Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Homemade Home - with a bit of help from her friends

Well now we've seen the rest of the series have we softened our tone about Channel 4's "Kirstie’s Homemade Home" after our rant following episode 1? Errr... no. Kirstie is a good presenter and we're glad she's trying to encourage us to think about traditional crafts. However she's missing the point of getting back to basics and using our own talents, creativity and more to the point, existing materials to create a fantastic home.

Over the last few years, television programmes have told us how make over our houses, but with other people doing the dirty work. Unfortunately this is true of Kirstie as well. Whilst claiming Meadow Gate is a "homemade home", she trots off to craftspeople for a brief lesson in basic skills, but never completes a project herself. She enjoys a cosy one-to-one tuition session and then pays her teachers to finish the projects off and deliver them ready for installation. Apart from the fact that this costs money that few of us have to spare these days, it also gives the impression that beyond the very basics skills, you need to have years of experience to be able to make anything. Not only is this misleading, but does little to encourage us to have a go at making things for ourselves.

With a little time and effort you can make some beautiful, practical things for your home. You may not get it right first time, but that doesn’t mean that you have to give up and pay somebody else to do it for you. You just need to practice a little first. Half the fun of creating something for yourself is the process of mastering the new skill. This is where the real sense of achievement comes from, not standing back as yet another craftsmen knocks on your door to present you with a finished item.

In one programme, Kirstie throws out a perfectly good fireplace because it doesn’t go with her design. But who removed it and how? She seemed to have a secret team of elves that came in when the cameras weren’t rolling and miraculously did all those tedious building and plumbing jobs. Which leads to a second question, how much did it cost her to have the fireplace removed? And what did she do with it afterwards? Sell it and recoup some of money she spent on refurbishing? Throw it in a skip? Why didn’t she reuse it somewhere else in the house or even in the garden as an unusual planter, or change her design to fit around it, or make the fireplace over?

What's really frustrating is that it was meant to be about inspirational sustainable living, but there was nothing sustainable about it. Spending £100 a roll on hand made wallpaper, when a paint effect might have sufficed, is not sustainable living. In the final programme Kirstie made over the garden, using lots of professionals to do it for her. The garden was transformed without her having to take off one of her fabulously bright coats or get a fleck of dirt under a fingernail. Yet again her invisible trusty elves rushed to her rescue and laid a York-stone terrace that didn’t even merit a mention. And where was the vegetable patch? Yes this is a holiday home, but she could at least have given a nod to the idea of putting one in. We should be encouraging people to grow their own vegetables. It's not just satisfying, but good for us. Research has shown that children who are involved in growing veg are fitter and healthier and more likely to eat vegetables. I appreciate that Kirstie wanted a fabulous entertaining space, but vegetables can fit into this notion brilliantly. Vegetable patches don’t have to be boring, they can be bright, colourful and excitingly designed. I think she missed a trick here.

The final irritant was when she audibly whispred, while dressing the table with someone else's flower arrangements "Eat your heart out Martha Stewart". At least the old jailbird does know how to do her own flower arranging and ice her own cakes! Overall, Kirstie – good work for showcasing some talented British craftspeople, but homemade it aint!


  1. Caroline Short20 May 2009 at 14:03

    I tend to think of this programme purely as inspiration - seeing Kirstie taking on these little projects, even if they do go unfinished, allows me to consider what might be possible.

    Take for example the hours and pounds she spent on vintage sheets and cloth, one of which she turned into a blind. I looked at that, loved it, and thought of the old broderie anglaise sheets of my Gran's sitting unused in my Mum's airing cupboard.

    I know what my budget is - I look to Kirsty for inspiration on what to do with what I have on hand.

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly! As you say, Kirstie showcased British craftspeople but she didn't teach us how to make a "homemade" home.

    I actually found the series to be so irritating and insulting, that I didn't watch the final two episodes.

    To suggest buying second-hand goods and looking for bargains at market stalls is good advice for anyone looking for thrifty ways to decorate but most of the craft classes Kirstie took are very expensive and time-consuming. And most of the crafts she was promoting are far from thrifty! And it was ridiculous how she never actually completed a craft herself! And when ahe showed how to print a roll of walllpaper, my blood started to boil. As if, hand-made wallpaper is thrifty!

    The only thing Kirsty did to her holiday cottage was make it look pretty by adding the crafts that someone else finished for her!

    The title of your post is perfect -"Homemade Home - with a bit of help from her friends."

  3. I do agree about inspiration, but it made me so frustrated. Inspiration is fine if know what you are doing already and can go away and knock it up for yourself, but I am not blessed in the crafty stakes. I am a complete novice and wouldn't have a clue where to start.

    I would have loved her to show me how to do things myself. The blind looked lovely, but how did she(or one of her 'ladies' make it? Can somebody show me?

  4. Make it and Mend it21 May 2009 at 00:28

    Caroline - that's great - if it has inspired you to do something you might not have done otherwise then the programme has worked.
    I think our objections are more about some missed opportunities by Kirstie - and the overclaim on homemade and thrift

  5. Caroline Short21 May 2009 at 10:23

    Hi Mandy, I did actually tweet at Kirsty about the blind. There's a step-by-step "how-to" on the Channel 4/homemade home website - if that's any help...?

  6. Caroline Short21 May 2009 at 10:41

    I do know what you mean, and I do agree to an extent. The antiques element really annoyed me - but then I accept that if I want something secondhand and cheap it might take me a long time to find it in a charity shop. I'm willing to wait it out, but I guess for the sake of a TV programme, it has to be a faster acquisition process.

    Maybe Kirstie should direct people to a few blogs for greater inspiration - show people what's really possible on a truly thrifty budget! :D

  7. I think the program would have been a bit long and, frankly, dull if each week it had just been a step by step guide to making a particular object. My view is that it was interesting and provided lots of food for thought. We can always go away and look up how to do these things on the internet or maybe find a course somewhere. I don't know about other people but I don't think I'd be able to make a tablecloth into a blind after just watching a tv show once - I'd need more instructions and time!

  8. Your Kirsties homemade home collections are very nice.I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.