As much as it may sound like it – “The Restoration Man” isn’t an age old character pulled straight from the pages of Marvel or DC – although you could well argue that Mr. Restoration himself, George Clarke, is something of a modern day superhero in the architecture field.
In the show, which can be found on Channel 4 in the 8pm Wednesday slot, Clarke travels the length and breadth of the country – helping new homeowners convert their rundown recent purchases into dream homes. The properties will usually be ageing, often unstable structures – but, along with Clarke’s creative eye, the house-owners will turn them into fully functioning heritage houses with modern day facilities.
What struck us most of all about the show is that, rather than focusing fully on the technical details, it also delves into the thoughts and feelings of the home-owners themselves as they struggle with everything from emotional attachments with prior properties to their own financial woes. As all of us will know – budgets can quite easily be blown and Clarke helps his protégés to re-calculate and re-evaluate these with his trademark matey, Wearside charm.
Of course the very nature of the show, as well as Clarke’s increased celebrity, will no doubt draw comparisons with both Grand Designs and a certain Mister Kevin McCloud himself. The main difference between the two men, style-wise, is that Clarke is more the guy you’d chat quite merrily to down the pub over a pint, whereas with McCloud – even over ale – you’d still feel as if you had to make sure that every word you said would have at least three syllables.
Clarke’s charisma has come a long way since the early days of ‘Restoration Man’ (circa 2009), and it is quite clear that he is a people person – giving everyone he speaks to the same attention and enthusiasm. And, while he can still occasionally seem a little uncomfortable on camera, his people skills shine through – giving a marketable human edge to what could just be another show about process plans, bricks and mortar.
You may remember first seeing him back in the very early noughties fronting Channel 5’s “Build a New Life in the Country” – a gig that he actually landed by accident when his literary agent pushed it forward to him. I don’t think it would surprise you if we told you that he was told by his agent; “I don’t care how good an architect you are, you are brilliant with people”. Alongside ‘Restoration Man’ you may also have seen him in such shows as ‘Amazing Spaces’ and the globe-trotting ‘Dream Home Abroad’.
As if all the TV work wasn’t enough, Clarke somehow manages to also delegate some of his time to working as a visiting lecturer to a series of Universities – most notably Newcastle and Nottingham. It’s very clear that he’s keen to pass on his passion and enthusiasm to the next generation of architects, as opposed to just his viewing demographic on the telly.
Even if you’re busy on a Wednesday night, it’s a show often repeated throughout the week so there’s no excuse not to catch The Restoration Man. It captures the passion, the struggles and the overlying human element of the restoration project – and it is very clear that Clarke cares more about the project rather than just restoration for restoration’s sake. While it hasn’t quite garnered the same popularity as Grand Designs just yet, the fact that it’s now into its sixth year shows that its hitting the right notes when it comes to the ratings – and what a time to do so as the economy and property ladder is starting to look up…
Photo credits: Channel 4
Article written by Ashley Brown, Editor