A supercar investor was branded ‘arrogant’ by Grand Designs viewers last night, after he spent four years and £2.5 million building an enormous home based on the rugged Devon terrain.
Property developer Joe O’Connor, 35, and his wife Claire, from Devon, appeared on the Channel 4 programme last night as they set out to build an enormous home inspired by rocks in the countryside with a budget of £835,000.
But after starting the project in 2017, the couple’s build was hampered by difficulties from the outset, including issues with the timber frame, challenges installing 46 panes of glass costing £200,000, poor weather and the Covid-19 crisis.
Viewers were left stunned by the huge 6,000 sq ft build, with one calling it ‘a sh** Stone Henge’, while another wrote: ‘The scene is set perfectly for this to be an absolute classic of #GrandDesigns. Egotistical and obscenely rich owner, monstrous design, impossible to build, pregnant wife, unrealistic construction timeline…’
‘What a let down Grand Designs is tonight,’ another commented. ‘Suppose to be about people giving their everything to their dream home, not an arrogant t****** building a 300ft c*** extension.’
Property developer Joe O’Connor, 35, was branded an ‘arrogant t******’ by Grand Designs viewers last night, after he spent four years and £2.5 million building an enormous 6,000 sq ft home based on the rugged Devon terrain – which many said looked like ‘a sh** Stone Henge’
After starting the project in 2017, the couple’s build was hampered by difficulties from the outset, including issues with the timber frame, challenges installing 46 panes of glass costing £200,000, poor weather and the Covid-19 crisis (pictured, the £125,000 kitchen)
The unusual home, which Kevin McCloud likened to a ‘spaceship’ featured an open plan living area as well as a huge gym and games room
In November 2017, Kevin visited the couple at home, with Joe revealing he is planning to build an enormous 6,000 sq ft property on the paddock next door.
Appearing on the programme, Joe said he wants to have ‘one of the best homes on the planet.’
Meanwhile Claire added: ‘Joe came up with the idea to build the house. I’m not as ambitious as him. I’m just wanting to keep the family unit and everybody happy and alive, most days.’
Joe’s financial services company were helping to fund some of the most prestigious building developments in Exeter, including Exeter’s library. He was working to remould the face of an entire city.
He said: ‘It’ll be a sculpture in the landscape, made of zinc and glass. Quite loud.’
Claire added: ‘In our wildest dreams we’d never thought we’d get planning.’
Joe confessed he plans to jump into the project with both feet. He revealed he plans to stick to a budget of £835,000 and build the property in under seven months.
The plans for this home were the epitome of ambition – deep concrete pad foundations would support a gigantic timber frame, with 222 beams bolted together to create a massive structural hub stretching 10 metres into the sky.
The house was inspired by tors, piles of stones found in the wild, that resemble sculptures. It has 10-metre-high ceilings and a 229ft long corridor that runs from one end of the home to the other (pictured, the couple’s master suite)
Meanwhile windows made from enormous panels of glass offered incredible views of the Devon countryside from each room (pictured, Kevin in the bathroom)
The shards would be clad by hand with zinc and the remaining apertures would be glazed with huge performing shards of glass.
The couple hoped solar panels would help power the interior and the home will be filled with gadgets, including facial recognition and intelligent heating.
It would also include a gym, open plan living area.
But from the outset, the couple faced delays as they struggled to get the build off the ground due to the challenges of the engineering.
Joe said: ‘It’s definitely going to be more expensive than we initially budgeted. What we were quoted originally to what is coming back is vastly different. All the indications say I’ll have to go someway over £1 million.’
Ahead of the build, property developer and supercar investor Joe said he wanted to keep the project below £900,000 – but the budget soon went out of the window (pictured with his wife Claire and Kevin)
By autumn 2018, the transformation of the Devon hillside began. Concrete pad foundations were poured and work began on the garage.
Within six months, the frame for the garage was complete, while the factory cut timber arrived for the first of the four stages.
However as the first of the engineered pieces of wood were craned in, nothing lined up. Damp had swollen the timbers so what once slotted together in the factory now didn’t fit.
Phil said: ‘We’re struggling here. I would have hoped for it not to have been like this, the first piece. It’s stressful. Every part of this project going forward is going to be difficult. it’s a nightmare.’
By February 2019, it seemed the pre-fabricated construction technique designed to simplify the project was failing. Drilled holes weren’t lining up with steel brackets and the construction was impossible to connect.
The project manager added: ‘We’ve got six blokes trying to put in one beam. We can’t go on like that.’
The build was immediately hampered with problems because as the first of the engineered pieces of wood were craned in, nothing lined up. Damp had swollen the timbers so what once slotted together in the factory now didn’t fit (pictured, builders trying to maneuver pieces of timber)
The builders branded the complex project a ‘nightmare’ and said there had been ‘no end of problems’ during the build (pictured)
Michael Taylor, the carpentry foreman, said: ‘The problem we’ve got with this, is it’s designed with no tolerance. It’s designed millimeter perfect. It just doesn’t fit. You’re going to have the same scenario right across the build.’
There are over 300 beams in the building but it took over three weeks to fit just 12.
Phil admitted: ‘I’m going to lose my head with it. It’s ridiculous. The cost is just – horrendous. The first phase was going to see where the problems were – we’ve found no end of problems.’
Meanwhile Joe arrived on site, saying: ‘If lessons aren’t learned and there are the same cockups, I am going to get angry about it.’
To control the rising costs, the team moved away from the modern simplicity of pre-fabrication to something more old fashioned. Instead, they decided to fit everything on site by hand.
The laborious installation of each of the panes of the delicate 46 panes of glass within the build went on for weeks, with Joe dismissing one contractor for another
The incredible black front door of the property is six foot across, with every window offering a view of the geometric shapes constructing the home
It took two further months to complete the first phase of the timber frame, with Phil confessing the challenges of the project feel unrelenting.
He said: ‘It’s a nightmare. The last two weeks of weather we’ve had rain, 70mph winds. You can see the shape of the scaffolding around is a nightmare in itself.
‘To get to this stage, the work and the intensity and logistics behind it all are just a nightmare. I wouldn’t want to live in a house like this. Ludicrous isn’t it really?’
Meanwhile Claire and Joe admitted the project was becoming ‘a bit excessive’, with Claire adding: ‘I’ve not really thought about practicalities.’
Eight months into construction in August 2019, the project was continuing at a pace but by the autumn, the site was once again pounded by high winds and weeks of rain.
Meanwhile the laborious installation of each of the panes of glass within the build went on for weeks.
Phil admitted: ‘It’s worse than what we ever expected. ‘
Once inside, the shock of the hard exterior is muted with pastel colours and sublime interior design, including a spaceship like corridor of lights
The house is ultra-modern and carbon negative, powered via sun and air. Pictured: a shower room in the home
Both Claire and Joe admitted the project was becoming ‘a bit excessive’, with the kitchen costing over £125,000 (pictured, the living area)
With three children in tow, the couple have done their best to keep the home cosy, and its angular windows provide a serene setting for the parents, and a playground full of endless possibilities for their kids
Three months on, and electricians have laid cables into the high tech home, but the builders are still struggling to get the windows into the build.
Joe said: ‘The time for excuses has to stop at some point, and it’s come to that point.’
The couple decide to part ways with the glazing constructors, but face a delay as they struggle to find new builders to install the huge panes of glass into the building.
And in March 2020, the glazing delays are compounded by the Covid pandemic, meaning the project is even further delayed.
By the summer 2020, even Joe’s enthusiasm for the project is waning, with the supercar investor saying: ‘If everything shuts down again, this is the least of my problems.’
The couple said solar panels would help power the interior and the home was filled with gadgets, including facial recognition and intelligent heating (pictured, the living room)
Meanwhile an office space in one of the rooms is decorated sparsely, but offers an incredible view of the Devonshire countryside from its huge window
In contrast, the bedrooms for Joe and Claire’s two eldest children are modest in comparison to the rest of the house, and feature more creature comforts including a Spiderman bedspread (left and right)
The property investor suggested he might have to even abandon the build completely.
However just one year later, the project was finally finished, with Kevin returning to compare it to visiting an alien space ship, museum or art gallery.
The black home, covered in £ 500,000 worth of zinc cladding, was made using 300 timber beams and has 46 sheets of bespoke glass, costing £200,000.
However once inside, the shock of the hard exterior is muted with pastel colours and sublime interior design.
Joe said the glass windows were ‘one really difficult part’ of the build, revealing: ‘Everything was difficult but what was nearly the breaking point was the glazing.’
Joe confessed the budget had gone over £2.5 million, saying he felt ‘completely and utterly satisfied’ with the space (pictured)
He’s back! The house is the first to appear on the new season of Grand Design, hosted by Kevin McCloud
Meanwhile the couple said the kitchen alone had cost them around £125,000, with Claire admitting: ‘It is an expensive kitchen but you can’t buy it from the high street. It’s the focal point of the house.’
The house was gigantic, covering 6,000 sq ft, with five bedroom suites, a gym, cinema room, study, utility room, open plan kitchen and living-space.
With three children in tow, the couple have done their best to keep the home cosy, and its angular windows provide a serene setting for the parents, and a playground full of endless possibilities for their kids.
It was also carbon negative, running on solar panels, with an air-powered heat pump and triple glazing.
Despite the couple’s joy over the finished build, project manager Phil confessed it had been a challenge from start to finish.
Viewers were blown away by the remarkable build, with one calling it ‘a sh** stone henge’, and others deeming Joe’s attitude ‘arrogant’
He explained: ‘It has been a nightmare of a project. There’s nothing worse than when stuff turns up and it doesn’t fit together. But as I’ve always said as I’ve gone on and on, we’ll get there on on and on.
‘I wouldn’t want to live there. But I’m emotionally attached to it. We’ll look back in time and drive past and think we built that.’
Joe confessed the budget had gone over to £2.5 million, while Claire said: ‘I could never in my wildest dreams imagine I could live in such an amazing house.’
Joe added: ‘I am completely and utterly satisfied and and that’s quite rare for me. This is exactly what I hoped it would be.’
However viewers were left stunned by the build, with one person commenting: ‘I know everyone on Grand Designs is relatively well-off, but I really hate the ones (like this) where the people are just obscenely rich and it doesn’t matter what goes wrong, because they can just throw more money at it.’
Another said: ‘£835 grand is cheap. Looks like a monstrous blot on the landscape.’
A third wrote: ‘Just wondering how many other people watching Grand Designs are either eye rolling themselves into next year, or saying “t***’ a lot.’
Grand Designs continues next Wednesday at 9pm on Channel 4