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.
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.