a ground-breaking project to encourage people to build their own homes. 

Each of the properties has their own distinct styles and the builders are free from many of the planning restrictions that govern a typical street. 

In the case of Maite and Carlos, the couple wanted to build a Spanish-inspired home complete with steel and wood panels and a sloping roof. The entire project was budgeted at £310,000 but the couple admitted they are £30,000 short of the total before they even started building. 

In tonight’s episode of Grand Designs: The Street, there are ‘creative differences’ when Maite clashes with the professional architects and more turmoil when she changes her mind on the colour of a major paint job at the 11th hour.  

Spanish-born design enthusiast Maite and her husband Carlos are among the 10 owners who have bought plots of land along the same road in Bicester, Oxford, as part of a ground-breaking project to encourage people to build their own homes. The couple wanted a large, open-plan kitchen-diner (pictured above) with double-height windows looking out to the garden 

The design was largely conceptualised by Maite, even though she has no formal qualifications. It is inspired by her native Spain and features a mezzanine level with an upstairs relaxation zone (pictured) as well as three bedrooms

The couple, pictured with presenter Kevin McCloud, wanted to use a mixture of wood and steel on the outside of their property (pictured) and favoured diagonal lines over straight faces 

Maite was born and raised in Rioja, Spain and often returned to the country to visit her parents with her partner Carlos, a life coach.

She said: ‘I was here all my life, got married, had children and then I divorced. And then I thought, I want to start a new. I went to England, and I met Carlos. Three years later, we had another baby.’

Living in the UK, Maite has devoted much of her life to bringing up her children, working as a gardener and furniture partner but has always harbored a love for design, despite the fact she had no formal training.

One of her sons called it ‘inspiring’, while one of her daughters explained: ‘Mum has always wanted to build a house, it’s always been one of her dreams. Carlos supports her whatever she wants to do.’

Working from a short-term rental, Maite had sketched some designs for the building with the help of professional architect Steve Chance. 

She said: ‘I love to create spaces, that’s my passion. But I’m not an architect and I can’t do it anywhere unless I build my own house. It is very scary, nerve-wracking, to think you’re going to use all the money you’ve got to build your own house.’

Carlos continued: ‘She’s unconventional in her thinking about work and life. She wants to follow her heart, this is a chance to validate her natural skills as a designer.’

The self-build plots all come ready with foundations and services. Maite and Carlos paid £234,000 for their land.  

Maite paid attention to multi-functional living and created rooms that could serve as a bedroom or a study (as seen above) depending on what the family needed  

Admitting she has ‘a very clear idea of what she wants’, Maite said: ‘The outside is going to be wood, and instead of being vertical, it’s going to be diagonal, because the building is not straight.’

But when presenter Kevin McCloud asked how the architects responded to Maite wanted, Carlos said: ‘Creative tension, I think, is healthy when you’re collaborating. He threw some ideas at Maite and that was about what she did and didn’t want.’

Kevin predicted the home would be ‘breathtaking’, clad in strips of bark and dark steel panels, while light would flood in thanks to two walls of glass.

The couple also hoped to build a spectacular kitchen diner, as well as a first floor sitting room and three bedrooms.

Despite their ambitious plans, the couple had a small budget of £280,000 and estimated they would need another £30,000 to finish the job completely.

The couple wanted their home to have a neutral black, white and grey colour scheme throughout (pictured their kitchen). Challenges emerged when Maite changed her mind on the colour of the windows at the 11th hour

Carlos explained: ‘Currently, we’re going on this journey knowing we can’t finish the house completely, so we’re going to have to move in with maybe only one bathroom, the floors but we thought if we can get to that stage, we can take it from there.’

Maite said: ‘If we can live there and we don’t have to pay the rent, little by little, we can do one thing and then another thing.’

However the irregular shape of the house lead to so many complexities, and the start date on site was delayed by a month.

What is Grand Designs: The Street? 

Kevin McCloud was inspired to film the project after visiting The Netherlands in 2010 to see the largest self-build town near Amsterdam.

‘Meanwhile, a small local authority at Bicester, Cherwell District Council, had also been bitten by the Almere bug,’ he explained.

The council invited people to purchase plots of land for £100K each, on which to build their own properties.

Cameras followed self-builders over a period of five years while they worked on their structures, which are all different from each other.

Kevin said: ‘Ultimately there will be thousands of homes, some social housing, some custom-build as well as self-build.

‘I believe it’s a model that could be copied by local authorities up and down the land.’

The presenter also said it was one of the most dramatic Grand Designs series he’s ever filmed, explaining: ‘Building for the first time brings with it a lot of financial, personal and emotional stress.’

Carlos said: ‘We didn’t realise the design we did was going to need so much engineering. So part of the delay was that when we looked at final detail, there were certain things that I think they’d overlooked. There’s a lot of engineering going in to stop the swaying of the house.’ 

When all the steel work was in place, the chippies started to build plywood walls and skimmed them over with ply wood. One month in, and architect Chance came to inspect it.

He said: ‘I’m very pleased with the progress, it’s gone really quickly. Having the steel go in first, in about a day and a half, really gives you the shape of the building.

‘The experience of the building is going to be very different from a house with a similar house area.

‘At one stage, I said we needed it think about lowering the roof, and not having a double height bedroom, which would reduce the costs – but basically, the clients felt they had to hang onto those things.

‘If they said, even if we don’t have any finishing and we have to put the kitchen in later, they really wanted to commit to these elements. It’s a big commitment ultimately.’

However it wasn’t not long before there was another issue. The couple had commissioned a pair of huge windows and doors from a small workshop in Yorkshire, spending £30,000, with the owner calling them ‘very oversized and bespoke.’

He explained: ‘It’s certainly stretching the boundaries of what’s achievable. As we put on the final coat on the mid grey colour which the customer picked, she asked for a few photos to see how they’re getting on, only for the customer to have a panic attack, not liking the colour at the 11th hour.

‘It’s the last thing you want on a Friday afternoon, finding out the colour was wrong.’

But Maite became worried the house was going to be compromised, with the window worker explaining: ‘To respray any windows and doors is a massive process in the middle of the project. It’s a production line at the end of the day, and once it starts on that production line, it needs to get to the end of it.’

Maite said: ‘He went to the workshop and took a photo and sent it to me. And I thought, that is not what I chose! Imagine, all this money and the colour is something that is going to clash everywhere. You want to do it perfect.’

By March 2021, it seemed the issue still wasn’t fixed, with the giant windows and doors seemingly arriving on site in the wrong colour.

The new series of Grand Designs: The Streets captures the spirit of community engendered by these impressive self-build streets, as the determination, resilience and ambition of the builders shines through, to create something extraordinary.

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