A GRAND Designs revamp has been labelled the “best of all time”, after a “mad” dad spent four years transforming an abandoned Neo-Gothic cemetery lodge.
Dad-of-one Justin Maxwell-Stuart, 50, from London, appeared on the Channel 4 show last night and showed off his finished dream pad, which came with a swimming pool and a moat.
Viewers called it the “craziest episode ever” after Justin spent a whopping £4.5 million on the whopping renovation.
He had initially bought the old keepers lodge and nearby ex-council toilet block in Fulham cemetery for £1.8million in 2016.
He had hoped to turn it into his dream home in 12 months on a budget of £1.6million but things didn’t go according to plan.
The aim was to knock down the ugly toilet block and replace it with a huge ground floor extension, and add the moat and a giant basement housing a swimming pool.
Justin hoped to draw inspiration from his family's huge 50-room country home, Traquair House, which is Scotland's oldest inhabited house, and has hosted 27 different monarchs since it was built in 1107.
The difficulties in the renovations began soon after starting the project in October 2016.
Justin was set back by planning permission to build an entrance to the graveyard from his garden, and it ended up taking four years and over double the budget.
However, viewers were highly impressed with the finished result, with one gushing: “Possibly the greatest #GrandDesigns ever. That was mad, beautiful and very, very funny.”
Another added: “Bloody love #GrandDesigns and what an episode to start the new series. One hell of a house but with one hell of a price tag as well.”
Justin’s family money comes from his shipping heiress mother Kirsty Maxwell-Stewart, who died in 2016 leaving £20million in her will.
Justin said on the show that he began the project after he and his “wonderful ex wife separated”.
He explained: “I thought, now my life is in turmoil and chaos, I now have the opportunity to do something off the beaten track.
“And I wanted a chance to do something really special.”
While many people may be put off by the ceremony location, Justin said that he used to walk through it four times a day and it had a special place in his heart.
He said: “I don't think of them as my dead neighbours, they're just my neighbours. And come the witching hour, when they close the gates to the cemetery then it really is my area.
“It's going to be a grand castle sort of statement. And then my folly – a pool.”
Justin said 60 per cent of the funds “came from his savings” and he was also “given a loan by his mother”, and got a mortgage against the lodge and his other homes.
He said: “In my mind there is a fear I'm heading down a catastrophic black hole.”
When the budget for the project was quoted as £4million, Justin was left in a “bit of a shock”.
He said: “I haven't quite worked out how to pay the end bill.
“I just know there's going to be a balancing equation between selling this and a larger mortgage and working harder.”
Former army officer Justin ploughed on with the plans, and added on the show that one of his fears would be that the team would dig up a grave.
He said: “One just has to be aware that when you're digging in an ancient site.
“Worst case scenario is we find one of Henry VIII's wives.”
A specialist contractor revealed that “not everyone was happy to work” on the project, and added: “We have got half the team, they prefer to not work in here.”
However, by November 2020, the home was complete and Justin was praised for his “stunning” pad.
Host Kevin McCloud said: “It's so exceptional to find in the centre of London. What's glorious is the space and the light and the view into the garden.”
The four-bed home has a huge master suite and dressing room, along with a kitchen-diner, a reading room and a large lounge.
The pad was compared to the “Playboy Mansion”, thanks to its luxurious wine cellar, a TV room with a bar and the 13-metre swimming pool.
Justin said he is “delighted” with the home, and said: “Not a lord of the manor, but a gatekeeper.”
Kevin asked about the huge price tag, and said: “Let's cut to the chase. You're all in now – for £4.5 million?”
Justin replied: “It's not a figure I'm comfortable with. It was a rollercoaster once I started. It has been a terrifying financial rollercoaster.”
He said he would “never” have started the project had he known the price and the time it took to complete.
However, viewers were impressed, with one saying: “Brilliant Grand Designs. There was never once a thought he'd not finish.”
We previously shared the Grand Designs’ rotting homes – the epic builds that’ve been trashed by vandals, left derelict and destroyed families.
And this stunning LA-style Grand Designs home made of curved glass that cost creator FIVE heart bypasses on the market for £3.4m.
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