Once more unto the beach dear friends……
This week’s challenge to the five remaining designers was to make over 3m x 2.5m beach huts at Walton on the Naze in Essex. Each was given a specific brief, and a together with a team of painters and carpenters they had two days and £1,000 to turn that brief into reality. Who would be King or Queen of the (sand) Castle, and who would be washed away with the outgoing tide?
At the briefing, Siobhan had already got into the seaside mood by wearing what appeared to be a candy floss on her head, and I was alarmed to see that Paul was being slowly eaten by his cravat.
As it turned out, Paul and Siobhan were the lottery winners this week, being given the briefs of ‘1950s American Retro’ and ‘Tropicana’ respectively. They were given licence to throw the kitsch-en sink at their huts – would the result be Happy Days or Death in Paradise?
Host Alan Carr: 99 with extra sauce, please
Lynsey, Micaela and Charlotte were not quite so lucky. Lynsey’s brief was ‘Ice Cream Sundae’, which gave guidance on colours but not much else. Micaela had the uninspiring ‘Home Away From Home’, which was never going to get the creative juices flowing, and Charlotte was given the quite baffling ‘New England Hamptons but not The Hamptons’. I did wonder if the producers had some sort of agenda (maybe the weary tradespeople, tired of being bossed around, had twisted a few elbows?), but a little research via Twitter reveals that the briefs came from the owners of the Beach Huts – a company which rents them out by the week.
Home Away From Home
Micaela decided to make her ‘Home Away From Home’ into a cosy space, with her signature soft furnishings and upholstery in a pastel palette. She wisely chose water resistant fabrics for the seating and cushions, but not so wisely chose to layer rugs on the floor that would be covered in sandy footprints in approximately four minutes. She also attempted an ombre effect on the walls which was slightly scuppered by a torrential downpour that wasn’t exactly helpful in allowing the paint to dry. Loved the mirror, though!
Ice Cream Sundae
Lynsey – who casually dropped the ‘I’m pregnant’ bombshell early in proceedings! – chose a Neapolitan colour palette for her ice cream sundae inspired hut. Obsessed with creating plenty of storage space, she used her architecture background to design benches with storage, seating on casters with storage, overhead storage, flip up tables, and an elaborate criss-cross wooden pegboard that could be used to hold shelves, hang coats, store beach chairs, and possibly transform into Optimus Prime if you pressed the right buttons.
Lynsey included mirror tiles in her design so that anyone sitting facing the back wall of the hut could still see the sea. Genius!
Eagle-eyed viewers would have noticed that of late the producers had been limiting Siobhan's ability to use her signature pink paint (in the same way that the Betty Ford Clinic keeps the gin hidden), but this week she was UNLEASHED. Cue a Tiki Bar design, pots of brightly coloured paint, toucan wallpaper, a couple of grass skirts, and lots and lots of bamboo. There was bamboo on the walls, bamboo on the kitchen units, bamboo on the floor, and two large bamboo poles holding up the awning. Does this woman not care about the shortage this caused for the world’s panda population?
Hamptons (But Not The Hamptons)
Charlotte decided to take inspiration from (aka ‘copy’) designers she had found on Instagram that were pioneering the ‘Hamptons but not The Hamptons’ look. If this brief was not constricting enough, she was also the only designer who was told that they had to retain an existing feature in her hut – in this case an art deco-style blue and yellow sunshine-and-sea design that Charlotte described as ‘this weird stained glass’.
Charlotte's 'weird stained glass'
Wisely deciding to avoid the classic blue and white Hamptons look, Charlotte instead chose a really dark forest green for the cosy space at the back of her hut, and a mint green and white look at the front. She mixed this with yellow and black seating, yellow tiles in the kitchen area (presumably to match the sunshine on the stained glass), and – for some bizarre reason that wasn’t addressed in the programme – some lilac towels. Perhaps she was running short on her budget and they were on special offer?
Forest green - beach hut appropriate?
To make her hut look luxurious (also part of her very complicated brief), Charlotte decided to create a black and orange homage to Jackson Pollock that would form part of her flip-down table, and to also scratch in a floral design in the thick white paint on the wall in the front part of the hut.
A load of Pollocks
Floral design etched in the paint
Charlotte also inadvertently included a dead insect motif by painting over lots of bugs that had been sheltering from the Essex sea breeze.
Charlotte explained that the worst feedback she could get would be ‘why did you choose these colours?’. Remember this, we’ll come back to it later.
1950s American Retro
To Paul, and his quest to make a 50s American Diner worthy of the Fonz or Danny Zuko from Grease. A booth was constructed, black and white tile vinyl flooring laid, retro fittings sourced, and the correct font found for his lettering.
Paul had decided to go the extra mile by having his paint especially mixed for him back in his hometown of Belfast. This would normally not be newsworthy enough to make this recap, but the shot of his special paint revealed that his surname is Moneypenny! I do hope that he instructed the paint mixer that the tins should be shaken and not stirred.
The exterior of the hut was first painted turqoise, then circular stickers applied before another coat of pink paint. Once dried, the stickers were peeled off to reveal perfect turquoise polka dots – causing much joy to Paul, and causing many of us at home to wonder why the decorator couldn’t have saved a huge amount of time by using a stencil to paint the dots instead.
The rain which had flattened Micaela’s spirits had a similar effect on Paul’s gravity-defying quiff, which HAD TO BE PROTECTED. The rain brought wind with it, which managed to blow over one of Paul’s newly-painted retro cabinets, smashing the glass panels and scaring the Living Daylights out of him. I’m sorry, I’ll stop now.
This week’s Guest Judge was Sophie Robinson, who used to be a resident judge on the much-missed Great Interior Design Challenge, but who obviously doesn’t bear a grudge and is happy to appear once a series in the new incarnation. Sophie loves bright colours and patterns, and so all bets were off as to which would be her favourite of this week’s beach hut transformations.
Michelle enjoying the balmy Essex weather
First up for inspection was Micaela’s hut, which Michelle described as ‘a little wendy house’. The colour choices were praised, but they felt that the design was bit safe and predictable. I tended to agree – it was perfectly fine, but for a programme like this there were no ‘wow’ moments.
Lynsey was next. Initially they loved the fresh and modern take on the ice cream theme, and praised her clever storage ideas. However, once they had mentioned one thing that they didn’t like (some shelving), the floodgates opened and they couldn’t stop – adding the trolley and the colour black to their list. Personally I liked it; although I would have loved to have seen the peg board painted in some ice cream colours rather than being left as bare wood.
Siobhan was next, and Sophie was in heaven. More surprisingly, so was Michelle – who usually favours a more restrained look. They both loved the ‘coherent vision’, with Michelle declaring it ‘verging on genius’.
Not sure I'd want this beach hut for a family holiday, but it's perfect for a girlie weekend
Off to the Hamptons (but not The Hamptons) and a look around Charlotte’s hut. Both judges were glad she had avoided the trap of painting it blue, but found almost everything else she had done ‘puzzling’. They didn’t like the scratched flowers, they thought the forest green colour was too dark, and also felt that she hadn’t quite pulled off the Jackson Pollock. Sophie felt it had ‘no soul, warmth or texture’.
Finally, off to the 1950s and Paul’s Diner. Prior to the judge’s visit, Paul stated that his head was pounding and he was feeling sick – he had no need for the nerves, as the judges felt it was fun and that he’d absolutely nailed it. Sophie particularly loved the lights made from LPs.
The judges' only criticism was with Paul's wall decoration
It may look like I'm picking on Paul here, but I'm not - similar close-ups of poor finishing were shown on some of the other huts. The judges didn't mention it, but I wasn't impressed AT ALL!
So Near, Sofa.....
Back to London and Michelle’s impossibly cool studio, for the judge’s verdict. The top two designers were spared the Sofa of Doom, and to absolutely no-one’s surprise, those two were Siobhan and Paul. Micaela, Lynsey and Charlotte were then subjected to a grilling by Michelle – who accused Lynsey of doing too much; Charlotte of using the wrong colours (see above); and Micaela of being too predictable.
Lynsey and Charlotte may have been forgiven for thinking that they were safe - for Michelle had issued Micaela with a Final Warning only two weeks previously - but Michelle must suffer from a poor memory as she seems to have completely forgotten her ultimatum. Instead it was Charlotte who was wished a bon voyage as she was cut loose to drift upon the tide (to a huge sigh of relief from the various painters and decorators she had worked with on previous weeks).
Lynsey and Micaela lived to fight another day - with Alan giving them a final piece of advice for the next task, urging them to 'be more Siobhan'! Will they both turn up next week in a pink wig and wearing glittery leopardskin? I cannot wait.