Grand Designs’ The Streets: an Army couple’s catalogue house and a problematic bachelor pad are latest builds at Graven Hill

Leah and Craig, an Army couple, left their military careers to build a factory-made house in Poland. Jitinder, the project manager, created a batchelor pad worthy for the Hollywood Hills. The fifth episode of Channel 4’s series follows the adventures of a group of self-builders who have taken to a site in Oxfordshire. According to Kevin McCloud, who this week supervised the two projects of Leah, Craig, and Jitinder, Graven Hill is a neighborhood of oven-ready plots that are sold to self-builders who want to express their creativity. Ex-army officer Craig, who is now an IT consultant and army surgeon Leah, has lived in various army accommodation around the world, including in Germany, and served in Kosovo and Afghanistan. However, Leah decided to settle in Graven Hill, Bicester. Leah explained that they had seen enough of the worst sides of the military and decided it was time for them to settle down. Leah and Craig are pictured with Kevin McCloud outside their factory-made home. Jacqueline Cross Photography Ltd/ Channel 4 “They have broken with military discipline, the barracks beige,” McCloud stated in his introduction. They chose to build a house using a systematic and efficient method and purchased one from a catalog. The factory in Poland produced the prefabricated timber panels, which included windows and plumbing. The timber-framed house was finished in an off white with a red clay tiled roofing. It was completed in just a few weeks and cost (including land) GBP502,000. The couple’s build was so efficient that it took longer than the Army to approve the Help to Buy loan. This delayed the purchase of the plot. This was the biggest hurdle for the couple, who were able to get finance in the nick of time. Kevin McCloud, Leah, and Craig stand beside their new garden study. Jacqueline Cross Photography Ltd/ Channel 4The couple’s home, which McCloud described to be “charming” and accurately European, has an open-plan ground floor with deep windows, electric shutters, and is closed in the evening to “bunker down”. The kitchen becomes a void in the middle, where there is a gym, dining room, and living room. At the end is the living and dining rooms that open onto the garden. McCloud said, “It’s simple and the crafted elements like the staircase sing out.” He said that just because the item was in a catalog does not mean that the couple didn’t have options. They could choose the taps and where they place the windows or the size of their roof lantern. Craig’s timber worktops and the telephone box bar are just a few of the creative touches. READ MOREHomes and futures: Kevin McCloud discusses how design is changing, and energy-positive properties that can make you moneyGrand Designs’ “The Streets” lighthouse in Glasgow sold for GBP10m. McCloud spoke of ambitious self-build experiments taking place at Graven Hill. McCloud was referring to Jitinder’s next project. Jitinder, who had lived 26 years in a tiny flat in Reading without any guests, built his “lifetime home” to retire. McCloud said that he had searched for nine years for a house to purchase, but all he saw was too difficult to make a home suitable for him as a single man. He was a routine-loving project manager who described batch cooking on camera. He led the construction of a Hollywood Hills-style contemporary home, Graven Hill. After years of living in cramped quarters, Jitinder decided to design a home that would allow him to enjoy the “lifetime” of retirement. Jacqueline Cross Photography Ltd/ Channel 4 Despite his years as a project manager, Jitinder encountered problems he could not have predicted or controlled. He was not happy with the tradespeople he was trying manage on the smallest details, such as the shape and placement of the guttering. The Graven Hill risk team intervened at one point and claimed that Jitinder’s health and safety assessment was similar to “something you would find on the internet”. As the team lifted six tonnes of steel above the home of Jitinder’s to-be-neighbors, the team made a mockery of the process. The final straw was the carefully selected off-white render, which when it arrived looked almost violet-tinged. It turned out that the pink tint was actually present when it was applied. Jitinder said, “I can’t think of any other colour now.” The statuesque structure, which cost Jitinder between GBP650,000 and GBP700,000. This included the plot. It was made of giant panels, reinforced with steel beams and joints, and studded with insulation. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gym, and a utility room are located on the ground floor. An open staircase leads to the first floor, which is completely open. It includes a main kitchen and living area that are ideal for entertaining, as well as a balcony with a roof terrace and stairway. The master-bedroom is located on the top floor, as well as a further balcony that offers views over the meadow beyond. McCloud explained that the smooth floor’s finish is the result six layers of resin that look like “cloud has been placed over it”. McCloud said that the floor is a bold monolithic statement and the perfect companion to the “weird, wonderful” collection of homes being built at Graven Hill. You can watch the episode of Grand Designs: The Streets this week on the Channel 4 website or All4 mobile app.