Sim­ple home truths from Kevin

For­get fancy kitchens and grand de­signs, Kevin McCloud’s lat­est book is all you need to cre­ate the per­fect home. Sharon Dale re­ports.

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THE rea­sons we love Kevin McCloud are man­i­fold but mainly it’s be­cause he is an in­tel­li­gent, thought­ful TV pre­sen­ter who has a won­der­ful way with words.

Yes, he could be ac­cused over over-us­ing the term “in­tegrity” but we don’t mind be­cause he’s al­ways spot-on when de­scrib­ing the self-builds on his cult TV pro­gramme.

That abil­ity to an­a­lyse and to crys­tallise his think­ing into bite size philoso­phies are what make his lat­est book a must-read.

Kevin McCloud’s 43 Prin­ci­ples of the Home is part com­ment and part au­to­bi­og­ra­phy with some good ad­vice on ecofriendly de­sign and buy­ing less and there’s no doubt he’s writ­ten it him­self – you can hear that calm, re­flec­tive voice.

Scat­tered through the var­i­ous chap­ters that dis­cuss ev­ery­thing from light­ing to liv­ing well, are the prin­ci­ples – di­gestible nuggets such as “A home is not a shop” and “Find­ing com­fort – the joy of a com­fort­able chair or door han­dle – is to be prized above fashion, style and im­age.”

Kevin, 52, de­scribes it as a book you can dip in and out of and he’s right, but it is also a guide to cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful home. What it boils down to is that word again: “in­tegrity”.

Kevin McCloud’s 43 Prin­ci­ples of Home is pub­lished by Collins £30.

As good build­ings age, the bond with their sites strength­ens. A beau­ti­ful, in­ter­est­ing or sim­ply an­cient build­ing still be­longs where it stands, how­ever cor­rupted that place may have be­come. Use and adap­ta­tion of build­ings leave their marks and these, in time, we also see as as­pects of the build­ing’s in­tegrity.

De­mand high-qual­ity de­sign in your home and high-qual­ity work. You de­serve it and so does the build­ing.

Re­spect the char­ac­ter of old build­ings and cher­ish their idio­syn­cra­sies and im­per­fec­tions. The char­ac­ter of a place con­sists of a thou­sand tiny de­tails which can care­lessly be “im­proved” into medi­ocrity.

Any man-made thing should be well made and durable; it should be er­gonomic and fit for pur­pose; it should have brought no harm to any­body or any­thing; and it should evoke de­light and last­ing plea­sure in use.

Find­ing com­fort – the joy of a com­fort­able chair or door han­dle – is to be prized above fashion, style and im­age. Com­fort is the most civil­is­ing as­pect of de­sign or ar­chi­tec­ture. Seek it out.

There are five im­por­tant types of light­ing to use in a home.

Task light­ing, the most im­por­tant, should light not us, or even the build­ing in par­tic­u­lar, but what we do in a build­ing.

Am­bi­ent light­ing pro­vides the ar­ti­fi­cial equiv­a­lent to a cloudy day: all-over back­ground light with no real shad­ows.

Di­rec­tional light­ing is the least im­por­tant. It is the spot­lamp il­lu­mi­nat­ing the al­cove or the row of down­lighters point­ing at the swirly rug.

Dec­o­ra­tive light­ing is glam­our and twin­kle and that’s it.

Ki­netic light­ing is the most atavis­tic and psy­cho­log­i­cally pow­er­ful of all kinds.

It is the move­ment of the sun and the danc­ing shad­ows of trees, the danc­ing can­dle flame that brings shad­ows alive and the open fire

Gar­dens need very lit­tle light­ing. We are a world of na­ture’s chil­dren, in love with the stars, and to see them at all re­quires very low lev­els of il­lu­mi­na­tion.

De­mand to know where things come from, what is in them, who has made them and un­der what con­di­tions.

Do not be led only by price but look for value and crafts­man­ship.

Buy only things and ma­te­ri­als that re­spect the hu­man en­ergy that has gone into them and where the maker is re­warded fairly.

Buy au­then­tic. Stuff that is made in a firm’s own fac­to­ries where they look af­ter the peo­ple they em­ploy and the place where they’re based.

A cru­cial maxim of buy­ing au­then­ti­cally is that of the 19th­cen­tury writer and crafts­man Wil­liam Mor­ris: “If you want a golden rule that will fit ev­ery­thing, this is it: Have noth­ing in your houses that you do not know to be use­ful or be­lieve to be beau­ti­ful.”

Choose the ar­chi­tec­ture, gar­den, dec­o­ra­tion and fur­nish­ings around who you are, what you dream of and what has made you.

The most in­ter­est­ing and en­rich­ing homes are those that are full of au­to­bi­og­ra­phy; those that are maybe a bit clut­tered, feel lived in and are de­light­ful for it; those that have a mix of new and old, bor­rowed and bought – and not those that re­sem­ble fur­ni­ture show­rooms. A home is not a shop.

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