My Secret Life: John Makepeace, furniture designer, 71


My parents were... My father was a Midlands motoring engineer and my mother came from a long family line of farmers.

The household I grew up in... From 10, it was a house that made more impression on me than any other: a former priory from the 16th century in Warwickshire. I became more aware of my surroundings in those years. We'd moved from Birmingham out to the country and the character of the house was intriguing, it obviously had many of the marks of its origins. It's where I set up my first workshop.

When I was a child I wanted to... In my teenage years I had aspirations to go into the church. I wanted to do something that I felt strongly about. I subsequently moved into furniture making – which was equally important to me in later years.

If I could change one thing about myself... I'd love to be able to persuade people, that would be useful.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... not very much! Recognising the flaws in conventional wisdom.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... too much! Remembering to take things out of the Aga.

My favourite item of clothing... A leather jacket by Yves Saint Laurent.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Ooh, an affable, focused sort of individual.

I wish I'd never worn... I suppose one could say second-hand women's clothing, at a fancy-dress party.

I drive... an Audi Quattro which I like very much.

My house is... It was built on to a cottage in 1730 and had never been sold until we bought it in 2001. But now it's got very much a contemporary interior, predominantly things that I have made over the years.

My favourite work of art... One painting we have is by John Keane. It's a painting of the audience following the Chechen occupation of the theatre in Moscow. It's a very interesting piece of social history and contemporary art.

My favourite building... Santiago Calatrava's Puente de la Mujer in Buenos Aires.

My secret crush is... Who was the girl who used to present the culture programme? Lauren Laverne, that's right.

A book that changed me... Stones of Venice, a John Ruskin book which I read early on.

My greatest regret... They tend to be things that I haven't bought because I thought I couldn't afford them – a very special Windsor chair comes to mind. I am a little bit more confident with my spending now.

My real-life villains... The banks. They have repeatedly got themselves into trouble by putting large amounts of money in the wrong place.

The person who really makes me laugh... My wife, Rory Bremner and Clive Anderson.

The last time I cried... I cry terribly easily, but it can be from happiness. I cry at films, obviously at funerals, but also when one sees extraordinary human achievement.

My five-year plan... To keep active and well.

What's the point? Life's just very exciting.

My life in six words... I asked someone this on the train yesterday, they were quiet for the rest of the journey and as they were getting off, they got the answer, it was quite sweet. For me: craftsmanship, design, education, forestry, furniture and architecture.

A life in brief

John Makepeace was born in Solihull in 1939. One of his first commissions was from Keble College, Oxford – benches – and he was a founding member of the Crafts Council. In 1976, he bought Parnham House in Dorset, where he founded a college for furniture-makers. Makepeace was made an OBE in 1988 and received the American Furniture Society's Award of Distinction in 2002. A solo show of his work is at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Hampshire to 16 July. He lives in Dorset with his wife, Jeannie

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