Malaysian-style Fens home leaves Grand Designs viewers in awe

Ely, Cambridge Grand Designs

Ely, Cambridgeshire, Grand Designs. A family occasion. - Credit: Channel 4

Viewers of Channel 4 were left spellbound by the Malaysian-style house that has been built outside of Ely. 

As Kevin McCloud came backwards and forwards to the Fens over many months, the house he ‘unveiled’ on his tv programme Grand Designs wowed thousands.  

It all began when teacher Gretta Funnell moved to Malaysia 17 years ago with her husband Ray and two sons; she thought she'd made a home for life.  

But a couple of years ago, tragedy struck when Ray died unexpectedly.  

Gretta found it too painful to stay, so she returned to the UK.  


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With no house to call home, her sister Mary and brother-in-law Fernando took Gretta under their wing and invited her to come and live with them outside of Ely and in rural Cambridgeshire, in a caravan.  

However, they were also selling part of their garden as a building plot, so Gretta snapped it up.  

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She then employed her young nephew Carlos to design her a Malaysian-inspired, single-storey, burnt wood and glass pavilion.  

Grand Designs, Ely

Grand Designs, Ely - Credit: Channel 4 / Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

Grand Designs, Ely

Grand Designs, Ely - Credit: Channel 4 / Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

Kevin McCloud, Contributors

Kevin McCloud with Gretta - Credit: Channel 4 / Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

Keeping it firmly in the family, brother-in-law Fernando also stepped into the role of project manager, despite having zero building experience.  

With an initial budget of £300,000 and a schedule of just seven months, Fernando was right up against it for such an ambitious build.  

As site clearance began, so did the Covid-19 pandemic.

Grand Designs, Ely

Grand Designs, Ely - Credit: Channel 4 / Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

Ely, Cambridge

Ely, Cambridge Grand Designs - Credit: Channel 4


Ely, Cambridge

Ely, Cambridge Grand Design - Credit: Channel 4

And Fernando found he had to bite his tongue now that his designer son has effectively become his boss.  

And family harmony was tested even more when his beloved apple tree is condemned for removal by Gretta.  

The ambition was to rebuild a new life for Gretta in the embrace of loved ones. 

But did they succeed? 

Grand Design Ely

Grand Design, Ely - Credit: Channel 4 / Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

Absolutely as the final section of the programme. Gretta has a glorious, wonderful new home.  

“I knew it was right to come back even though I miss Malaysia very much,” Gretta told viewers. 

“It would have been very painful to stay.” 

Carlos, like the entire family, was thrilled with the end result – even though the budget did climb up as the months slipped by. 

Ely, Cambridgeshire, Grand Designs

Ely, Cambridgeshire, Grand Designs - Credit: Channel 4 / Malgosia Czarniecka Lonsdale

“It's Grett's new family home but at the same time, it's on the land where I grew up and where we've had a family home for 30 years,” he said. 




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