Television�s Oliver Heath is passionate about eco-friendly living and, as CATHERINE DESHAYES finds, practises what he preaches
TV Presenter and designer Oliver Heath is big on green. Made famous by his appearances on Home Front, Changing Rooms and From House to Home, what really makes him stand out is his commitment to environmentally-friendly living.
"It is possible to live in harmony with nature," says Oliver, who has just renovated his own four-bedroom Victorian terrace in Brighton. You could say recycling is in my blood!" adds Oliver, whose childhood was spent on Brighton beach swimming, windsurfing and scuba diving. An avid beachcomber, he loved collecting things and transforming them into something new.
From windsurfing instructor to architect and designer, Oliver hit the big time in 1998, when he was named Young Designer of the Year with his eye-catching, modern, green designs. Using materials salvaged from film sets and markets, he was already making his mark on BBC�s Home Front.
Although Oliver loves the Hackney loft he still rents, he started house hunting in his home town two years ago. "I had been designing other peoples� homes for so long I wanted to do my own," he says.
Oliver found a former student rental, badly in need of some TLC, and knew instantly it was the one for him. An outlay of £220,000 plus another £60,000 and months of "extremely hard work" went into renovating the house. "I don�t care what it is worth now. It�s all about quality, not quantity."
Six years of architectural training have made Oliver a self-proclaimed �stickler for details and drawings�.
"Time was of the essence on Changing Rooms, but preparation was key. I would look under the property owner�s bed, at their lifestyle, and design the room with that in mind."
Oliver followed his three main rules: reduce, reuse, recycle - and revamped old pieces of furniture, creating a green living space wherever possible. He used non-toxic paint throughout, and ZF Medium Density Fibreboard, which does not contain toxic glue.
"The interior is poisoning us, and in turn we are poisoning the exterior environment," he says, adding: "It is not necessary to spend a fortune to live �greenly�. It is just a matter of taking responsibility for the natural world."
Oliver�s home is one of contrasts, rough wood panelling, elaborate chandeliers, sheep-wool and natural un-dyed fabrics. Neutral walls and leafy plants create a calming environment, while sustainable oak floorboards create an illusion of space.
Oliver�s Jewish roots mean he often plans his designs around a large dining table, to reflect the importance of family dining. "My faux marble table is really recycled plastic bottles, with a salvage yard base. I love it because it�s totally unique," he enthuses.
OLIVER loves hosting dinner parties - where one of his tricks is fire eating - and his kitchen continues the green theme: the counters are 85 per cent recycled glass, and his super-efficient hob "heats the underneath of the pan rather than wasting energy at the sides", he says.
Although initially more expensive, energy efficient appliances last far longer. "My LED lights last 12 times longer than ordinary bulbs," he adds.
The clever use of space also makes the house light and airy. Fifteen per cent of the floor space is assigned to storage. "I hide my CDs and stereo - they should be heard and not seen."
Similarly, no black box lurks in the corner. A projector beams images onto a white wall in place of a TV, while the basement workroom doubles as a guestroom with a folding bed.
In Oliver�s bedroom, with its tables of salvaged pier jetty, the bed appears to float, thanks to its under-lighting, making the room seem larger. Continuing the beach theme, there are pebbles on the bathroom floor, and LED lights strung from the ceiling, which "look like stars at night".
Oliver adds: "My small sink and dual flush toilet means I don�t waste water."
Meanwhile, a weather sensor controls heating: "My heat condensing boiler works on sensors which detect body movement, so only heat the room you are in, rather than wasting energy heating the whole house," he said.
Oliver�s past ideas have challenged even the wildest of imaginations. He�s put bicycle wheels on dining tables, built scaffolding indoors and once installed a wormery in a living room.
"I always want to make an impact with my designs, and I definitely did that," he admits.
Oliver is currently filming an ITV series following self-builders, as well as running his own business - Blustin Heath Design - which creates interiors for nightclubs, domestic developments and community projects.
"People are scared of green living, but there are simple, cheap measures they can take to minimise damage to the environment. Around 60 per cent of the DIY rubbish we create can be reused or recycled," he says.
For instance, Community Re>Paint is a national scheme to encourage people to recycle DIY waste.
"There really is no excuse for just throwing your rubbish in the bin," says Oliver.
"If you can find a new use for something old, great - it�s cheaper." Nineteen million of us indulge in DIY, and Oliver has written a how-to book called The Oliver Heath Home Book, featuring environmental measures.
"I wrote it while doing up my home. I wanted to give people the confidence to create their own personal sense of style," he says.
Oliver has also teamed up with The Energy Saving Trust, which encourages responsibility on energy wastage including the new government measures on high efficiency condensing boilers, the use of which can save the UK £1.2 billion per year.
SIMILARLY, fridge-freezers cost the UK £1.2billion in electricity annually, but checking seals and defrosting regularly could save £455million. And if every UK household installed one energy-efficient bulb and lagged their hot water tank, we could save more than £130million a year.
"The future lies in environmentally-friendly living, and my own home is a testament to my beliefs," says Oliver.
"Simple but effective measures can make all the difference to the environment. The possibilities are endless."
Blustin Heath Design: 020 7739 6416/
www.blustinheathdesign.com; The Energy Saving Trust: 0845 727 7200/