Grand Designs has shown people’s dreams come true over the course of 24 years, despite many of the projects hitting snags along the way.
However, one property stands out in the eyes of many because its owner’s ambitions to restore his family’s 1950s home into a lighthouse-style palace fell through.
In 2019, viewers were introduced to Edward Short, a music business professional and father-of-two who had spent a decade developing his home at North End, near Croyde on the North Devon coast.
When the show’s host Kevin McCloud first visited, he was visibly struck by the home’s magnitude and design ambitions, remarking that the Chesil Cliff House will be “something very special.”
‘If a lighthouse has a single message that it cries out, it is this: “Stay away – or risk destruction,” he added.
This premonition and apparently never-ending troubles nearly derailed Edward’s dreams in the years that followed.
When the first episode aired, it was discovered that the recession, building troubles, and the loss of his marriage to wife Hazel had put Edward on the verge of bankruptcy, with £4 million in debt.
The home was also far from finished at this stage, like an empty concrete shell.
The family house he’d envisaged appeared a long way away, prompting viewers to express their comments on social media, with some branding it the’saddest ever’ episode and home they’d ever seen.
Others, on the other hand, were less than sympathetic.
Some branded it a ‘eyesore,’ while others targeted Edward himself, calling the scope of his project’greedy.
Problems developed from the start, with the dwelling needing to be secured into the cliff’s bed rock to avoid erosion.
When the funds for the construction ran out, the house was left unfinished for years.
A few months after the first episode aired, Edward reflected on his family’s time in the old house before it was demolished to make room for the new construction.
‘We’ve had an amazing time living in that spot (at the old house),’ he told Devon Live.
‘There were days when the girls would come back from school, get straight off the bus and we’d all jump straight into the sea to mess around in the waves or go kayaking.
‘But the whole project has been a horrendous strain for Hazel, I have sunk our family purse into this and I really feel for her. I never meant to put her through any of this.’
The endeavour finally led the couple’s marriage to fail, as he dubbed the period spent chasing his house ambitions “the monster years.”
Locals were also less than delighted with the incomplete mansion, causing Edward to tell them in 2020 that: ‘I realise it’s a mess, and I have to address it – but when it is done it will be wonderful. When it’s completed, you may judge it.’
After more than a decade, the house eventually became inhabitable in 2022, but it was quickly put on the market.
Edward simply explained the choice as having to repay expenditures anticipated to be about £6 million.
The house, which was listed for £10 million, was marketed as having several opulent facilities such as a theatre, steam room, infinity pool, private beach, and helicopter landing pad.
Last year, it was rumoured that Harry Styles was considering purchasing the beachside property after neighbours stated it was ‘the buzz of the hamlet’ that the One Direction singer was considering moving in.
However, Knight Frank representatives quickly stated that the rumours were false.
However, early this year, another noteworthy bidder made an offer on the house, with Michael Jackson’s former bodyguard Matt Fiddes putting up a multi-million pound bid.
Despite the fact that Fiddes owns a martial arts corporation worth £120 million, Edward refused his offer, calling him a “time-waster.”
Fiddes responded by saying Edward was “flogging a dead horse.”
When Kevin returned to the property for a follow-up show last year, he described it as ‘the bare bones of a house and more like a forlorn cadaver’.
While the property is now finished, it has been divided in two.
The main home, a white art-deco designed lighthouse, was listed for £7.5 million, while The Eye, a second neighbouring beach building, was listed for £2.5 million.
In a recent update on the house, the host stated that he was still in contact with Edward and that the owner was ‘battling along’ with his ambitions to sell.
Despite his lofty ambitions, Edward finally admitted he’d never be able to live in the house since he had “money I need to pay back.”
He then cited his ‘overconfidence and hubris’ in pushing on with plans despite accumulating losses over the years.
In April last year Edward told Devon Live it was unlikely he’d ever tackle any big building projects again, instead saying he would probably need to instead spend money on ‘a physiatrist and help with PTSD’.
‘I’ll always be proud to have finished this. I owe it to my family to have a real end result, but the time has come to move on,’ he said.
‘I will have achieved what I set out to do, never deviating from the plans, and for that I’ll always be proud.
‘These past 10 years have been a marathon slog – and I have got used to being a millionaire in debt.’
Grand Designs is streaming on Channel 4.