The Great Interior Design Challenge 2016

My televisual Xanax has returned – albeit too briefly – and comes to a conclusion tonight at 7pm on BBC Two. I’ll be bereft when it finishes. Its scheduling has been a little haphazard: two series top and tailing 2014 and then we design fans have had to wait until now for the third. For me, I wish there were more than 16 episodes. My favourite, Taiwanese textile fiddler Frankie – he of the glue gun and the impeccable fabric, left last night on the basis of a sloppily excepted Rennie Mackintosh inspired mural in a 14th century living room in Wells. The client asked for “grand European hotel” in the brief and, while the room was stunning, it perhaps didn’t fulfil that as well as it might have. A rare and ill-timed misstep. I wasn’t convinced on those second-hand suit cushion covers. I don not want a second-hand crotch to rest my back on, thank you. However, I thought every room Frankie cast his hand to was beautiful: classy, elegant and sumptuous (except for the steampunk one, but that had hand-made skull lightboxes which redeemed it all). He was a gracious, sweet man and I was rooting for him to be in the final. Monday’s casualty was Anne, whose treatment of a seaside cottage living room was pure dreadful, complete with faux-grass cushions and animals and cherubs and just no. It looked like a “before” scene when done, mismatched and worrying.

So the final is Lucy Legs (so named for her penchant for getting her legs out at very available opportunity – and why not?) versus Sarah of the Bold Colour. Sarah’s first room in the competition was a troubling light and dark green combo that didn’t do it for me, however the styling was undeniable. She built in strength though and the teenager’s (or young adult who refuses to leave the family home)room she did in the final heat was genius, with putty, white, black and yellow combining into something modern and fresh. She stuck magnetic black tape all round the walls for hanging pictures and also to demarcate the different areas: sleeping, working, chillin’ and it looked incredible. Yesterday, her “French chateau with bright colour and opulence and hints of Chinoiserie” ended up as a deco cocktail lounge but it was a tangerine triumph, somewhere I could imagine terrible, beautiful Gatsby-esque characters doing their nefarious, hedonistic deeds. She also transformed a barrel into a black gloss, deco lampshade. A spectacular transformation.

Lucy, on the other hand, went mad with stuffed toys, massacring them for a “whimsical” take on taxidermy heads in her “hunting lodge” themed room. It was a stuffing-based atrocity. She said “modern”, I say silly, and not in a good way, if that’s even possible. I liked the portrait of the family dog in a flat cap and jacket complete with pocket square though. It was quite reminiscent of Dan Hillier and charming but overall the room was a nightmare of chintz. I admire Lucy for her energy and good touches, but Sarah just has “it”, the eye, the style, the ideas. Barring some major cock up, she will surely win tonight. I look forward to seeing what they do but I will miss it when it’s over.


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