We were off to the Surrey countryside this week, with the nine remaining contestants given the task of making a bedroom each at the swish Wootton House Hotel. Head Judge Michelle Ogundehin's brief was that each room was to combine the designer’s ‘signature style’ with a touch of ‘eccentric Britishness’. Michelle (rocking yet another pair of statement sleeves – that woman obviously never has to slip a cardigan over her voluminous cuffs) added a caveat: ‘no cliches – no union jacks – no British bulldogs’.
Alan arrived driving a Morris Minor
Despite some designers having larger rooms than others, the budget was the same for all: £1500, two days, and the services of various decorators, carpenters, etc to help them realise their vision.
Peter was the first to be quizzed on his design – he’d gone for an ‘English country garden with a Romanesque touch’, which mostly meant floral prints, two large pillars sourced from a salvage yard in Whitley Bay, pink walls, and the creation of a ‘library’ on the mezzanine area above the bathroom. He also seemed to have brought with him a vast array of ‘eccentric’ props to use in his room.
Luxe-Upcycler Abi was featured next (sporting feathery cuffs, another one with a cardi-free wardrobe), who described her vision of ‘eccentric Britishness’ as lots and lots (and then lots more) of wisteria. She had spent so much time ordering every garland of faux wisteria available on Ebay that she had neglected to double check the measurements of her bed…..leading to a minor bout of wisteria hysteria as she realised her headboard and bedside tables would now longer fit.
Abi spray painted a couple of china dogs and turned them into bedside lamps
UK declares a faux wisteria shortage
Molly had decided to Take On Board Michele’s advice from last week, and to Do More Stuff. To Molly, this meant lots and lots of panelling, and the creation of a large padded headboard.
This led us to Rochelle. Poor Rochelle. Already suffering from a lack of self confidence, Rochelle had come up with a bold faux window design, and a feature wall behind the bed…..only to discover that the wall that was crucial to her plans was covered in mould and needed to be cleaned before it could be painted. Not sure the posh hotel was keen on that particular type of publicity – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering whether merely cleaning the wall would be enough to stop the mould returning. This put the already anxious Rochelle way behind schedule, and I’m not sure she ever really recovered.
One Twitter user commented 'I want to give Rochelle a GREAT BIG HUG'
Jolly Banjo had once again created an imaginary client for his small twin room: a drunk botanist, who had just returned from Polynesia and wanted a room in which to write. And drink. His laid back approach has endeared him to many of the show’s viewers, and I think Rochelle would do well to Be More Banjo.
Dean took the brief of ‘signature style’ and ‘eccentric Britishness’ to mean he had a green light to paint his room in his beloved black, figuring that painting a room in such a colour was eccentric enough. He paired this with lots of real indoor plants, and what shouldn’t have worked actually looked rather fabulous when he’d finished. I’m wondering if he has played the ‘paint it black’ card a little early – will he get away with doing it again?
Fran blew a third of her budget on some very posh floral wallpaper, which meant that she had to channel her inner Kirstie Allsopp and hand make almost everything else in the room. I haven’t seen anyone attaching papier mache to a large balloon since John Noakes was on Blue Peter, but at least we were spared a table lamp made from a pair of Val’s old knickers.
Sofa of Doom survivor Amy was just pleased to be spared having to collaborate with Smug Paul, and had celebrated by designing a gorgeous bespoke wallpaper, ageing mirror tiles to make a headboard, and layering colours and patterns in her room.
Amy's bespoke wallpaper featured the name of the original owner of the house
The aforementioned Smug Paul also went for mixing textures and patterns, with a striped ceiling, floral wallpaper, and lots of ‘renaissance’ style pieces. If Rochelle was at the back of the queue when confidence was being given out, then Paul was at the front and stealing seconds….he declared to the camera that ‘If you’re looking for a wow factor, then I’ve just given it to you baby!’
Alan toured all the rooms, providing moral support to those that needed it, and cracking jokes to those that didn’t. I’m really warming to him as host. Alan’s main reservation seemed to be that Dean’s black scheme didn’t consider the needs of the hotel guests. Personally I was more concerned with the needs of the housekeeping staff, who not only would have to water all of Dean’s plants but also dust Peter’s extensive collection of knick-knacks and Abi’s forest of faux foliage.
And so to the judging. Guest Judge this week was Guy Oliver: hotel designer extraordinaire, and extensive user of a hotel gym judging by the way he had squeezed himself into his polo neck.
Guest Judge Guy Oliver - he designs for Claridges, you know!
Guy and Michelle toured the rooms, declaring the finish on Molly’s room to be a little lacking, Fran’s papier mache lampshade to be a triumph, Abi’s wisteria to be TOO MUCH, and Dean’s dark room to feel both contemporary and disciplined. They loved it. Guy felt that Dean had ‘exceeded the brief’, which is the Interior Design Challenge equivalent of a Hollywood Handshake.
A small selection of the wisteria that Abi had hung in her room. She felt the idea was 'genius', but Michelle disagreed.
Amy’s room was next, where the judges felt that although they loved the wallpaper, the design didn’t tell a ‘cohesive story’…..followed by Peter’s room which was full of ‘mad crazy things’ and an ‘assault on the senses’. Paul’s room was dismissed as a ‘display of good taste’, but showed ‘little personality’. Poor Rochelle was next, with both Michelle and Guy feeling ‘underwhelmed’. They didn’t like the faux window, and felt there were not enough theatrics in the room (they should have been around during Mouldgate). Finally Banjo’s room brought smiles to both judges, who described it as ‘joyful’ and ‘beautifully conceived’.
And so to Interiors HQ in Brighton, where Alan gave Dean and Banjo the good news that their rooms were the two favourites of the judges, and that they would be safe. Fran, Molly, Paul and Amy were also told that they would live to fight another day, leaving Peter, Abi and Rochelle to face the Sofa of Doom. Rochelle – predictably – said that she had been expecting to be in the bottom three, but both Peter and Abi seemed surprised.
Peter’s surprise swiftly evaporated with Michelle’s opening gambit of ‘What were you thinking?!!’, when it became clear that his crime of filling his room with too many clichés was considered worse than Abi’s faux foliage and Rochelle’s faux window. The doorknob headboard was also a major consideration (although some wag on Twitter commented ‘it’s ugly, but at least you’ve got something to hang on to'). It was his time to leave……do you agree? His room was judged the best one last week: did the right man leave the process?
Peter's doorknob headboard
Despite Rochelle’s underwhelming room, I felt that it would have been very unfair for her to have been eliminated on a week in which she had to contend with a mouldy wall. I also have a feeling that Michelle is hoping that Rochelle will go on A Journey.
Update: I’ve checked the hotel website and at the very least the rooms designed by Amy, Dean and Paul are all available to book if you fancy a weekend break?