Grand Designs Live: An interview with Kevin McCloud

  • Affordable energy saving must do's
  • Kevin's vision for Britain’s housing market
  • “I’ve always been struck by homes that are autobiographical.”


We caught up with Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs Live to talk design trends, domestic disasters and what he’d do if he was put in charge of Britain’s housing market. Oh, and the three key things that make for happier, energy-efficient living: “Insulation, managing the energy you use and air quality”, he says.


What makes a house a home?

People. A home is not about looking like a magazine feature – it can inspire you but that’s only a starting point. You have to bring along the things that matter to you to make a home. You can’t throw out a piece of furniture you love because it doesn’t quite go with the room. If you love that piece of furniture, you should design your room around it.


What's your favourite part of the home to design?

I’m really interested by threshold. I also love the informal thresholds of a home that takes the form of a utility room so you meander into a home from a back door.


Do you have any affordable energy efficiency tips?

If you’re looking to retrofit your home, there are three things you want to look at – insulation, managing the energy you use and air quality. For managing energy use, you can put in an energy efficient boiler or a clever thermostat with advanced controls. In terms of insulation, draught proofing and insulating your loft is essential. And I mean good thick insulation – 300-350mm – if you do nothing else but those, it’s a good starting point.


But when you make a home airtight, it’s important not to compromise on air quality. At Grand Designs Live, we’ll be discussing the use of mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems. These systems work like a big fan, sucking in cold outside air while expelling the stale air in your home. They also recover a lot of heat and cost just pennies to run.


What was your worst homeware purchase?

A cheap tap. Within one year the tap had gone all wonky and started to leak from the top and then the chrome started to peel off. I’ve learned to never buy the cheapest. Cheap stuff is never the cheapest, it ends up being expensive to fix, and the most annoying.


What would you do if you were put in charge of the Britain's housing market?

I would radically alter VAT so that it becomes more appealing to restore older buildings. I’d impose very stringent zero carbon targets for 2020. I would also put money into planning. I think planning has really suffered due to local government cuts. We need more creative planning in the mix. Home development and planning seems to have gone backwards and it’s in crisis. I’d really like to put design at the heart of government.


What's the most common interior design mistake that people make?

I don’t really have a list of do’s and don’ts. But I’ve always been struck by homes that are autobiographical. I’ve seen many homes where people have just gone to one shop and bought everything from it – why not just go and live in the shop if that’s what you like?


Look out for further updates on Grand Designs Live at The Source.

Are you going to the event? Send us your comments or tweet @BritishGas


This year’s Grand Designs Live runs from 30 April- 8 May at London’s ExCeL. 


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