What's the big idea
12:35pm Friday 30th March 2012
You’d think the TV presenter famous for showcasing the best in modern house design would live in the ultimate designer home.
Most of us picture Kevin McCloud of Channel 4’s BAFTA-nominated Grand Designs living in an eco-temple of glass and recycled steel. But the very opposite is true.
“I’m a sucker for old buildings,” confessed Kevin, whose family lives in a beautiful 15th century farmhouse in Somerset.
“That’s where my heart is – I love the romance of old houses. I know they are three times more expensive to repair and maintain, but I just can’t imagine ever living in a newer house... although you never know!”
The Cambridge-educated designer and writer is currently preparing for May’s eighth annual Grand Designs Live show at Excel London.
Passionate about making “the built environment better – and consequently making people feel better”, he told me one of his all- time favourite ‘grand designs’ is a house in Kent.
Crossway, the home of architect Richard Hawkes near Staplehurst, which originally featured on Grand Design two years ago, will be revisited on the 100th edition this autumn.
“I’ve been going through a list of my top ten favourite projects for the 100th show,” said Kevin.
“Richard Hawkes’ design was something special. It was a low energy, eco house with a bridge – an arch – at the front.
“I really liked the design – Richard built it for himself and his wife Sophie and their kids – and it really worked.”
Interestingly Richard Hawkes is one of the few grand designers that Kevin has stayed in touch with.
“My job is so busy, it’s hard to keep in touch with people. The people I tend to stay in touch with are, funnily enough, the people whose designs I really like.”
The design guru is eagerly anticipating Grand Designs Live – the innovative home improvement, self-build and design show – which runs from May 5 to 13. Featuring over 500 exhibitors across seven different sections, it offers free consultations and inspiration for both homeowners looking for new design and renovation ideas and aspiring self-builders looking for advice for their very own Grand Design.
Kevin says the exhibition changes personality every year but the best part for him is meeting the fans of Grand Designs.
“Most people I meet just treat me like their nextdoor neighbour or a long lost mate, which I really like,” said Kevin.
“I’d hate to be Simon Cowell meeting people – I’m sure that must be awful. But when I go along to GDL it’s like meeting friends. “The great thing is seeing all the kids who come along and say they watch the show and want to build houses and be architects when they are older. That’s really exciting. “Better still, I meet people in their 20s who have been fans of the show since they were young and have been inspired to train as architects.”
Kevin admits to a very busy schedule and is already planning projects post Grand Designs Live. One of them will feature him building his very own mini-grand design – a bespoke shed. He’ll be seen cutting down the wood and building the shed by hand himself.
As for the future of individual house building in the UK, Kevin remains steadfastly optimistic, in spite of the current recession.
“Building your own home plays into a powerful primitive instinct in all of us to make a home, an environment where we can flourish,” said Kevin. “Yes the housing market has been stagnating – but I still meet young people, and even people in their 70s, who are keen to build their own homes.”
Kevin McCloud is the host for Grand Designs Live London (May 5-13, ExCeL), the innovative, contemporary home show. Book tickets now www.granddesignslive.com or call 0844 854 1348. Children get in free.