Meet Grand Designs’ Joe Stuart and Lina Nilsson

Joe and Lina on the highs, lows and costs of their east London self build

By Jenny Mcfarlane | 8 May 2018

Grand Designs’ Joe and Lina share insights on their self build journey, from how they found a cheap plot in London to striving for Passivhaus standards and the disasters they faced along the journey.

Tell us about your project…

‘We got the land back in 2012 and started building in 2015. It’s a stone’s throw away in east London and it was the smallest two double-bedroom house under the London regulations at the time, built on a small postage stamp-size plot.’

joe stuart and lina nilsson in their kitchen in their east london house, featured in Channel 4's grand designs tv series in 2017

Photo: Fiona Walker-Arnott

How did you find your east London plot?

‘Off the back of a chance meeting where we were at another project for another friend, they turned around and said they knew someone who had something more my sort of size when I said we didn’t have a very large budget.’

What are main things to consider when embarking on a self build?

‘Preparation – do your research. Know the product you want to buy so you can ask clever questions to your suppliers.

Have a vision, a design for the house and know what you’re trying to achieve so when you get into the details you don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to do. You also need to be able to tell the people who are helping you build what they need to do.’

the living room in joe and lina's grand designs tiny self-build in east london

Photo: Fiona Walker-Arnott

What were the main issues you faced during the build?

‘Probably managing the fallout of choosing the wrong contractor. When you’re on a project like this and you’ve got a schedule, to then take a huge step back right at the start, it’s something that emotionally, you can’t figure out how you’re going to react to until it happens so I think that was certainly the biggest challenge.

The rest was just to stay true to what we wanted to deliver. Everyone was just saying, “well, you could cut this corner” or “just do that”, but for us it was about delivering the ideal of what we wanted.’