Architect and presenter of Channel 4’s The Home Show and The Restoration Man, George Clarke reveals his latest design challenges and solves your project queries
The second series of Amazing Spaces
‘This autumn sees the transmission of the second series of George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces on Channel 4 (Wednesdays at 8pm from October). Series one was an incredible success and it’s always a relief to know that people enjoyed watching a series as much as we enjoyed making it. With series two, we have even more small-scale architectural wonders to inspire you, from Britain’s largest, domestic underground aquarium to whacky follies and pavilions, such as the Cloud Pavilion in Bordeaux. We’ve also decided to push the small-scale debate to a new level by looking at how micro-designs can have an impact on the future of both urban and rural housing in Britain. There are lots of inspiring projects like the Big Sky Yurt, inspired by the self-build genius Lloyd Kahn, that provides one answer to the affordable housing problem in rural Devon, and the multifunctional apartment concept being developed by Simon Woodroffe, the man who brought us YO! Sushi. My caravan redesign from series one is all finished and sitting proudly in Cumbria, so for series two our main build is an ambitious tree house that we’re creating for a charity in the heart of Kielder Forest in Northumberland. I can’t wait for you to see how it has turned out. A number of Amazing Spaces projects will be on show at Grand Designs Live in Birmingham from 4–6 October (0844 854 1348; granddesignslive.com). I’ll be there, too, giving talks and signing copies of my new book. I hope to see you there.’
Build the perfect shed in your garden
‘Garden sheds are amazing, not only as a useful space at the end of your plot, but also as experimental and quirky pieces of architecture. Their small size and affordability leads most people to be more relaxed about the design and construction of their shed than their home, so they naturally become more playful. I’ve been so inspired by my research into garden retreats (see GDM, July 2013) that I’m just about to embark on the construction of my own garden shed. I’m actually more excited about this than the refurbishment of the main house; there are so many options. The most fun, and certainly the most ambitious, is to design and build one yourself. Starting with a blank canvas will allow your creativity to run wild, so that you can enjoy every part of the design and build process. I know some homeowners who have gone as far as commissioning a small architectural practice to design a garden shed for them so they get something innovative and completely unique. Take a look at this amazing project by Platform 5 Architects (020 7739 9812; platform5architects.com) that they’ve nicknamed a ‘shoffice’. At the other end of the spectrum you can buy a standard, flat-pack product off the shelf from your local DIY store. I’m always amazed at the bargains on offer and sometimes the retailer will even build it for you for an additional fee. If you are planning to use a standard shed as a garden studio or mini-office, think about customising it, as well as building in insulation to make it comfortable on hot or cold days. For my own shed, I’m still undecided. I’m torn between choosing a traditional structure to remodel and give a new lease of life in the manner of Restoration Man, or building a cool and modern timber-framed SIPs design. Maybe I’ll even opt for an off-the-peg Scandinavian hut like the ones I fell in love with on a recent trip to Sweden. Decisions, decisions!’
I’m planning an extension which adds 70 per cent to the ground floor. The house is currently warmed by storage heaters. What choices do I have in terms of underfloor heating for the extension?
You have two options; each has advantages and disadvantages and the choice you make will also have an impact on the existing floor. The first solution is to use an electric underfloor heating mat throughout the ground floor; try Warmup (0845 345 2288; warmup.co.uk). Electric mats are relatively cheap and easy to install. They’re good for existing floors, since the mat is incredibly thin, so you don’t have to raise the floor level in order to fit it. However, even using off-peak electricity, an electric-mat system can be more expensive to run. Hot-water systems need to be linked to your central heating and boiler and are generally more expensive to buy and install, but are cheaper day-to-day. Try Polypipe (01709 770 000; polypipe.co.uk). For a new extension area I would use a hot-water system that either sits within the insulated void of the floor joists or on top of an insulated floor screed. Placing a hot-water system onto an existing solid floor could raise the floor level too high, reducing the floor-to-ceiling height and causing problems at the junction where the old floor meets the new floor level. If you are struggling to make the levels work, then you could use a hot-water system in the new extension and an electric-mat system in the existing parts of the house. Having two separate systems isn’t too much of a problem, but it will be cheaper in the long term to use hot water underfloor heating throughout.