Grand Designs build brings Zimbabwean and Australian cultures to the Cotswolds

Kevin McCloud stands outside the new build home
Kevin McCloud called the design a 'multicultural triumph' (Image credit: Channel 4)

A fusion of cultures led to the creation of a striking black flint-clad family home in the Chess Valley in the Cotswolds.

City workers Matt, from Australia, and Davi, from Zimbabwe, spent £800,000 on a bungalow in the picturesque suburb with an initial aim of refurbishing it.

However, the pair, who have two children, instead decided on a far more ambitious ‘black box’ design and tore down the original structure.

Matt and Davi decided to project manage the build themselves, despite never having  tried building a house before and working full-time, and set themselves a timeframe of nine months and a budget of £550,000 to realise their shared dream.

A flint clad 'House of Stones'

The three-bedroom self build property was designed to evoke the heritage of both their homelands, particularly through the flint cladding – which in Zimbabwe means ‘House of Stones’ in the Shona language.

The two-storey home was featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs and host Kevin McCloud was visibly sceptical the ambitious project could be realised on-time and on-budget – and he was right.

Numerous setbacks, including two weeks of torrential rain, a sewer tunnel being found beneath the property, and spiralling material prices pushed the final cost to build the house up to £710,000 and the timetable to 17 months, almost double the amount of time the couple planned.

Davi admitted the process was ‘brutal’ and put pressure on the family, but the end result of a clean, airy, and sunlight-soaked modern design was dubbed ‘glorious, first-rate’ and a ‘multicultural international triumph’ by McCloud.

Dual level with a contemporary design

As the property lies on a steep slope, it is built on two levels leading to a circular pond overlooked by a spacious kitchen featuring lacquered birch ply. The property also features a small bridge to the weather metal front door.

The full wall windows and large skylights created a clean and sharp environment, but the ambitious and contemporary design ruffled feathers among some of the neighbours, with one calling the cladding ‘ugly’.

But McCloud praised the way the property forged a connection to Matt and Davi’s arid homelands and concluded: “If you don’t change, you wither.”

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.