The Grand Designs guru shares his thoughts on whisky, decision-making and, of course, design…
How much is an ounce of gold?
I did once learn how to gild, and to a gilder an ounce of gold is enough to cover the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
What does wealth mean to you?
Freedom and time, which you can’t buy.
What’s your pet hate?
I don’t like rudeness, and it is made worse by our obsessions with digital devices. But the other thing is that I can’t bear is hate. We live in a society where hate has become not just acceptable, but somehow desirable, and a sort of necessary component in our personality. And if we don’t hate things, we’re snowflakes.
Do you live to work or work to live?
All my life I’ve defined myself by what I do, by actions and the tangible. I’m lucky enough to have worked in a world where people make things, where I make things. It’s of enormous importance to me that I can do stuff and not just buy stuff.
Who is your favourite designer?
I used to think I had favourite designers, and then I’d see something they’d produced and thought it was excessive and horrible and I’d be let down and betrayed by them. So I decided instead not to pin my colours to any living designer for fear of being betrayed again. I’m going to instead go for Andrea Palladio, the 16th-century Italian architect.
What is the essence of good design?
I’d refer my learned friend to both Palladio and to Vitruvius, who, in describing what buildings should provide, said that they should be commodious, they should be firm and they should be full of delight. I should add that in this very ecologically conscious age, good design should also be sustainable.
What’s been your favourite
moment on Grand Designs?
There was a summer in 2012 when I was filming in Skye, and that was a real privilege because the weather was beautiful, and we had just the most amazing time watching the most fantastic small project being built. It was one of my favourite directors, and there was whisky involved too.
How did you earn your
first pay cheque?
A paper round aged 11, which I did for two years. I earned 60p a week, and that was for about 14 hours’ work.
What are you reading at the moment?
How Not to Die, by Gene Stone and Michael Greger, about health and diet.
What is the worst decision you’ve ever made?
One of the most interesting decisions I never made was the decision my parents made when my mother found out she was pregnant. They had tickets to go to Australia, and because she was pregnant with me she decided to stay. If they’d gone a month earlier, I’d be Australian.
What about the best decision?
Some of the best decisions I’ve made are the decisions to keep going, because sometimes life doesn’t turn out how you want it. This series is 20 years old and we’re still going. There have been times where I’ve thought: ‘Should I, is this a good thing?’ The
answer is to keep going. As Churchill said, keep buggering on.
What has Grand Designs taught you about people?
What compelled me to film is that energy people only discover in the face of difficulty when they’re really pushed. On the best days, I turn up tired and grumpy in the morning and by five in the evening I’m so full of the excitement these people are creating.
Kevin McCloud will be appearing at Grand Designs Live at the NEC from 9-13 October. granddesignslive.com
Arun Kakar writes for Spear’s