An unqualified amateur architect clashes with the professionals overseeing the project as she plans to build a £310,000 home on Grand Designs: The Street.
Spanish-born design enthusiast Maite and her husband Carlos are among 10 owners who have purchased plots of land along the same road in Bicester, Oxford, as part of a pioneering project to encourage people to build their own homes.
Each of the homes has its own distinct styles, and the builders are free from many of the planning constraints that rule a typical street.
In the case of Maite and Carlos, the couple wanted to build a Spanish-inspired house, complete with steel and wood panels and a pitched roof. The whole project was budgeted at £310,000, but the couple admitted they were short of £30,000 before they even started building.
On tonight’s episode of Grand Designs: The Street, there are “creative differences” when Maite clashes with the professional architects and more turmoil when at 11 a.m. she changes her mind about the color of a major paint job.
Spanish-born design enthusiast Maite and her husband Carlos are among 10 owners who have purchased plots of land along the same road in Bicester, Oxford, as part of a pioneering project to encourage people to build their own homes. The couple wanted a large, open kitchen (pictured above) with double-height windows overlooking the garden
The design was largely conceptualized by Maite, even though she has no formal qualifications. Inspired by her native Spain, it has a mezzanine level with a relaxation area upstairs (pictured) and three bedrooms
The couple, pictured with presenter Kevin McCloud, wanted to use a mixture of wood and steel on the exterior of their property (pictured) and preferred diagonal lines over straight faces
Born and raised in Rioja, Spain, Maite often returned to the country to visit her parents with her life coach partner Carlos.
She said, ‘I’ve been here all my life, got married, had kids and then I got divorced. And then I thought, I want to start a new one. I went to England and met Carlos. Three years later we had another baby.’
Maite, who lives in the UK, has devoted much of her life to raising her children, as a gardener and furniture partner, but has always had a love of design, despite having no formal education.
One of her sons called it ‘inspiring’, while one of her daughters explained: ‘Mom has always wanted to build a house, it has always been one of her dreams. Carlos supports her whatever she wants.’
Working from a short-term rental, Maite had sketched out 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’s very scary, unnerving to think you’re going to use all the money you have to build your own house.”
Carlos continues: ‘She is unconventional in her thinking about work and life. She wants to follow her heart, this is an opportunity to validate her natural skills as a designer.”
The self-build plots are all ready with foundation and facilities. Maite and Carlos paid £234,000 for their land.
Maite paid attention to multifunctional living and created rooms that could serve as a bedroom or study (as seen above), depending on what the family needed
Maite admitted she has “a very clear idea of what she wants,” saying, “The exterior will be wood, and instead of vertical, it will become diagonal, because the building is not straight.”
But when host Kevin McCloud asked how the architects responded to Maite’s wish, Carlos said: “Creative tension, I think, is healthy when you work together. He threw some ideas at Maite and that was about what she wanted and didn’t like.’
Kevin predicted that the house would be “breathtaking”, clad in strips of bark and dark steel panels, while light would flood in thanks to two glass walls.
The couple also hoped to build a spectacular eat-in kitchen, 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 complete the job in full.
The couple wanted their home to have a neutral black, white, and gray color scheme throughout (their kitchen pictured). Challenges arose when Maite changed his mind about the color of the windows at 11am
Carlos explained: “Right now we’re going on this journey knowing we can’t finish the house completely, so we’ll have to move in with maybe just one bathroom, the floors, but we thought if we can get to that stage, we can go from there.” we’ll take over.’
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.”
However, the irregular shape of the house led to so many complexities and the on-site start date 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-built city near Amsterdam.
‘Meanwhile, a small municipality in Bicester, Cherwell District Council, was also bitten by the Almere microbe,’ he explained.
The council invited people to buy plots of land at £100,000 each on which to build their own properties.
Cameras followed homebuilders for five years as they worked on their structures, all of which are different from one another.
Kevin said: ‘Eventually there will be thousands of homes, some social housing, some both custom and self-build.
“I believe it is a model that can be copied by the local authorities all over the country.”
The host also said it was one of the most dramatic Grand Designs series he’s ever filmed, explaining, “Building for the first time involves a lot of financial, personal and emotional stress.”
Carlos said, “We didn’t realize the design we were making would require so much engineering. So part of the delay was that when we looked at the final details, there were certain things that I think they overlooked. It takes a lot of technology to stop the house rocking.’
With all the steelwork in place, the chippies started building plywood walls and moved over with plywood. A month later, architect Chance came to inspect it.
He said: ‘I am very happy with the progress, it has been very fast. When the steel goes in first, in about a day and a half, you really get the shape of the building.
‘The experience of the building will be very different from a house with a comparable living space.
“At one point I said we should think about lowering the roof and not having a double height bedroom, which would cut costs, but basically the customers felt like they had to stick to those things.” .
“As they said, even if we don’t have finishes and we have to put the kitchen in later, they really wanted to commit to these elements. It’s a big commitment in the end.’
However, it wasn’t long before there was another problem. The couple had ordered a pair of huge windows and doors from a small workshop in Yorkshire and spent £30,000, the owner calling them ‘very large and custom-made’.
He explained: “It definitely pushes the boundaries of what is achievable. When we applied the final coat on the medium gray color the customer had chosen, she asked for a few photos to see how they’re doing, only the customer had a panic attack and didn’t like the color at 11 o’clock.
“It’s the last thing you want on a Friday afternoon to find out the color isn’t right.”
But Maite became concerned that the house would be compromised, with the window worker explaining, ‘Repainting windows and doors is a huge 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 has to come to the end.”
Maite said, ‘He went to the workshop and took a picture and sent it to me. And I thought, I didn’t choose that! Imagine, all this money and the color is something that is going to clash everywhere. You want to do it perfectly.’
As of March 2021, the problem still seemed unresolved, with the gigantic windows and doors apparently arriving on site in the wrong color.
The new Grand Designs: The Streets series captures the community spirit engendered by these impressive self-built streets, while showing the determination, resilience and ambition of the builders to create something extraordinary.