Grand Designs: Homeowners restore ‘magical’ mini-castle – ‘it’s sprung alive again’

Grand Designs: Kevin McCloud shown thermal experiment

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Grand Designs tonight sees couple Mimi and Jaime convert a beautiful derelict 250-year-old folly in the Buckinghamshire countryside. The couple take on a lot of the work themselves, with Jaime using innovative 3D mapping to squeeze living spaces into the tower, but it proves to be an exhausting struggle.

Jaime and Mimi Fernandez fell in love with the Grade II listed miniature castle in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, which was originally built to house a fossil collection.

They paid £100,000 for the tower and it took a year for the planning permission to be accepted. 

The couple gave themselves a tight deadline of six months to convert the property in time for their second child who is on the way. 

Unfortunately, due to struggles faced along the way, the restoration took a gruelling 15 months. 

They also set aside a budget of £200,000 to get all the work done, despite the tower being completely derelict.

Asking the couple about their decision to buy the miniature castle, presenter Kevin McCloud, said: “What on earth made you choose to do this?”

Mimi replied: “My parents were local and I used to pass this all the time, I did used to think it’s so sad that it is in this ruinous state and why doesn’t anyone do anything with it?

“I thought it’s a sort of project that we could take on, it’s just such a magical place, we both fell in love with it and both very passionate about restoring it.”

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After 15 months, Kevin returned to the miniature castle to see what the couple had done to it as well as having a peek at the interior. 

He said: “The site is wooded with oak trees and now eccentrically fenced with windfall and timber.

“Not building a wall and using just an old tree trunk is typically Jimmy isn’t it, it’s bonkers.

“Although the building is much more grown-up and it looks rather good.”

The beautiful home was restored with a grand staircase, windows as well as a complete renovation of the inside.

Kevin added: “It is a beautiful miniature castle…this folly has sprung alive again, its windows glint, its walls are brighter.”

Although the renovation cost a whopping £100,000 more than the couple expected, Mimi said that the kitchen was more spacious than ever imagined as well as the house having a separate utility room.

Husband Jaime said: “A project like this really tests a relationship to the boundary and we’ve made it.”

Sticking to a budget can be extremely hard, especially when extra work crops up throughout the process.

In another episode, Kevin visited a couple who were attempting to convert a stunning but derelict 17th century flour mill into their new family home.

Leigh and Richard took on this project with a £250,000 budget despite the property having been abandoned for over half a century.

Kevin said: “Leigh and Richard’s £250,000 is ebbing away fast and they haven’t even begun on the decaying interior.”

Structural issues in the mill’s walls, problems with the beams and even an underground tunnel full of water saw their budget quickly surpassed.

The couple ended up spending around £300,000 to finish the project, dipping into their £50,000 contingency.

The second floor had two guest bedrooms with an ensuite and more exposed stone.

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