McCloud rides in to the renovation rescue
Can David and Leonie turn ‘ a Mexican prison’ into a beautiful Roman villa?
Grand Designs Abroad 6.05pm, ABC1
KEVIN McCloud is not your gardenvariety bit of television presenter fluff. While other property show hosts lounge about in fashionable clobber and rarely up tools and dig in, the affable McCloud, a British lighting and furniture designer, frequently lends a hand as he tracks the journeys of couples undertaking the project of a lifetime: their dream home, and always one conceived on a grand ( some would say overambitious) scale.
Grand Designs Abroad is the original Grand Designs show ‘‘ on holidays’’: an adjunct to the parent series, it focuses on Brits who have set their sights beyond the downs and dales of Blighty.
McCloud rides the roller- coaster with them, hanging about like a disapproving bank manager obsessed with budgets and overspends.
He is particularly disparaging tonight about the paltry £ 16,000 ($ 34,000) artists David and Leonie have budgeted to convert an old olive mill into a home and holiday lettings in the Italian region of Puglia.
McCloud points out there aren’t too many parts of Italy the Brits haven’t discovered, but Puglia, with its abundant olive groves, singular architecture and sense of wildness, ‘‘ feels like Italy 500 years ago’’ and is yet to be invaded by second homebuying hordes.
David and Leonie are not Italy virgins. They have completed a farmhouse restoration in Tuscany and embraced Italian lifestyle, wine, olives and all. Our host approves of their vision but can’t believe this creative couple plan to do all the work themselves, including building 18 arches using antiquated Roman methods. It is a huge task, as the mill and its outbuildings are derelict, and Leonie also plans a vast garden. Then there’s the matter of Italian bureaucracy and its Kafkaesque rules and red tape. Planning permissions in this neck of Puglia, for example, are considered only one year in 10.
Luckily for David and Leonie, it’s that magical year, but then they find out the deadline has been brought forward by two months.
So it’s a race against the clock, a situation McCloud always relishes.
David’s brother and Leonie’s son fly in from Britain to lend a hand, then David develops an allergy to something in the garden and comes out in welts. McCloud rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck into the stonework, too. Everyone is sunburned and exhausted.
Will the grand dream be realised? Can David and Leonie turn what our no- nonsense host describes, at one early stage, as ‘‘ a Mexican prison’’, into a beautiful Roman villa with a colonnaded wing of guestrooms for clients on painting holidays?
We must hope so, as Leonie has taken the first season’s deposits, whipped up the cushion covers, chosen the bathroom tiles and planned her menus.
Hands- on host: Kevin McCloud doesn’t mind upping tools to help