A Design for Life… The Kevin McCloud Column

Designer, writer and television presenter, Kevin McCloud leapt into our consciousness with his vastly successful Grand Designs show on Channel 4. This month, the affable architectural business owner reveals his top tenets for architectural life and living happily.

It’s an architect’s job to figure out what are the important things in our lives; it’s to organise space and light and volume that we live in, and to provide the best possible experiences for us to flourish. When you think of it like that, architecture comes with a very simple a set of objectives really, doesn’t it?

I think it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of those things. We are inspired and driven and teased almost by what see on the television and in magazines. We are made to suppose that bigger is better, when in reality it really isn’t.

I often encourage people to look after the very basic elements of what comprises our homes – things like storage, things like views up to the sky. I try to steer them away from mass or complication, because the fact is the more stuff we fill our lives with, the more there is to go wrong.

In the same manner, happiness really doesn’t reside in numbers – it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And so if you can’t afford somewhere big don’t worry, it’s a false God. A big place won’t bring you happiness – what brings you happiness in the end is relationships with human beings.

Ultimately, good architecture is a reflection of your soul, rather than an extension of your being. You should design your space so that it complements who you are as a person. I have seen many houses on Grand Designs that take seemingly normal people into wild expressions of contemporary ambition – it’s like they have epiphanies in the design process of a build and have convinced themselves that they are ready to undergo an entire image change in the construction of their home. Ultimately, what generally happens is that once they’ve lived out that fantasy for six months or a year or however long, they realise they didn’t want that level of change after all, and find themselves making adjustments so that their living space begins to come back round to being a bit safer, a bit more sanitised, a bit more comfortable.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t reach out and be ambitious – just be ambitious in terms of what’s true to yourself, rather than true to what you’ve seen online.

Be pragmatic, be disciplined and connect to those very primal desires you have, rather than those of fantasy and outrageous aspiration. Focus on the boring stuff first – it will actually serve you well.

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