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Interior Design Masters ~ BBC 1 ~ Episode 7 ~ Cotswold Lake Lodges


“Only three left!  Is your head getting too big?” asked Alan, as he surveyed the final three contestants as they waited for this week’s brief.  “No – I’ll leave that to Paul” replied Banjo, accurately reflecting the thoughts of the nation, who were united in their wish that the winner of this series would be Anyone But Paul.


Enter Michelle, sporting a raspberry silk statement sleeve (yes, I’m still obsessed) with news: this week they were all off to the Cotswolds to make over three lakeside holiday lodges.  I don’t live too far from the Cotswold Water Park and often see the city-dwelling, Barbour-sporting, Hunter-welly-wearing guests out and about during their weekend breaks (the likes of Kay Burley and Kate Moss both own swankier lakeside holiday homes), so I know a trolley dash around Ikea and a coat of Homebase emulsion would not cut the mustard….and Michelle agreed.  She opined “this task is not just about shopping and styling; you must show design”…..but who was listening?


Banjo, Amy and Paul were each given two days to re-design the open plan kitchen/dining/living space and the outdoor terrace, plus the services of a decorator and carpenter, but were given slightly different briefs.  Amy was to design a modern/contemporary pad that would be suitable for a group of friends to gather together; Paul was asked to reflect the waterfront position of the lodges with a nautical twist; and Banjo’s brief was to put together a place for a family to enjoy time together.  Michelle also wanted them to reflect Cotswolds textures and colours.  The lodges were already furnished, and each designer had the choice of keeping or changing the existing furniture.

The obligatory 'before' photo of the lodge interior 

Banjo decided to ditch all the interior furniture, and also to re-paint the mushroom kitchen doors in a bright daffodil yellow.  I’m not exactly sure that was the colour he had in mind initially, but that was what was delivered and he had about ten seconds to make up his mind whether to go with it.  Lovely Builder – resplendent in trademark orange t-shirt – exhorted him to ‘Do it; do it; do it….’ (causing palpitations amongst many viewers), and so in the absence of any back-up plan (or even a front-up plan; Banjo was most definitely winging it at this stage) the brush was dipped. 


Besides the zingy yellow kitchen, Banjo’s other Big Idea was to create a canoedelier – a light fitting created by hanging a wooden canoe upside down from the ceiling and attaching a large bulb.  Would the ceiling be able to take the weight?

Banjo explains the concept of his canoedelier to decorator and Lovely Builder


Alan arrived on site in a flashy speedboat this week; long shots of expert driving at speed along the lake fooling no-one.  He popped into Paul’s lodge first to take a first look at Ego Man’s plans.


Paul had taken the decision to keep all the original furniture provided at the lodge, and instead to re-cover the sofas in a cream linen that I suspect the lodge owners hoped would prove to be easily washable.  Paul had also decided not to paint the kitchen doors, but instead to take off the original handles and replace them with lengths of rope to tie in with his waterside theme.  I assume that not a single person – presenter or judge – on this programme does their own cleaning, as no-one pointed out that those rope handles would quickly get absolutely filthy.  Imagine a succession of sticky-fingered guests using the rope handles: within a few weeks they will be carrying more germs than a petri dish full of Covid.


Paul attaching yet another of his genius ideas: rope handles in the kitchen.

Paul then distracted me by banging his head on a cupboard door.


If you want to see a video clip of this moment, please visit

Alan popped round to visit Banjo next, and once he’d recovered from the bright yellow paint, he was keen to examine the canoedelier - voicing misgivings that the whole thing could come crashing down and kill Michelle.  Banjo further revealed that this week his imaginary clients were the Grizwald family from the National Lampoon films.....he even had a title for the ensuing movie: The Grizwalds Do the Cotswolds.


Guess what?  Amy's designed some wallpaper!

The coffee/wine ledge

Amy was the only one of the three to re-design the layout of the lodge, moving the sofas, adding a bar to the kitchen worktop, and had also had what I thought was the genius idea of making a coffee/wine ledge on the terrace.  She painted the woodwork and kitchen cupboards black, and limited her trademark bespoke wallpaper to a small space under the stairs behind a newly-built bar.  So far so good……until she spoilt it all by planning a huge faux foliage light fitting.  Had she learned nothing from the hotels episode, where faux foliage was frowned upon?  Amy also designed a hanging herb garden, which would be lovely in your own kitchen, but perhaps not appropriate for a holiday rental?

Not entirely convinced this would be used by a group of friends....apart from mint in a cocktail?

Paul, meanwhile, was Talking Textures.  Having opted not to change the furniture or paint the kitchen, he had plenty left in his budget to buy timber to clad the walls, pieces of Cotswold stone to make into a splashback, and large slices of wood to attach in seemingly random places to create ‘wood sculptures’.  I thought only one of these was entirely successful: I liked the timber wall, thought the splashback was impractical and possibly unhygienic, and that the wood slices didn’t really add anything to scheme.  In fact they did the opposite: I squealed as Paul merrily covered over two precious double power points with a slice of wood, AND THEN PLACED A SOFA IN FRONT OF IT SO YOU COULDN’T SEE IT ANYWAY.  Like Banjo, Paul had also thought of a boat-themed lighting feature in the shape of an upturned coracle suspended from the ceiling by a rope and pulley system.  In theory this would make changing the bulbs easy, but Alan pointed out that there would be health and safety issues if children worked out how to loosen the rope and lower the coracle to the floor.  Still, Paul was confident:  “there’s no reason why I can’t win”, he humbly declared to camera.

Splashback made from old Cotswold stone roof tiles

 Covering two power points with a 'wooden sculpture'


Uncharacteristically this episode, Banjo was having a crisis of confidence.  Having been unsure about the yellow kitchen cupboards, he was also unsure about painting his MDF panelling in dark green, and his lack of planning was starting to irk Lovely Builder.  Cue a reflective piece to camera, where Banjo told us of his childhood and how he had always suffered from a lack of self-confidence.  The further we get in the process, the more tissues are required by the production team to mop the tears of the weeping designers: Paul then told us of his fisherman father who died young, and that he was particularly close to his late mother who would have loved to have seen his success.  In contrast, Amy – who seemed lacking in self-confidence at the start of the process – was trash talking her fellow designers, stating that she was showing her 'game face', really wanted to beat Paul, and that Paul had to go!

Amy demonstrates her 'game face'


We were also shown the designers' own houses, with Amy’s husband letting us know that Amy is constantly re-decorating, Paul’s sister telling us that "Since the day he was born he's always been different", and Banjo’s partner Ro showing us around their goat cheese farm and distillery on the isle of Mull.  If Banjo doesn’t win this competition, I can see the likes of Channel 5 beating a path to his door to film a fly on the wall series featuring the two of them (they’d probably call it something like Mulling It Over with Banjo & Ro).


Banjo and partner Ro arrange their cheeses

The makeovers continued.  Banjo bizarrely started tiling white tiles over the original white tiles, and told Alan about his very expensive WHITE blanket. 


Amy continued to make her faux foliage light fitting.....

......and Paul started sniping at the decorators over the painting of a stripe on a cupboard door. 


I’m sure the decorator was smiling to himself as Paul then discovered that the new covers for the existing sofas had been made slightly too small and he struggled to get them to fit.  This is the first time I can remember Paul being flustered about lack of time, and it was very amusing to watch the thin veneer of oily confidence develop a rather large crack.  Banjo’s large canoe light fitting was erected by Lovely Builder, with many of his fans dreaming that one day they might be able to join him for a canoedelier canoodle.



Judging time!  This week Michelle was joined by ‘Interiors guru and international trend setter’ (you just know that Paul would love to use that description about himself) Abigail Ahearne. 


First to Paul, modestly declared “I have delivered beauty” (presumably he had filled the crack in his confidence with some tiling grout borrowed from Banjo).  He had aimed to showcase local Cotswold fabrics, pottery, etc – but had he done too much?  Usually when renting a holiday home the owner provides a few ornamental (easily dustable) accessories, but Paul had covered every spare inch with vases and pots.  I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but will no-one think of the poor cleaners???



Abigail and Michelle loved the coracle light, liked the wood cladding, and thought Paul had achieved a cosy space.  Abigail wasn’t keen on the Cotswold stone splashback (‘too much texture’), and Michelle thought the sofas looked old fashioned…but overall they liked the styling, thought the terrace looked inviting, and didn’t mind the rope handles on the kitchen cupboards.  Abigail lost me momentarily as she started talking about ‘materiality’ which I’m not sure is a word: next series I look forward to her thoughts on textureology and wallpaperania.


Paul's Cotswold knick knacks


Onwards to Amy’s contemporary space, and Abigail was really keen on the results.  Both judges thought that bringing in new furniture added some personality to the space, they liked the new layout, loved the breakfast bar, the black paint, the coffee ledge on the terrace…..but hated the faux foliage light and were disappointed with the lack of attention given to the terrace.  I thought they were expecting too much for a two day build with two tradesmen helping, but I guess this adds to the jeopardy of the show.




Banjo was last to be judged.  Abigail loved the yellow paint, and thought that the green walls were a perfect complement to the scheme.  Michelle felt that the room was unbalanced; with all the colour on one side it left the white opposite wall looking a little neglected.  The canoedelier was a hit, but again both judges felt that the terrace could have done with a little more attention.


Back to Design HQ, and both judges agreed that the calibre was very high.  Choosing which designer would leave the process was going to be tough: so much so that Michelle must have been distracted, thus making a fashion error and wore a statement sleeve she had ALREADY WORN on a previous episode.  Banjo, Amy and Paul were all quizzed upon the reasons for their various choices.  Amy was the first to be told that she was through to the final, with both judges feeling that she just edged it this week.  That left Banjo and Paul….and as the nation crossed it’s fingers, a huge collective sigh of relief blew across the country at the news that Banjo was safe.  Paul was deemed to have spent too much time on shopping and styling and had made the fatal error of keeping the original furniture, so will not be appearing in the final.  Unless of course one of the finalists brings him back as their assistant on the final task………….[insert hollow laugh here].


Bye Paul

So has Paul’s massive ego taken a battering from not winning?  I’ve just had a look at his website, and it would appear that the answer is a resounding NO – this is from his homepage:  ‘A Creative Genius, my dreams are my realities.  This drives me to seek out and deliver beauty in all its forms’.  I'd give you the address of his website, but it would only encourage him.

So…..Banjo v Amy.  The Favourite versus the Dark Horse.  Who will win???  I like them both, so its immateriality really.





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