This week, our six remaining aspiring Interior Designers were presented with a commercial design challenge – to transform three shop interiors in Tunbridge Wells (or Tonbridge Wells, as the BBC mis-spelt the town’s name on their caption). Is Points of View still running? ‘Angry from Tunbridge/Tonbridge Wells’ will be unscrewing the top of their green fountain pen before the first coat of paint has dried.
Three teams were formed, with Micaela & Paul being given a cook shop to overhaul, Siobhan and Charlotte a pet accessories shop, and finally Barbara and Lynsey were allocated a camera store. Each designer had a chance to pitch their vision to the shop owners, the owners then deciding which scheme they liked best (with the vanquished designer demoted to ‘assistant’ to the victorious lead).
Charlotte waits to be told who will be her team-mate
Head Judge Michelle Ogundehin (whose wardrobe I covet more each week) explained to host Alan Carr what she was looking for in a successful design. I agreed with her assertion that physical shops have to provide something over and above the online experience, but other than those that frequent Games Workshop I’m not sure about her claim that people go to shops in order to ‘hang out with like minded people’. Do you pop to Boots in order to mingle with other people suffering from verrucas? Thought not.
Siobhan and Charlotte (aka The Pet Shop Girls) met with Catherine, the owner of ‘Collared’ pet accessories store, and immediately Siobhan cemented her ability to put her foot in it by wrongly assuming that a pet store owner would probably prefer to known as ‘Cat’. Whether that’s the reason that Charlotte’s design was chosen we will never know.
Charlotte’s designs featured high cupboards disguised by an MDF pelmet, a large bone-shaped display table, and several animal-themed wallpapers. Siobhan, realising that if Charlotte cocked up she could end up as collateral damage, was quick to voice on camera that Charlotte’s scheme was too ambitious. The carpenter (who obviously drew the short straw in the ‘who wants to work with Charlotte this week’ lottery) agreed that there was too much work to be done in the time available, leading Charlotte to agree, scale down her design, and thank the carpenter for his input. Or ignore him and press on regardless. One of those.
Charlotte has never recovered from watching Bambi
The first of the wallpapers (mustard background, cats in fancy dress) went up without a hitch, but the second required some special Charlotte design input. The paper featured various black and white animals in silly hats – including deer, which didn’t ‘go’ with her vision. ‘I couldn’t afford £400 wallpaper, so compromised’, she said, merrily spray painting over all the deer on the repeat pattern. ‘Have you been vandalised?’ quipped Alan. Siobhan took advantage of the presence of the cameras to declare ‘we are a team….but the buck stops with her’.
Siobhan jokes that she used one of her wigs to make the pink Afghan
Day 2 dawned, with torrential rain outside, and a general gloom inside. The ambitious cupboards with fake pelmets were taking too long, and several other design elements (including the bone-shaped table) had to be ditched due to lack of time. Siobhan kept out of the woodwork dispute and busied herself with a window display that featured a large pink Afghan hound – a passing Charlotte remarked ‘she loves pink, doesn’t she? Not sure how I feel about that’. Whether it was looking at the pink dog, or the fact that despite ditching the bone table and the new till point the cupboards were still not finished by the deadline, Charlotte was glad when the project was over. She thanked all the carpenters for their hard work and apologised for giving them too much to do. Or she sighed and declared ‘I’ve got a splitting headache’. One of those.
Alan asks if being team leader has gone to Charlotte's head
Meanwhile, along the street Barbara and Lynsey (aka Girls On Film) were tackling the camera shop. Barbara’s design had been chosen over Lynsey’s travel-themed scheme by the shop owner, who liked her display and storage ideas, and was keen on her idea of including an area where he could sit and dispense advice to customers (before the majority of them promptly went home and bought the advised camera on Amazon).
Camera shop prior to makeover
Charlotte’s cupboard design had been ambitious. Barbara, not to be outdone, had come up with a slatted design that required so much wood that Ikea had trouble getting supplies for the next fortnight. There was so much work required that the carpenter was wondering if he should have gone with Charlotte instead. Lynsey, meanwhile, was torn between being supportive team member and making sure that Barbara took the flak should they not finish in time. Cheeky Alan stirred the pot by waltzing into the shop and advising them that ‘a load of MDF has just been fly-tipped outside your door’.
There was so much wood. It had to be cut, it had to be painted pale blue or yellow, and soon they were rapidly running out of space to work. With Barbara talking about having meetings to discuss logistics, Lynsey took charge – organising a better work flow, suggesting where they could pare back, and finally deciding that ‘supportive team member’ had to give way to ‘avoiding any flak’ and told Alan that the design was too complicated: “I normally design stuff that if we fall behind I can pitch in and do if the trades get stuck – but there are elements of this that only the trades can do”.
They finally finished – but only by ditching more of the cupboards and shelving, and with Barbara conceding that this week ‘might have got the better of me’.
Cook shop 'before' photo, showing a selection of the items they have for sale
The third of our teams – Micaela and Paul (aka Ready Steady Cookshop), had obstacles that the other two had not had to contend with: firstly a MASSIVE amount of stock (15,000 different items!), and secondly owners that wanted to be a little more hands-on in the process than the others. The owners had chosen Paul’s design (mostly due to his colour choices), but wanted to incorporate Micaela’s ‘undulating shelves’. They also liked Paul’s idea – borne of necessity – to incorporate the ‘design’ element on the ceiling as there was no room to swing a cat (or a Catherine) in the main shop. As work got underway, however, the owners re-appeared to pour scorn on the plans to re-site the till area – there is obviously a huge amount of saucepan theft in Tunbridge Wells, as the owners insisted that they be able to keep an eye on all corners of the shop.
Gratuitous photo of Lovely Builder in a brazen attempt to generate more website traffic
It must have taken a great chunk of the first day to move the 15,000 items out of the shop – this all had to be done before the first brushstroke of emulsion could be applied. Paul – usually king of the wallpaper – had decided to show his versatility by restraining himself to papering only one wall (plus the till counter), and Micaela – queen of the upholstery – didn’t need her sewing machine once.
The ceiling upside down table and spoon display - and oooh, did I accidentally get Lovely Builder in the shot?
Creating the undulating shelving, cutting back on the amount of stock on display, and pouring resin over the wallpapered counter proved a doddle compared to the other team’s woes. The main ‘design’ element – an upside down table and chair attached to the ceiling plus a large MDF hanging spoon display – proved a little trickier. Each spoon had to be hand-tied, and Lovely Builder (who hadn’t featured much over the last couple of weeks – much to the dismay of his legion of fans - struggled to find somewhere to plunge his drill (steady) in the ceiling. I did wonder if this ‘jeopardy’ was a little manufactured as everything else was going too well?
It was fortuitous/good planning that the main build was finished in plenty of time, as both Paul and Micaela needed hours to bring back the stock and display it. The whole process reduced Paul to tears, who wasted some precious plate stacking time by pondering that he’d discovered that he could do so much ‘if I just push myself. I’m wondering if the only thing that’s been holding me back is….me’.
As the trades people adjourned to their vans and heaved a collective sigh of relief, Michelle and guest judge Ross Bailey appeared to pass judgement on the stores. Ross Bailey, CEO of Appear Here, an online marketplace for short term retail space (Google is my friend), set about pontificating that stores ‘must tell an incredible story’.
The finished pet shop
So I hope you are sitting comfortably, because the tale of the judging is about to begin. First up the Pet Shop Girls: both judges loved the ‘colourful, fun, vibrancy’ of the window display (up yours, Charlotte), but were disappointed at the lack of bone table.
At was at this point that things got a little surreal. At the rear of the shop was a little area that Michelle and Ross felt had been underused – and they had plenty of ideas of what should have been done. “Where is the journey for the dog?” asked Ross, to the bafflement of the viewers. “There should be a bowl of water, some dog treats at least”. Michelle had the perfect opportunity to tell him to stop talking nonsense, but instead inexplicably joined in: “this area would be perfect as a place to bring your dog for a play date” she opined, as anyone who has ever had a dog wondered if she had lost her mind.
Did the camera shop lack focus?
Next stop was Girls on Film’s camera shop, which was greeted with a heavy dose of ‘meh’ from the judges. They agreed that it was ‘efficient’, but ‘something feels cold’ and it had no wow factor or comfort. Barbara had gone for a clean ‘tech shop’ feel, but Michelle wanted ‘more décor’. I did agree that the consultation area was a little spartan, but Michelle sounded like she would have preferred a plump sofa and lots of cushions.
Cook shop (oven) ready for inspection
Finally, it was the turn of the Ready Steady Cookshop team. The window display was judged as ‘pretty’ (but in a good way), and they loved the colander lights, the curvy shelves, the resin till counter, and the way the amount of stock on display had been pruned. However Ross absolutely hated the hanging spoons, and they both thought the upside down table display was a bit twee.
And so to the verdict. Alan delivered the judge’s comments to the assembled designers, starting with a sombre ‘the judges felt that there was room for improvement in all the designs’. However, the mood lifted for one third of the contestants when Alan revealed that Team Ready Steady Cookshop were the winners and therefore lived to fight another day. Micaela – in a spectacular case of misunderstanding – declared to Paul that ‘it was the spoons and upside down table that saved us both’. Hmmmmm.
The Pet Shops Girls and Girls on Film were consigned to the Sofa of Doom – Lynsey and Barbara dressing in a funereal style, with Charlotte and Siobhan opting for Simpsons opening credits and Spice Girls tribute act respectively.
Lynsey and Barbara were accused of ‘forgetting the fun’, ‘not providing a journey for the customer’, and it not being a comfortable space. Charlotte and Siobhan were told that they had forgot that ‘the dog is the customer here’ (really?), and that they should have walked through the shop first as a human, and then again as a dog (yes, really). The burning question in Michelle’s mind was ‘is a failure the fault of the team leader, or the fault of the assistant for not speaking up?’. Anyone who has ever worked as an assistant probably has a strong opinion on that one.
Surprising to anyone who has watched the last two episodes, favourite to win Barbara was chosen to leave the competition. I was prepared to forgive Michelle her dog journey nonsense when she came up with a very reasonable reason for her decision: ‘Had we given Charlotte and Siobhan more time, they could have fixed their issues and finished all the tasks they had planned, whereas if we have given Barbara and Lynsey more time they would have just made more storage’.
Overall I felt it wasn't a vintage episode - no 'wow' designs, but no spectacular or funny failures either.
That just left me with one question: why didn’t they show us the shop owners looking around the shop and giving their opinion? I did some digging. According to Kent Online, the cook shop owners loved it all, and haven’t changed a thing. The camera shop owner was less enthusiastic, thinking that the fittings didn’t look very durable and the stock didn’t feel secure. The pet shop owner didn’t want to comment (and neither did her dog).