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Interior Design Masters S5/Episode 4: Swansea cafes

Interior Design Masters: Swansea Cafes.

And then there were six. 

Six aspiring designers competing for the series prize of designing a homeware collection for La Redoute.  Would this year’s slightly different prize mean that Michele would favour those with a good eye for colour, design, print and pattern over those with a more DIY craft ethic and a penchant for pastels?  After this episode it would appear that the answer is almost certainly no.

This week’s challenge was to redesign three cafes situated in and around Swansea.  Matt & Roisin were paired to make over Square Peg, a community inclusive and not-for-profit café with an owner who wanted to add a warm and homely feeling to what had hitherto been a fairly functional space.  Ben & Anthony were tasked with making over Y Shed, a café that mainly catered to hikers and lovers of the outdoors, whose owner wanted a ‘reclaimed/industrial feeling’; and Francesca and Domnall were given the challenge of redesigning Full of Graze, a café on the seafront at Mumbles whose owner wanted muted tones with either an Australian, Balinese or Scandinavian feel for her space.


Francesca's paint choice: Domnall not enthusiastic

Michele’s advice had been to get the broad strokes of the feel and function the owner requested, but to then add in touches of design that the client hadn’t known they wanted.  Each pair should work in a cohesive way: ‘Listen to the client, but just as importantly listen to each other’ she told them.   I’m sure I heard a klaxon sound at this point as the editors really wanted us to make sure we didn’t miss this important moment.  I wonder why?????

The three pairs were given two days, £3000, and a couple of tradespeople each to help achieve their vision, and to the soundtrack of Tom Jones they decamped to Wales to get started.

At this point I feel a need to get something off my chest.  Has anyone else noticed the very literal soundtrack this series?  I’ve not noticed it before, but last night during Ben & Anthony collecting stones for the entrance to their cafe we were treated to a blast of ‘Get Your Rocks Off’, and then during a particularly heavy downpour I definitely heard ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’.   All a bit Homes Under the Hammer if you ask me.


Ben & Anthony's completed scheme

Ben and Anthony, despite usually having very different design ideas, worked very well together from the start.  Ben wisely decided that the brief was something that suited Anthony’s style and so didn’t throw a tantrum and insist on building a film set or filling the space with Victoriana, and instead let Anthony clad the walls in metal, use rust-inspired paint, and contented himself with being in charge of the upholstery for the banquette seating.  Yes, banquette!  Usually a regular feature of Interior Design Masters, we have had to wait four weeks before hearing Alan get his not inconsiderable teeth into the word…..and just like buses, you wait for one and then there’s a rush.

For Matt & Roisin were banquette-ing too.  Their ‘homely’ brief included Matt’s signature artex on the walls to create texture, but his usual neutral inclination was tempered by Roisin’s bright patterned upholstery on the aforementioned banquette (that also contained some fiendishly clever storage).  Again, the pair worked well together, with Matt gifting Roisin a calming crystal to help curb her flapping tendencies.


Wonder where Francesca got the inspiration for her paint colour?

Was it all harmonious at Full of Graze?  Were Francesca and Domnall in full agreement and working in a mutually supportive manner?  Erm……not really.  Domnall didn’t really like the pink colour that Francesca chose for the café walls (neither did I if I’m honest – particularly when she painted over some natural stonework with her calomine-inspired emulsion).  Francesca didn’t really like the behind-bar shelving that Domnall had made out of old chairs as she hadn’t been consulted.  Domnall, sensing that Francesca was going to veto everything he ran by her first, had also produced some artwork for the walls without showing her and which she hated, whilst he in turn wasn’t entirely convinced by Francesca’s choice of cork for the banquette seating and the counter area.  Neither was Alan Carr (who was basically told by Francesca he was too old to understand); neither was almost everyone posting on Twitter; and neither was I.  ‘You’ve not been on the sofa yet, have you’ said Alan to Domnall, at which point the klaxon sounded again.


Francesca's banquette seating.  Too pale?

Domnall and Francesca had also sourced some old school chairs for their seating, which turned out to be too small and thus needed some ‘extenders’ attaching to each leg to bring them to the correct height (which took too long to attach so very few chairs were actually changed).  The extenders didn’t look sturdy enough for me (a large customer eating one too many grazing boards could have nasty consequences), and they would certainly leave horrible scratch marks on the floor.  Which of Domnall and Francesca had made this (primary) schoolboy error?  We never really got to the bottom of this, but hopefully someone has all the paperwork as THIS COULD BE IMPORTANT.


The infamous chair leg extenders

It wasn’t all plain sailing during the other transformations, although probably more ‘slightly choppy’ than full on Titanic.  Roisin’s tiles weren’t quite the colour she thought they were going to be; Ben’s tables were too tall and needed adjustments; Matt had to quickly learn to grout; Anthony’s metal cladding arrived stained; Roisin had to learn how to use a ruler (and a sewing machine); Anthony bought twice as much fabric as he needed…..and it rained.  It rained a lot. 

Guest judge Nisha Katona joined Michele in wet Wales for the judging.  Nisha explained that she was looking for a comfortable, homely place to eat and Michele explained that she had hoped that the designers would have sat in each of the chairs and at each of the tables in order to experience their space as a customer.  Anyone hear that klaxon again?


The judges liked these lights.  I did not.

First stop was Full of Graze.  The two days of disagreements between Francesca and Domnall must have rubbed off on Michele and Nisha, for they fell out immediately over the dark green colour that had been painted over the exterior entrance (Michele liking it; Nisha of the opposite opinion).  The mood lightened once they were inside, with both of them liking the pink walls, the cork cushions and the lighting (all of which I hated); both really liking Domnall’s artwork on the walls and tables, and both of them not impressed with the cork bar area.  The best bit though was when they sat down at one of the tables.


At Anthony and Ben’s Y Shed, both judges were smiling and happy with the transformation.  They liked the outside pergola entrance, the rustic water station, the use of real plants, and the industrial chic wall cladding (the phrase ‘absolute design genius’ was used at one point).  The fact that the seats were the right height for the tables was also a plus.


The judges loved Matt & Roisin's homely space

Finally to Square Peg, and once again both judges were smiling.  They liked the warm orange exterior, the placing of the tiles, the tin pots of herbs on the tables, and the banquette covered in a slightly more practical patterned fabric than they had seen at Full of Graze.  Both judges felt that they could see that this was a team that had both contributed ideas and then seamlessly sewn them together (much as Roisin had managed on her maiden sewing machine voyage).

Unusually the owners of the cafes were also given time to voice their feedback.  Both Y Shed and Square Peg’s owners were bowled over by their café transformations (and a nose on their social media would bear that out; they haven’t changed a thing).  Full of Graze’s owner was also pleased, but more in a Kelly Hoppen School of Muted Enthusiasm kind of way – ‘it’s not what I would have chosen but I quite like it’ was her reaction. To be fair, she has also not changed much since the filming – swapping the chairs (presumably for something higher) seems to have been the only obvious change.

Back to IDM HQ, and Michele praised all the designers, saying that they had produced ‘superbly cohesive cafes’ (anyone playing the Interior Design Masters drinking game would have needed to pop out to the off licence for more supplies by this point).  Standout Space was awarded to Matt & Roisin’s ‘joyous, warm, friendly space’, with Ben & Anthony also going through to next week due to having ‘brought rurality inside’.  Francesca and Anthony were off to sit on the Sofa of Doom.



The next few minutes of the programme were exceedingly uncomfortable.  After Michele had asked if the two felt that they had worked well together, the gloves were off.  It boiled down to Chairgate.  Who had decided to order chairs that were obviously too low?  Each blamed the other, with neither of them accepting it was their fault - at one point Domnall offered to show Michele WhatsApp proof of their conversation.  As for the banquettes, Francesca accepted full blame for the mis-measuring, and rather than this sealing her fate it actually saved her.  Michele seemed to be impressed with Francesca’s honesty and so sent home Domnall on the basis that he refused to accept any blame for the errors.  Nothing to do with the pink walls, straggly lights, badly fitting cushion covers and horrible cork – Domnall’s crime was not to admit to something that we never really established was his fault.

Are you one of the (very) few that agreed with Michele?  Do you think the worst designer has been eliminated?  Has La Redoute been robbed of a potentially good homeware designer?  Feel free to vent below or on our social media pages!







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