I got chatting to architect and Channel 4 Restoration Man George Clarke, who shares his expert advice on design and explains how he got from building stands at the Ideal Home Show to fronting the whole event!
I’ve loved watching you rescue derelict architectural treasures in Restoration Man. Did you always aspire to be an architect and ever think you’d end up presenting your own show?
Since the age of 12 I wanted to be an architect. Both my grandfathers were builders so I was really passionate about drawing and constructing. At 16 I got a job at an architects practice, then I studied at Newcastle Uni and UCL and stumbled into TV by chance. I went to get a literary agent as I wanted to write a book on architecture, but the agent happened to work in broadcasting too. She sent me for a screen test and I got my first presenting job. I made three series of Build A New Life for Five, then went onto The Home Show in 2008 and Restoration Man in 2009 for Channel 4.
So what do you love about being an architect?
I love being able to make a difference in the buildings I design. Whether I’m designing, writing or presenting it all leads to what I love and that’s architecture. I design buildings for places all round the world – from Scotland to the Caribbean.
Did you ever think you’d be fronting the Ideal Home Show 2010?
Never in my wildest dreams! I used to visit with my uncle when I was a boy and help him build his stand. I didn’t think for one minute I’d be part of organizing the event!
Who inspires you and why?
Good classic design from the past. I’m a big fan of the work of Alvar Aalto –the father of modern Scandinavian architecture. It’s a very beautiful contemporary architecture that’s warm, comfortable and homely. It has details such as leather handles with elements of the British Arts & Crafts movement.
City or country?
I’m a Sunderland boy and when I was 17 I’d escape in my car to the Lake District, which I found breathtaking. I love British cities and live in London, but there are times I like to get away.
My London home is a mix of old and new – it’s a 1910 Edwardian house and I restored the outside, like I do in Restoration Man. But inside it’s very modern – I reconfigured the space and added lots of glass and painted it white. Colour is injected through belongings such as my children’s drawings. My country home, which I built from scratch, also has a traditional exterior but a fresh Scandinavian look inside.
What’s your advice to anyone doing up their home?
Rather than looking for the cheapest bargain, spend a bit more on something that will last you. It’s a much more environmental way of decorating too. During the boom I got bored with the notion of keeping up with the Jones’. It’s so lovely to just stay where you are and enjoy your home and not have to worry about stamp duty or removal costs and other expenses.
Top design tip?
Keep it simple. On The Home Show we clear everything out so people can understand the spaces they live in. Rather than giving your home a straight-forward makeover, think about how you can reconfigure the area. It might be just that you move a door so you can reposition furniture better. Or, you could take a wall down to get rid of your formal dining room.
What products could you not live without?
My Eames lounge chair and ottoman from Vitra, made from beautiful chrome and walnut. I think it’s the best design classic in the world.
My titanium Bell & Ross watch – I love its strong military design. I would watch Top Gun when I was growing up and saw the adverts of pilots and as soon as I could get my hands on one I did.
My Conmoto lounge fire from Encompassco it’s a classic piece of modern British design. I sit on my Eames chair with a nice glass of wine and I’m happy as Larry.
Restoration Man is on Channel 4 on Sunday nights at 9.00pm.
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Emily Peck, Editor
View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor