Few houses are famous — or even notorious — before they even come to the market, but that's the case with Chesil Cliff House, in Croyde, Devon.
A dozen years ago, all that stood on this spot was the remains of an old lighthouse building. It’s a part of the North Devon coast that’s as wild and exposed as anywhere along the South-West coastal path, sitting on the rocky headland between Saunton Sands and Croyde Beach, facing directly west towards the Atlantic Ocean. From here, the next landfall is Newfoundland.
Today, it’s the site of one of the most eye-catching coastal homes in Britain, a home in which everything possible has been done to bring bricks, mortar, cliffs and water together. And Chesil Cliff House is looking for a new owner, with Knight Frank handling the sale at an asking price of £10 million.
Why is Chesil Cliff House so notorious? That’s down the hugely popular and influential TV property show Grand Designs, which featured the house in 2019 (you can watch the full episode here). The programme chronicled the ups and downs — largely the downs, in all honesty — of Edward and Hazel Short’s mammoth undertaking as they attempted to spend 18 months and £1.5 million creating the dream house.
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Everything that could go wrong did for the poor couple, who were quite literally stretched to breaking point: they ended up going their separate ways, leaving the project unfinished (a ‘half-finished, desolate carcass’ in the words of ever-poetic Grand Designs host Kevin McCloud) and with Edward in debt to around £4 million. It was as gloomy a finish to the show as any ever broadcast.
To his enormous credit, however, Edward picked himself up and carried on to finish the job. Defying worried creditors, engineering challenges, the ever-raging elements and the supply chain problems that were brought by the pandemic, this gorgeously pretty Art Deco lighthouse-inspired home now stands proudly above the crashing waves of the Atlantic, with spectacular views, endlessly serene interior space and an infinity pool that looks like it’s been borrowed from a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
Accessed via a cantilevered bridge to the garage (the building of which was one of many challenges), the house shows signs of not having been lived in, not least in the sense that even the listings of room types is fluid: ‘5-8 bedrooms, 5-6 bathrooms and 5-8 bathrooms’ is probably as vague a guide as we’ve seen in some time, but the pictures here will probably make sense of that. And should you need more living space — or want staff quarters — there’s an annexe a few yards along the cliff called The Eye
There are rooms that could be home office space, dressing rooms, snugs or sleeping spaces, all either adjacent to the main living space or in one of the turrets at the end; a near-circular dining room and an office with the best view we’ve seen in a long time are among the highlights.
There are also many of the other things you’d like to see in a house with an eight-figure price tag, from a cinema and a steam room to a lift, as well as that marvellous infinity pool. And while it’s 99% done, there are a few things — flooring, for example — which Edward is leaving for the new owners; very sensible, considering that those with £10m to spend will certainly want to put their own mark on the house.
Despite those few loose ends, it’s fairly extraordinary to have got it into this fine state considering how things looked back in 2017, when the money first ran out. How did Edward find the energy to pick himself up and carry on? He gave a fascinating interview to The Times a couple of weeks ago in which he paid tribute to his daughters and ex-wife: ‘I didn’t want to saddle the family with a failed building legacy,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want my wife and girls to be associated with my messed-up dreams.’
That’s not a bad way to look at it. A follow-up Grand Designs is due later in the year, by which time Edward will hope to have sold up and moved on, but either way the new top-search-result for his name will be a tale of perseverance and ultimate success, rather than one of having starred in the ‘saddest ever’ episode of the Channel 4 show.
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