A film designer has created a charming eco-home for a prince. Christina Moore, who has award-winning period dramas and futuristic sci-fi productions to her name, has created warm and friendly interiors for The Prince's House, which Prince Charles visited visited at the Ideal Home Show in March.
"But this is no fairy tale," laughs Moore, a mother of two, whose Hampstead home is a cottage converted from a former butcher's shop. "The issues we raise in our Show home are real - and it was very hard work," she adds.
The house is part of a wider personal crusade for what the Prince calls "a natural house" - a ready-to-go low-carbon dwelling. Insulation is the key, achieved with lime-hemp, sheep's wool and solid clay blocks that trap pockets of air.
The Prince's House is white-painted and double-fronted, with a flat façade, nine sash windows, a modest portico and a shallow pitched roof with two chimneys. It has a Georgian feel but is no slavish reproduction. There are three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room, pantry and utility room.
Inside, each room has a loved and lived-in feel that comes from a wealth of detail and personal touches. Moore's brief was to use natural and eco friendly materials and to reuse old furnishings wherever possible. She says: "He was clearly delighted with the house and was captivated by the warmth and creativity of the interiors, as well as the generous use of space and innovations such as the walk-through pantry."
Do it the Moore-way, and recycling is not only pretty but low-budget. She found inexpensive old pieces in markets, local auction houses and on the internet. These were refurbished. She also went to Kempton Park Antiques Market - "at dawn" - for furniture and other bits and pieces (this market is on the second and last Tuesday of every month in Sutton).
Chairs and sofas were reupholstered in a mixture of vintage textiles and other fabrics. These included WoJo, developed in New Zealand, but made here in the UK by Camira, from wool and recycled jute coffee sacks. There are even cushions knitted from old pyjamas, furniture made from shopping trolleys and picture frames made from old tyres. A high shelf in the dining room sports a stunning row of white ceramics - all second-hand.
Professional craftspeople did the reupholstery (The Chairman and Son, in the King's Road, SW6), painted furniture and stencilled walls (artist Thomasina Smith), and made patchwork curtains, blinds and soft furnishings from vintage textiles (Ros Badger).
"People are alienated by the heavy side of DIY," Moore admits. "But using a sewing machine and wielding a paint brush are simple skills. They help create a home that's unique - and you save money." Materials for recycling are often close to hand, and would otherwise be chucked away.
Eco paints by Little Greene Paint Company are used throughout. "Have a muted palette with colours that are compatible from room to room, and you can't go wrong," says Moore. The kitchen by Plain English is painted so can easily be refurbished from time to time. Appliances by Siemens are ultra-energy saving, and a new Twyford WC uses the least water of any on the market.
"We wanted to show how attractive natural materials and recycling can be," said Hank Dittmar, the chief executive of the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, which has developed the natural house with the Building Research Establishment in Watford. It is energy-saving and sustainable to Code 4 on the Government's eco scale for sustainable homes (Code 6 is the best). Dittmar adds: "The natural house is comfortable, simple, long-lasting and easy to patch and repair."
The Prince's House that was on display at this year's Ideal Home Show might cost about £175,000, plus the cost of the land it sits on, of course. Other versions of the natural house are for smaller properties including flats, and plans for self-builders. Insulation is so effective (it is claimed) that all you need is a single wood-burning stove.