I had the pleasure of interviewing George Clarke at Grand Designs. I started by asking him how he had found the show so far.
I think the good thing is that there’s lots of good quality stands and people tend to just mill from one stand to the next because there’s people that genuinely want to find out about new products. I think most people come wanting to buy something or find out about bathrooms or kitchens, not just browse and shop. Grand designers on a mission to do something for their house! They also want to gain knowledge and leave with something personal to their requirements.
What inspired you to become an architect?
Both of my granddads were builders, so I was on building sites a lot when I was a kid, so when all my mates were playing with toy cars, I’d be out there seeing the real thing. Over school holidays I’d go out on site and help with lifting bricks. So building was always part of my family, architecture became a part of it as I used to just sketch and draw, I loved drawing and I just started drawing buildings and it became a really natural thing for me to do. Even though at the age of 8 or 9 I didn’t really know what architecture was, I got to 11 and realised what it was and have never looked back.
What building materials are vital to use in 2011?
What’s interesting about building technology and materials at the moment is that sustainability and environmentally friendly materials are important. It seems to be getting pushed on even more; companies are not only wanting to do something that’s stylish, looks beautiful, functional and practical but also has a really good sustainable message behind it. I did an eco refit at the ideal home show in March, where we tried to put as many ecological materials in there as we could. It looked great; a kind of slick form of environmental design. There were tiles that we had in the bathroom that were coated in titanium dioxide film, which reacts with artificial or natural light and turns CO2 back into Oxygen, like a tree, which is mad! I think people are trying to reduce their carbon foot print and be more eco whilst being stylish and slick.
Who is your favourite architect?
That’s a tough one! Most of my favourites are all dead unfortunately. Le Corbusier was one of my favourites when I was training to be an architect; he designed amazing one off houses as well as social projects. It’s really difficult because you have your favourite and then they do a really bad building and you think, oh I’ve gone off them now! You’re only as good as your last job unfortunately.
There’s a Scandinavian architect called Sverre Fehn. He was a very modern contemporary architect but he balanced it with Scandinavian tradition by using warm materials, beautiful timbers and leather handles. He was sensitive to details, it’s the sort of architecture that I love as it’s modern and contemporary, but it’s also warm and homely. My favourite designers who are architects as well are Charles and Ray Eames, they were so eclectic; they designed all sorts of furniture, their Eames office in California. I’d like it if we could be the Eames office of the 21st century.
What’s been your most satisfying project to date?
I think the one that was the most interesting and quirky was a restoration of an ice house up near a loch in Scotland. It was a commercialised house, a bit of a telly tubby building that was built into the landscape, right beside a beautiful loch. In the 1800’s when they used to go out and fish on the lochs they would get the ice from the lochs and store the fish in there, which was a natural ecological fridge. We turned that into a two bedroom house and saved the building and gave it a new lease of life, but it also made it one of our most ecological houses with a nice modern glass extension on the end. I’d never really worked on anything that quirky before and it was a bit out of the ordinary and a really unique building.
Where do you find your inspiration on a daily basis?
I would say nature is quite amazing; I do a lot of walking and climbing to get away from the pressures of work. When you look at all the issues in nature of how things build and grow themselves. You get mathematicians who look at nature to see how things are calculated. It also inspires ecological design, you have to be super sensitive to the landscape and blur the edges between architecture and landscape. Landscape and nature is quite a powerful thing for me.
Any top tips for people wanting to do their homes on a budget?
De-cluttering your space is a great thing to do and obviously it’s free! Some of have so much stuff and we talk about wanting more space when really we could probably do with just getting rid of things on free cycle. Painting things white obviously makes a space appear a lot bigger and brighter. It might just be putting a simple skylight in that would make the big difference, like over a staircase to allow for as much natural light to get in as possible. Kitchens and bathrooms are the slightly more expensive way of sprucing up a home but it’s the thing that really adds a lot more value to your home. Even just re-tiling or giving a bathroom a lick of paint makes a difference. Your kitchen and dining spaces are like the heart of the home, people spend a lot of time there being sociable.