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Interior Design Masters ~ S5/Episode 1 ~ Un-convent-ional Nuns' Cells


This year's crop

It’s back!  Alan Carr and Michele Ogundehin returned to our screens to introduce us to this year’s collection of aspiring designers, who didn’t disappoint those of us who were hoping for another bunch of weirdly-dressed arty types full of misplaced confidence.

Trying to get to grips with ten new faces in the first episode is always difficult, so to help here are my notes from last night’s viewing:

Anthony: musical theatre alumni who thought a ‘nun smoking a fag’ poster was a good idea.

Ash: former lawyer (there’s nearly always a ‘former lawyer’) turned interiors therapist who likes to use African colours.  I don’t know what an interiors therapist is either.

Ben: Pavarotti in a pinny.

Domnall: a vegan who has IBS.  Not sure why this is relevant, but he felt compelled to mention it so I feel compelled to pass it on.

Francesca: Andy Pandy.

Hannah:  Sara Cox overdosing on eyeliner.

Jess: Upholstery specialist (there’s always an ‘upholstery specialist’) who has a fifth share in Margate’s best gay bar.

Matt:  Bathroom designer/texture specialist that had Twitter all a-flutter.

Roisin: Has GIVEN UP HER JOB to do this.  Not that she mentions it very often.

Sheree: Wasn’t really that bothered and presumably just applied in order to meet Alan Carr.

There were a few tweaks to the formula this time round (possibly due to budgetary restraints).   Michele’s swanky Brighton studio has been replaced by a set in a non-specific location (albeit with rather nice wallpaper); Alan no longer has to hire boats/ice cream vans/vintage cars to transport him around; and the rather casual ‘I liked your room best so you are the first to go through to next week’ has been re-named the ‘Standout Space’ weekly award. 

The prize this year is different, too.  Presumably because the BBC couldn’t find a hotel, bar or shop that was prepared to allow the winner to run amok in their precious business, La Redoute have instead offered the prize of designing a range of homeware for them to sell.  I’m not convinced that whoever turns out to be the best at interior design will necessarily be the best at designing cushions and lampshades – wouldn’t that be the same as asking the winner of Bake Off to design a whisk and some oven gloves?

This week, we were transported to Norfolk, where a former convent has been taken over by a charity which works with the homeless.  They already run several schemes from the building – including a large charity shop – but want to expand into the Bed & Breakfast market by converting the former Nun’s cells into small single rooms.  With £1000 to spend, the use of a team of decorators and builders, and their choice of one item each from the charity shop to include in their scheme, each contestant was asked to show Michele their ‘signature style’ without losing sight of the client’s needs.  Would they all take this on board and avoid any bad habits?  (Look away now if you don't like nun puns).

Like buses, you can wait an age for a Sound of Music themed room and then two turn up at once.  Domnall and Sheree both took inspiration from the film, with Sheree choosing her colour scheme from the Austrian mountains – and didn’t appear to have made any other plans at all, other than painting abstract splodges on a pair of cream curtains that probably wouldn’t survive their first wash.  Domnall decided to paint Julie Andrews on the wall, along with a quote from the film (presumably not the Nazi invasion part).  He also added a commode – something to do with either his veganism or IBS apparently. 

Julie Andrews climbing every mountain.  Not sure about the quality of the paintwork, but it may be that it hadn't finished drying?

Jess – surprise, surprise – decided to upholster both the wall and her furniture, and was always seen wielding a staple gun.  Ash included her signature African colours, and also had the tricky job of painting a vertical blue stripe on walls that weren’t entirely vertical. 

It turns out that Roisin’s signature style is ‘migraine inducing’ as she proceeded to cover every surface in a riot of pattern and colour.  I liked individual elements of her room, but as a whole I’m not sure I’d find it a very relaxing place to stay: the phrase ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ has never been more apt.

Roisin threw everything at her room (kitchen sink not pictured)

Ben decided to turn his room into a Victorian railway carriage – he’s a historicist apparently – but what at first looked like a dirty protest as he smeared dark brown paint all over the walls actually turned out to be a triumph as far as the judges were concerned.

Matt turns out to be a very different designer from almost everyone else, in that he didn’t immediately reach for ‘’ upon being given the brief.  Instead he used a subtle palette of colours with a range of textures for his room which turned out to be the firm favourite with the fans posting on social media during the programme – although comments such as ‘he can plaster my interior walls any time’ might not necessarily relate to his design talent.

Anthony was another who decided to reference the former use of the building.  Did he do this by adding a subtle crucifix motif?  A photo of Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act on a shelf?  No…..instead he stuck a large poster of a Nun smoking a cigarette on the outside of the wardrobe door (and didn’t even stick it on very well).  Personally, I think it was surplice to requirements and a veil should have been drawn over the idea.

The controversial poster

Hannah is one of the few competitors who is already working as an interior designer.  Not that this would have been apparent to viewers, as she was the one who failed to finish her brightly coloured geometric design before the deadline.  Would Michele forgive her for this novice error?

This leaves Francesca.  How do we solve a problem like Francesca?  Dressed like Andy Pandy meets Zippo, the song ‘I Have Confidence’ from TSOM could have been written for her.  She loves pattern and colour, but on this evidence is not yet proficient at putting the two together – painting all the walls in calamine pink and then furnishing it with nursery-type furniture left me wondering if her signature style was ‘gaudy doll’s house’.  As one wag on Twitter put it:  she should be wary of dressing as a clown, as those are big shoes to fill.

Calamine, germolene or band aid?

Guest Judge Abigail Ahern joined Michele for the judging, and despite being unable to remove her hands from her pockets for most of the time still enthused about many of the finished rooms.  Michele and Abigail were virtually in full agreement as to which schemes worked and which didn’t (which is a shame as I like it when Michele disagrees with – and then ultimately overrides – her fellow judges).  They loved Roisin’s flowers, Matt’s textures, Ash’s Kenyan colours, and Domnall’s Julie Andrews homage….but were blown away by Ben’s Victorian railway carriage and awarded him the first Standout Space award.  It didn’t appear that there was a tangible prize awarded to him, which was a pity as if it had been Bake Off he would have got another pinny for his collection.

Not even Matt's textured oasis could persuade Abigail to take her hands from her pockets

Anthony got a lecture from Michele regarding his nun smoking a fag poster, telling him that it wasn’t appropriate considering the building had been gifted by the nuns to the charity.  Upon checking with the charity, I discovered that they had removed the offending poster within minutes of the crew leaving the building.  However, despite the poster not being one of Michele’s favourite things, Anthony lived to paint another day.

Eschewing her usual statement sleeve, Michele instead opted to channel her inner Princess of Wales with a coat/dress ensemble.

The first occupants of this season’s Sofa of Doom were Hannah (for not finishing); Francesca (for the calamine room); and Sheree (for not really being arsed).  Viewers were divided as to who should be sent home: Hannah made a rookie error for someone already working in the field of design, Sheree hadn’t planned enough but had she got potential?, and Francesca’s over confidence just got on everyone’s nerves.  Sadly for Sheree, Michele decided that she should leave the competition and so we bade her a ‘so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye’.

The Sofa of Doom

Do you agree with Michele's decision?  Let me know in the comments!


  • Hi Claire – thank you! I thought the same about the intro/judging being filmed at the same time, but one of the competitors insisted on Twitter that they were filmed at different times but ‘we were told to wear the same clothes’. Can’t for the life of me think of any reason why that would be a good idea, so not entirely certain I believe them. Not sure I have any favourites yet (I like Ben but think it wouldn’t take much for him to overdo it and self combust in an explosion of Victoriana), and I totally agree re Andy Pandy: don’t like her, don’t want her to win….. but also don’t want her to leave!

  • Mel, you have such a knack for unpacking my swirling thoughts and expressing them. I am quite disconcerted by the fact that they film the opening introduction with the explanation of the first task and then post-task comments and judging at the same time. They are all dressed the same. I’m also surprised by so many horrendous colour choices. I’m sure they are just trying to wind me up. Anyway, after 1 epsiode, historicist in a pinny is my favourite and coked-up Andy Pandy is my least favourite. I’m glad she’s still in for now as I do enjoy having one that I love to hate.

    Claire Hume

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