“I have no attachment to my house. I see my home as a wardrobe that I have to have so that I can run in and drop a bag on my way through to somewhere else.”
This may come as a surprise to the many TV viewers who, for more than a decade, have seen Nick Knowles at the helm of what seems like a catalogue of home-improvement reality shows, particularly DIY SOS, but all based on the noble concept that a British man’s home is indeed his castle and should be treated, decorated and landscaped as such. But when I meet him in London, veritably glowing with the deep tan of someone who has not spent a British summer inside his walls, he is at pains to prove his is a much broader bag.
“I used to drive my agents made, because as soon as I’d had success in one area, I’d refuse to do it again,” he explains. “I’d move onto something else, and as soon as that became a hit, the same thing again. So, for example, it’s taken me 12 years to go back to the concept of home programmes.
“It happens in television in a way it doesn’t happen in any other walk of life - I’m not just a bell-ringer, or a football fan,” he continues. “I’m someone who works in television who happens to be a presenter, whereas most presenters have set out in life to be one.”
So what has attracted this versatile chap to Original Features, a programme inviting owners to investigate the history of their homes, and decorate accordingly? What follows is a bizarrely convincing explanation:
“If I walked in here in a dress, I’d look wrong,” he offers. “If you have a friend, the more you know about them, the closer they become, and if your friend walked in a bad outfit, you’d tell them. Well, lots of houses have been wearing the wrong dresses. Now people are understanding that 16th century houses have a certain look to them.”
Could Original Features be the recipient of the same criticism afforded recently to Grand Designs, namely that this is all very well for someone with wads of cash and time to spare, but doesn’t really cater for the average punter? Knowles thinks not:
“Everybody’s interested in whether they could put a fireplace in their house, and make it look better. Generally, we’re probably not doing a lot for people in a Wimpey home, but they might be thinking about buying a place and doing it up. One, this will teach you how hard it is to buy something and do it up, and secondly, it’s lifting the veil on places. And we’re doing houses of vastly different scale. If anything, I think we went too broad. For me, just taking on a small project like someone’s hallway in a Welsh house which is one of our features, gives you access to the house and its history which I think is just stunning.”
Mention of history and Knowles’ enthusiasm, if it were possible, seems to go up a further notch, pouring forth on the area of London we find ourselves (Covent Garden) and waxing lyrical about nearby Burlington Arcade.
“I’m a nerd about history of all kinds,” he needlessly clarifies. “70% of what a historian would know, I would know by sheer dint of being a nerd, and working for 12 years in the building industry on DIY SOS and 30 years of being interested in architecture, and what I don’t know I find out.”
Is there ever a day off?
“I’m terrible, I’ve just come off five days’ holiday, and all I did was sit there and read three history books, including a character who is going to be the subject of my next film script...”
This all sounds horribly energetic, especially for someone who claims to have calmed down a lot since meeting his current girlfriend, Jessica Rose Moor, a lady he says previously has turned him into more of a homebody than he has been before.
“Because I’m in a long-term relationship with my girlfriend, I have made distinct efforts to spend more time at home, but that means instead of three nights a month, it’s now seven or eight. Luckily, her work means she can travel with me.”
So, if Nick Knowles does eventually decide to settle and become the subject of his own home improvement programme, what would be his perfect house? Unsurprisingly, he has thought about this a lot.
“What I call my property porn, which is Country Life, I get every week, and look at all the houses. A modernised Georgian rectory in Devon would be my ideal. I’ve been looking for 21/2 years. It’s because, having grown up on a council estate, that’s my idea of Christmas. I’ll get to it.”
I don’t doubt it for a minute.
Nick Knowles' Original Features is new and exclusive to Home, weeknights at 10pm from tonight (Monday 17th October) (Sky 246, Virgin 265)