Grand Design's return to cob house that 'broke up a family' 'best ever'

A master builder who appeared on two episodes of Grand Designs has divorced from the wife who helped him build it - and lives in his finished dream home with a glamorous new partner.

Back in April 2011, Devon builder Kevin McCabe embarked on a wildly ambitious project to create a 10,000sq ft family home from the all-natural material cob - a mixture of sand, clay, straw, water and earth.

When the original episode featuring McCabe aired in 2013, he was married to wife Rose and viewers watched as the pair squabbled on screen and the build was besieged by problems - including bad weather. By the show's end, the house was still far from completion.

Seven years after McCabe first began work on his fantasy home, Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud returned to catch-up on the house in a new episode of the show - only to learn that the builder's marriage to Rose had crumbled and his new partner, Karen Davies, and her children are now living with him at the unique eco-friendly property. 

The builder, who's posted romantic photos of his new love on social media, admits that the project had been a 'labour of love', with his former wife seen branding him a 'perfectionist' and 'obsessed' during the initial filming of the show.  

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Builder Kevin McCabe embarked on a wildly ambitious project to create a 10,000sq ft family home from cob - an all-natural material made from compacted soil, clay and straw - back in April 2011. The property was first featured on Grand Designs in 2013 but wasn't finished at the show's end...prompting presenter Kevin McCloud to return this year to catch-up on the McCabes 

Builder Kevin McCabe embarked on a wildly ambitious project to create a 10,000sq ft family home from cob - an all-natural material made from compacted soil, clay and straw - back in April 2011. The property was first featured on Grand Designs in 2013 but wasn't finished at the show's end...prompting presenter Kevin McCloud to return this year to catch-up on the McCabes 

Kevin McCabe and his ex-wife Rose frequently clashed in the 2013 episode of the show as the master cob builder's dream project was hit by multiple problems, which saw the then couple living in a static caravan for a time

Kevin McCabe and his ex-wife Rose frequently clashed in the 2013 episode of the show as the master cob builder's dream project was hit by multiple problems, which saw the then couple living in a static caravan for a time

New life: A social media image of Kevin McCabe and Karen Davies, believed to be the cob builder's new partner, on holiday

New life: A social media image of Kevin McCabe and Karen Davies, believed to be the cob builder's new partner, on holiday

Ms Davies, who now lives in the finished extravagant eco home with Kevin McCabe, is seen reclining by a swimming pool. She didn't appear in the Grand Designs update, which aired on Wednesday night

Ms Davies, who now lives in the finished extravagant eco home with Kevin McCabe, is seen reclining by a swimming pool. She didn't appear in the Grand Designs update, which aired on Wednesday night

Footage from the 2013 episode of the showed Kevin and Rose often at odds over the build with Rose

Rose appeared frustrated by her husband's perfectionism in the 2013 episode of the programme

Footage from the 2013 episode of the showed Kevin and Rose often at odds over the build with Rose frustrated by her husband's perfectionism (Pictured left: Cob builder Kevin McCabe and his former wife Rose)

Kevin McCabe, one of the UK's leading living exponents of the pre-historic art of cob building, was determined to show how the method could be brought up to date to produce a luxury home that meets modern building standards. Pictured, the enormous master suite in the east Devon property, which presenter McCloud compared to a 'penthouse apartment'

Kevin McCabe, one of the UK's leading living exponents of the pre-historic art of cob building, was determined to show how the method could be brought up to date to produce a luxury home that meets modern building standards. Pictured, the enormous master suite in the east Devon property, which presenter McCloud compared to a 'penthouse apartment'

Cob is on show everywhere in the property, from the central circular staircase to the kitchen counter, pictured, and the wood burning fire in the family living room. Builder Kevin McCabe admitted he doesn't know how much the home has cost to build

Cob is on show everywhere in the property, from the central circular staircase to the kitchen counter, pictured, and the wood burning fire in the family living room. Builder Kevin McCabe admitted he doesn't know how much the home has cost to build

The property takes the shape of two separate cob cylinders, connected by a glass-sided greenhouse walkway. The family dining room, pictured, is also located in the walkway off the large kitchen. The windows offer views of the countryside

The property takes the shape of two separate cob cylinders, connected by a glass-sided greenhouse walkway. The family dining room, pictured, is also located in the walkway off the large kitchen. The windows offer views of the countryside

Mr McCabe started building the property with his now ex-wife but currently lives in the home with his partner and her children. Pictured, one of the large bedrooms in the main three-storey cylinder is transformed into a little girl's dream

Mr McCabe started building the property with his now ex-wife but currently lives in the home with his partner and her children. Pictured, one of the large bedrooms in the main three-storey cylinder is transformed into a little girl's dream

Mr McCabe, one of the UK's leading living exponents of the ancient art of cob building, was determined to show how the method could be brought up to date to produce a luxury home that meets modern building standards.

Setting aside a £350,000 budget, he anticipated the project, set in the rolling hills of east Devon, would be complete within two years.

On Twitter after the episode aired last night, many viewers were sad about the couple's divorce.  

@catherinebuca wrote: '*gasp* Is this the first divorce? Kevin’s overseen endless babies, but divorces?'

@Phil_Hubbard added: 'Divorce! Nooooo. Such a shame. #finishthebottle #GrandDesigns'. 

@SteveShillingf1 penned: 'Massive respect to that man for building that cob house, a true master builder and also dealt with divorce and found new partner. 

And @lavender_75 joked: 'I bet the ex wife never wants to see an inch of cob again as long as she lives.'

Others said the show had set a new precedent for best ever episodes, with Kevin McCloud giving the property a huge thumbs up, saying: 'A splendid building, eh? A bit of a marmite house I suppose. 

Actually, a large and a medium marmite jar joined together with a marmite flavoured conservatory. I love marmite.'  

Viewers were equally impressed; @Adam61997955 wrote: 'One of the best grand designs ever'.  

@SueMessy added: 'Absolutely amazing, one of the best builds on Grand Designs EVER! Mind blown.' 

@A_G_89 penned: 'Right, if anyone has just watched what was arguably the greatest Grand Designs ever, you've just seen the best house I've ever seen. Wow.' 

Cameras followed as work got underway but when it was featured on Grand Designs in the autumn of 2013 - two-and-a-half years after building started - it was still uninhabitable. 

'Labour of love': The couple pictured with Kevin McCloud in 2013 at the house they embarked upon building together

'Labour of love': The couple pictured with Kevin McCloud in 2013 at the house they embarked upon building together

Presenter Kevin McCloud, right, first visited Kevin McCabe, left, and his then wife in 2011 when they embarked on the project. He last visited with Grand Designs in 2013 and returned this summer

Presenter Kevin McCloud, right, first visited Kevin McCabe, left, and his then wife in 2011 when they embarked on the project. He last visited with Grand Designs in 2013 and returned this summer

The main access is via a bridge to the second level where the living spaces are. Pictured, the view across the glass-sided walkway towards the second guest annexe, as seen from the second floor bridge accessing the house

The main access is via a bridge to the second level where the living spaces are. Pictured, the view across the glass-sided walkway towards the second guest annexe, as seen from the second floor bridge accessing the house

Together with his family and hired help, Mr McCabe tirelessly work to build his home with his bare hands. Pictured, the large kitchen opens out onto a dining area. The cob wall behind the sofa, pictured, has been carved to make built-in wine racks

Together with his family and hired help, Mr McCabe tirelessly work to build his home with his bare hands. Pictured, the large kitchen opens out onto a dining area. The cob wall behind the sofa, pictured, has been carved to make built-in wine racks

The expansive master bedroom, on the third floor of the main building, pictured, offers ample living space for Mr McCabe and his partner. The curve of the room continues with the curve of the wardrobe (white) and the curve of the en-suite bathtub  

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The expansive master bedroom, on the third floor of the main building, pictured, offers ample living space for Mr McCabe and his partner. The curve of the room continues with the curve of the wardrobe (white) and the curve of the en-suite bathtub  

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