Nick Knowles restores homes to their former glory in his new TV series - Original Features
For a self-confessed history 'nerd', Nick Knowles doesn't spend much time looking back at his own past.
The DIY SOS presenter, who celebrated his half-decade in September, says: "I never look backwards. I've got a lot of friends who get together and talk about the old times at school, but I've never been much of a one for that. I think what's gone is of no importance."
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It's a strange statement from someone who wrote a series of educational documentaries for the BBC called Historyonics and who's back on screen presenting a third series of Nick Knowles' Original Features, about the social history of homes.
He admits he did once go through a period of reflection.
"I was about to sack it all in and go off and be a goat herder in Scotland or something and my brother said, 'You ought to take five minutes to look at the path you've come along before you decide to call it a day'. And that was an interesting exercise because I hadn't ever done that.
"I'm always looking for the next thing. I've just written a movie, so we're making our first feature film this year, I've got a new Saturday night quiz show coming up in the summer and there's this new series of Original Features. I'm always looking ahead."
Nick is something of a polymath in TV terms. His career started as a lowly runner before he worked his way up to directing and producing. His presenting credits range from restoration show DIY SOS to fronting wildlife documentaries and quiz shows.
But three years back he wasn't "getting the opportunity to be creative and make new programmes".
Then UKTV approached him about doing Original Features.
"I said I'd do it as long as I don't get involved with the makeover part of it, so I don't have anything to do with it, other than coming in and going.
"I'm a guiding hand. I offer a bit of advice along the way from my knowledge of building techniques and tell them a lot of social history."
For those who are new to the show, it's a combination of home makeover and historical documentary, as Nick travels round the country visiting old houses whose owners are hoping to restore them to their former glory.
"The easiest way to explain it is if a friend of yours walked in wearing an incredibly inappropriate dress for their size and shape, you'd do two things. You either go, 'That's very nice' when it's not and they look stupid, or you say, 'That really doesn't suit you'.
"So this programme is about taking off the clothes that a house might have been wearing for the last 100 years and giving it a sense of its original style. And along the way, we get an idea of what life was like for the people who actually lived in that house in the first place. Comparisons between life 400 years ago and now are extraordinary."
One of the most fascinating discoveries this series was in a thatched cottage in the Hampshire village of Ragged Appleshaw.
"This house was built when Elizabeth I was on the throne, so the people who lived there had a completely different life. Now it's a tiny house for a young couple and their children but when it was first built, it was actually a really big, important-status house for a country gentleman farmer and his family and his retinue."
"They all would have lived and slept in one big room and it turns out there would have been a fire pit in the middle of the floor, so the place would have been full of smoke, and they'd have lived and slept around the fire."
Nick was born in London and grew up in Kent. He found history really boring at school and it was only when he returned to the UK, after travelling around America and Australia as a young 20-something, that he started taking an interest in his own culture.
Although his current house doesn't have a single period feature.
"For someone who's so interested in architectural features, I have chosen the dullest house in the world to live in," he admits, sheepishly.
"I live in a former council house under the Heathrow flight path. It's near the BBC, it's near UKTV at Hammersmith, it's near Heathrow airport and it's near the M25, so my house is completely utilitarian."
He dreams of living in "an old rectory somewhere in the Cotswolds" but says: "The chances of me actually getting around to doing that . . .
"I get home about three or four nights a month, so I'm on the road constantly with this and the quiz shows and SOS and all the other shows I do."
He's off to Doncaster next to film the latest episode of DIY SOS: The Big Build. In 2010, the regular DIY SOS show, which concentrated on making over just a few rooms, was expanded to fix up a worthy recipient's entire house.
The programme relies heavily on the goodwill of local builders, who donate their time and materials freely.
Nick says the recession "doesn't seem to have affected that at all".
The father-of-three found time last year to marry Jessica Rose Moor, from Fairford, who's half his age.
"The reason I decided to get married was because she made me a much better person," he says.
You'd be forgiven for thinking Nick might want to step out of the limelight for a bit and enjoy newly-married life, but he seems busier than ever, saying he'd love to do some acting this year "I'm looking for a nasty villain to play."
Then there's his feature film, which is about people fighting back against the recession.
"We're hoping we can make it later on this year for a worldwide release, I'm not really interested in making films just for a British audience," he says.
But whatever he does, Nick still suffers from a touch of imposter syndrome, not quite able to believe his luck.
"When I first started out as a runner, I expected someone to tap me on the shoulder every week and say, 'Nick, we've just discovered you're not supposed to be here'. And I still have that thought whenever I go to showbiz events – I'm as surprised as anyone that it's going well."
Nick Knowles' Original Features is on the Home channel on UKTV on weeknights at 10pm.