Can housing bring you happiness? It can if you believe Kevin McCloud’s do-it-yourself take on life.
However it turns out that neither his attempt to create a holiday house by the sea nor his quest for contentment through construction is as simple as it seems.
In the first season of Man Made Home Kevin McCloud set himself the task of building a weekender in a patch of forest, to test the theory that people would be happier if they played a role in the construction of their own buildings. In the second season Kevin decides to take his getaway shed on the road. He arranges to have it moved to a seaside location in Somerset and sets about transforming it into a holiday home. Like the first challenge, he sets himself a series of rules. Firstly, his new home must be totally ‘off grid’. It has to be constructed from and fuelled by things he can find in the immediate vicinity. Secondly, the construction itself has to be the result of his own sweat and tears. It’s all part of proving Kevin’s personal theory that there is an intersection between human habitat and happiness:
“I’m here on the coast to find a little refuge from 21st century living. It’s slower and more relaxed and a bit more engaging and you feel better for that. So if all that adds up to happiness then perhaps, yes, I am a little bit happier here.”
There is plenty in this series of Man Made Home to keep fans of Kevin McCloud happy. He continues to use the same combination of dry wit and cultured vocabulary that makes viewers feel educated by association. There are also more than a few wild schemes to keep the laughs coming – Kevin’s attempts to create candles from rigid mackerel and boats from inflated sheep’s stomachs are just a few. However the foundation for his experiment turns out to be a little unstable.
Kevin uses a very broad definition of ‘immediate vicinity’ to include building materials from car wreckers and fish markets. His ‘hands on’ approach is also a little lacking with Kevin providing more direction than labour, content to allow his friends and tradesmen to do the majority of the work. Anyone looking for a true investigation of sustainable, eco-friendly housing should probably look elsewhere. However these weaknesses don’t undermine Kevin’s question: can our homes provide as much rest for our hearts as our soles?
Since this is plainly a spiritual question I feel no shame in turning to the Bible for an answer. Jesus had a couple of things to say about homes that are well worth bearing in mind the next time you contemplate a building project. The first was a warning to someone who said he would follow Jesus wherever he went that he wasn’t heading anywhere particularly comfy:
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Secondly, Jesus pointed out positioning your peace of mind in this world might mean missing out on the perfect place in the next, because whatever location you chose for your treasure, “… there your heart will be also.” Finally, Jesus encouraged his disciples to be prepared to lose everything for his sake because the world was one they were passing through. From the very beginning God’s people have held lightly to their homes and whatever else they built with their hands:
“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
There’s clearly nothing wrong with building a nice home, even taking pleasure in what God has provided. But is it the source of the happiness Kevin says has eluded him so far in life? That’s something bespoke bricks and mortar can never provide.
Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home
Release Date:Wednesdays, 8:30 PM