AT 17, Guy Phoenix was kicked out of his Nottingham home and spent several months living in a car.
But, like his mythical namesake, he rose from the ashes to become the go-to builder for the super rich, constructing luxury homes that sell for up to £25million.
His extravagant designs come with unique features such as a shark tank, an indoor jungle lagoon, panic rooms, champagne rooms, hairdressing salons and bedrooms bigger than the average house.
Incredibly the 49-year-old, whose clients include footballers, boxers and racing drivers as well as billionaire businessmen, shuns architect drawings and works from instinct and vision alone.
Guy’s maverick methods and colourful personality are showcased in the new Channel 4 show, Building Britain’s Superhomes, which airs tonight.
The two-parter follows the self-taught builder and his team as they tackle a difficult £4.5million build on a steep slope in Nottingham’s exclusive Park Estate, in the shadow of the city’s mediaeval castle.
SUPER RICH FEATURES
Guy tells The Sun his unusual approach to building means he has no idea of the layout of each superhome until the outer shell is constructed - but that hasn’t stopped millionaires flocking to his door.
“I am possibly the only builder in the world to build houses of this value without a full set of plans,” he says.
“I tell my clients, ‘I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to look like, I can’t tell you how much it’s going to cost, but I can tell you it's going to be f*****g fabulous.
“I have got to the stage where some of the richest people in the world are approaching me, but some can be difficult because they're not aware of the way I work.
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“When I refuse to give them plans they say, ‘How will I know what you’re building?’ But that’s the point. I don’t even know what I’m building until I’m doing it.”
Among the amazing homes Guy has built are the five-bed mansion Fairmont, in Edwalton, Notts, which boasts a swimming pool, spa, dining room with wall-to-wall wine fridges and 785sq ft of balconies - currently on the market at £3.7million.
Nearby his nine-bed megamansion Hermitage, completed in 2019 and sold for £10million, is his most extravagant build to date.
Modelled on a famous hotel in Monaco, the central reception area features a circular hole which looks down to a swimming pool below and up as far as the roof, with a staircase spiralling upwards.
Around the swimming pool, sauna and steam room - regarded as “essential” in a Phoenix build - is a generous bar area.
A room devoted entirely to champagne has a curved wall featuring four lit rails from which bottles hang; the kitchen has an island the size of a battleship, and party animal Guy has factored in huge open plan areas for entertaining - including several bars and 10 sitting rooms.
“I worked out there are 135 places to sit," he tells us proudly.
The house also includes 18 toilets and 12 shower rooms - hung with Armani tiles - 2,000 light fittings, a helicopter pad, home cinema and gilded wallpaper costing £300 a roll.
The master bedroom is 2,500sq ft - the size of an average house - and houses a 4m bed with 7m headboard, overlooked by a glass balcony, as well as his and hers dressing rooms and a huge en-suite bathroom with a £500,000 suite.
“It’s about the wow factor. Supersize everything,” he says.
“I’m not selling a home, I’m selling a lifestyle. It's nice to have nice cars and good holidays but shouldn't your lifestyle begin with where you wake up every morning?"
Slept in car
It’s a far cry from his days as a homeless teenager waking up in a freezing car.
Raised in Warwickshire by his dad and stepmum, Guy was “indefinitely suspended” from school at 16, then “went off the rails” after moving to Nottingham to live with mum Billie.
“I was a class clown,” he says. “I was capable, but I didn't work hard and I was mischievous, hiding the projector in the ceiling and pushing the teacher’s car into the pool."
His dad’s strict regime was a contrast to his mum’s “free rein” approach, and Guy says he was “more interested in having fun, going out with girls, drinking and partying” than he was on finding a career.
After trying numerous jobs “for about an hour and a half”, it was an argument with his mum that finally turned him around.
“We had a fallout and she said, ‘If you slam that door, you're on your own',” he recalls.
I lived in the car for a few months. The police used to wake me up and the windows were all steamed up, and they’d tell me I had to move on. But I was actually banned from driving
“I remember kicking the door shut and it coming off its hinges, so I was in the big wide world on my own and I lived in the car for a few months.
“The police used to wake me up and the windows were all steamed up, and they’d tell me I had to move on.
"But I was actually banned from driving for getting too many points on my licence, so not only did I live in a car, I wasn't able to drive it.”
Guy landed a job as a labourer on a building site, “digging trenches and cleaning up” and began to get back on his feet.
His move into the property market came when he bought a £35,000 rundown terraced house in a poor area of Nottingham.
He put in a new kitchen and some garden decking then redecorated it himself before selling for “a few thousand more".
“After that, I bought the one next door and I did the same with that and I made a little bit more money, then I bought another and another," he says.
"I began buying in a slightly better area, knocked some walls out and made a bit more and I suddenly realised I was enjoying this.”
Infamous shark tank
Guy’s move into the luxury homes market started with the house he still lives in, with wife Michelle and their four children Jack, 20, Harrison, 18, Fletcher, 15, and Sienna, 11.
After paying £200,000 for a rundown bungalow in 2003, he knocked it down and built his first “proper” home - complete with spiral staircase, glass frontages and a 20,000 litre shark tank.
“There used to be a queue outside the window because in the evening when the lights were down you could see the sharks from the gate,” he says.
“The sharks were only small but because of the lighting it looked like Jaws was swimming past the window.”
The stunning house - now worth an estimated £2million - proved a learning curve.
In a hilarious moment from the Channel 4 show, Guy is seen perilously teetering on a circular balustrade above a six metre drop to change a lightbulb on the spectacular glass chandelier, which drops from the roof to the dining table on the ground floor.
He’s now thinking of adding hidden scissor lifts to future houses as a permanent feature.
The infamous shark tank - now replaced with a bar and mini-casino - served as his calling card for his venture into superhomes.
In his next home, in Matthew Park, Nottingham, he created an underground lagoon with rocks on the wall and exotic plants hanging from the ceiling.
“I intended to put crocodiles in there and have monkeys swinging in the trees,” he says.
“Then I put it on the market and the guy came to me and said, ‘I absolutely love this house but do you mind if I don't have the crocodiles and monkeys?'"
While Guy has to submit drawings of the exteriors in order to get planning permission, he builds each home like a huge empty warehouse before he decides which rooms go where.
He asks clients for a wishlist but encourages them to "trust in the process” and not get involved in the details.
“They say, ‘I want six bedrooms, a couple of offices, a games room, a cinema, a six-car garage’ or whatever - then I deliver it,” he says.
“My engineers build a structure with as few walls as possible and I walk in and design it internally, marking out the floor with chalk and bits of wood.
“If an architect does a plan, you walk in and the room with the most stunning view in the house, with a river, fields and trees, has been marked as a bloody utility room.
“Then you walk into where the kitchen is going to be and you've got a wall or a hedge.
“My way is a little bit more expensive but it’s the only way I know how to do it.”
While the majority of Guy’s projects are in and around his native Nottingham, he has also branched out to London and affluent Alderley Edge in Manchester, and is working on a build in Monaco worth £25million.
He also owns the stunning 10-bedroom Villa 19, in the South of France, with views over nearby Monaco and St Tropez.
He bought the dilapidated mansion, which had leaking roofs and crumbling walls, three years ago and spent five months restoring it to its former glory.
Now boasting a cinema room, landscaped gardens and a 20ft bed in the master bedroom, Villa 19 is worth £7million and is rented out at £20,000 a week.
Guy’s ultimate dream is to build the “most extravagant house on the planet”.
“It will probably be a glass castle on a peninsula like Cap Ferrat in the South of France, with a mooring for your own superyacht,” he says.
“It will have lots of garaging, jumping fountains in the garden, a maze, multiple helipads, with servants' quarters and your own security, a dozen bedrooms and the luxury of a £500m yacht with silk woven carpets that feel like the Sahara sand beneath your feet.
“I want an acrylic tunnel like at Seaworld, where you can walk into your games room and have dolphins swimming above, and that becomes part of the enormous swimming pool, that's beautifully lit with areas around it for dining, sunbeds and a bar.
“But it will be chiefly about the location, as everything always is for me.”
Despite his extravagant designs, Guy insists he’s no billionaire himself.
“Everybody thinks I'm super rich, but I'm not a wealthy guy,” he says.
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“I borrow money from banks and investors to build houses and I go over budget every time. I’ve done well but it's not about the money for me. It’s about the job and creating something amazing.”
Building Britain’s Superhomes begins on Channel 4 on Wednesday, February 1.