My secret life: Kevin McCloud, design guru, 51

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The home I grew up in ... was built speculatively by my parents, and fell apart within 10 years. It was a 1960s cube with a pitched roof, three bedrooms and flush hard-board doors. My mother furnished it with post-Bauhaus wallpapers, leopard-skin carpet and hand-me-down furniture.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... shorter and less self-conscious.

My greatest inspiration ... is my father, a test-systems engineer who was one of the gentlest human beings I have ever met.

My real-life villain ... could be one of a couple of employees I've had over the past 20 years.

The moment that changed me for ever ... was being was told that I had risked death every night for two months by ignoring my nightly asthma attacks. That was three years ago. My attitude to life is now about immediate gratification.

I drive/ride ... a Volvo C30 DrivE. It's beautiful inside and out – the aesthetics of a car are important to me. If I want to drive like a crazy-man, I can take a car around a track nearby; going fast is a new hobby I've taken up, since appearing on 'Top Gear' last November. I also ride an orange Brompton foldaway bike.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I'd like a less picky digestive system.

At night I dream of ... things I couldn't possibly recount: cesspits, sex, the terror of exclusion and humiliation.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... is hair in all the wrong places and not where it should be.

My style icon ... Don't be ridiculous. Oh, all right then, Monsieur Hulot.

The shops I can't walk past ... are those peculiar little suppliers of artists' materials, or medical supplies.

A book that changed me ... 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert M Pirsig.

The last album I bought ... was a collection of Handel arias sung by an old friend of mine, Mark Padmore.

It's not fashionable but I like ... polished mahogany furniture and Cinzano and tonic water. I also have a huge affection for pebbledash and believe a revival is long overdue.

My favourite work of art ... 'The Journey of the Magi' frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, at the Medici Riccardi Palace chapel in Florence.

My favourite items of clothing ... are two bespoke Harris Tweed suits, one blue and one green, which I had made especially for filming. They are highly sustainable and warm and both have waistcoats, allowing me to avoid wearing a tie – I loathe ties. I also avoid the male "what happens at the shirt/waistband juncture?" question.

You wouldn't know it but I'm good at ... gymnastics. I can still work the rings.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... team sports. Cricket? Death by the sound of leather on willow.

If I have time to myself ... I wander outside and climb a hill.

My house ... is 500 years old. As with a 500-year-old relative, it can be smelly, damp and ungrateful of my attentions.

My most valuable possession is ... a collection of pigments and books. I have a small library of rare design books.

My favourite building ... is the rebuilt façade of the library at Ephesus in Turkey.

Movie heaven ... I like the absurd and the surreal: the Coen brothers, Bunuel, Kubrick. The best invention ever ... is the electronic processor. Without it, we would never be able to figure out how to get ourselves out of this environmental mess we're in.

I wish I'd never worn ... I'm really quite conscious of clothes and the way they fit and don't regret wearing anything. Not even the five-inch stack heels I wore with three-button high-waisters at comprehensive school. Regret is for wimps.

In 10 years' time, I hope to be ... still in work.

My greatest regret ... Ah, so many ... but what am I saying? See above!

My life in six words ... You're Here, Get On With It.

A life in brief

Born in Bedfordshire in May 1958, Kevin McCloud is best known for presenting the popular Channel 4 series, Grand Designs. Kevin lives in Somerset with his wife and two children. He will be at this year's Grand Designs Live event at London's ExCel Centre, from today to 4 May. For tickets, call 0871 230 5577 or visit