Gil Briffa, an architect, and his wife Hilary, from St Albans, Herts, wanted a house they could retire to in southern Spain, but not just any old place would do. High in the Andalucian hills, 30 minutes form Malaga on Spain’s Costa de Sol, the Briffa’s heart’s desire was a ruthlessly modernist construction of glass and light, far removed from the whitewashed fincas (farmhouses) that dot the local countryside.
Mark and Deborah (Debbie) Sampson and daughter, Tilley, like to practice an ecologically sound way of life. Deborah works as an aromatherapist, while Mark is a writer of training manuals for his livelihood but with ambitions to be a novelist. Together, the family's over-riding desire is to make a statement about who they are and how they choose to live their life, and to be accepted for the way they are by the local people.
Puglia, in Italy’s deep south, where the country's heel rounds to the foot’s arch, is a land of shimmering heat, olive groves and artists’ dreams. It is also the place where artists, like David Westby and Leone (Leo) Witton, became hard-working artisans to turn a derelict olive farm into a Roman country estate – despite the worst obstructions of Italian bureaucracy and with very little money.
Denise (Deni) Daniel and Doug Ibbs don't hang around. The couple, in their mid-50's and from Dorset, bought a 19th century manor house in Creuse, Limousin - in central France - on a Sunday, having seen it for the first time ever on the previous Tuesday on the Internet and visited it on the Thursday. They don't mind hard work too, which is even better news because the house was a wreck.
A chance encounter, childhood memories and a desire to split their time between Dublin and County Mayo was all the inspiration Andrew and Jackie Lohan required to go about buying and restoring a derelict church. Built in 1835 and abandoned for 101 years, since it was struck by lightening and burned to the ground in 1902, the church was in a dreadful state of disrepair when the Lohans and their two children stumbled across it on a family holiday to the area in the west of Ireland in 1998.
This week Kevin meets a couple who bought a ruin and moved to Italy in 1999, hoping to start work building their dream home in Tuscany. Since then they've spent all their time trying to get planning permission, but finally, after four years, they are about to start work. And it's an epic project: they have bought a derelict 1,000-year-old castle in the Tuscan hills. Now, the couple face their biggest battle of all: rebuilding this massive ruin into a comfortable and luxurious five-bedroom home.
Nicky and James Dobree were raised in France and in a mountainous area respectively. Nicky was raised in France, James in Beirut – both have fond memories of the mountains as children. So it was natural for them to one day look to buy a place amongst France’s tallest peaks, the Alps. The journey moving the family, including their two young sons, Fabian and Felix, from South London to a renovated 300-year-old farmhouse in Les Gets was to have its ups and downs. It was never meant to be a permanent move. The original plan was to develop the top two floors of the chalet so the family could spend the summer there, overseeing the completion of the bottom floors. They would then be able to rent our the whole chalet in the winter months. The family were only planning to use their new home for the summer seasons.
Spain is the first choice of many Britons planning to build a new life abroad, but it is a little more unusual for South Africans to settle on the Iberian Peninsula. Ten years living and working in London may help explain why Derek and Jen Ray chose Orihuela, inland of Alicante on the Costa Blanca, as the place to build a home and raise their three children, Jenna, Eden and Linzi.
Kevin McCloud revisits Denise (Deni) Daniel and Doug Ibbs who bought and started renovating a 19th century manor house in Creuse, France.
Kevin McCloud revisits Nicky and James Dobree two years after they bought their Alpine Chalet in Les Gets, France.
Kevin revisits Janne Hoff-Tilley and Howard Smythe whe spend seven years and 700,000 Pounds renovating a castle in Tuscany.
Kevin McCloud revisits artists David Westby and Leonie Whitton three years after they bought an olive farm in the Puglia region of Italy and planned to convert it into a home on a budget of £25,000.
Kevin McCloud returns to see the Sampson family who had build a house from Straw in Lot, France.
Ten years ago Gil and Hillary Briffa decided to retire to southern Spain, where they planned to build a contemporary home in the Andalusian hills against the backdrop of more traditional properties. A few years ago, Gil died, but now Kevin McCloud revisits Hillary to find out whether her residence has settled into its landscape and how life is treating her as a British widow living abroad.