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Interior Design Masters: S5/Episode 5 ~ Sheffield Rental Flats

Interior Design Masters: S5/Episode 5 ~ Rental Apartments


As the five remaining aspiring designers gathered in what looks like some sort of design bunker, two thoughts immediately popped into my head.  Firstly Michelle’s statement sleeve is back!!  How I have missed her trademark fluted cuffs (not a sentence I think I’ve ever typed before).  Secondly - and this may possibly be due to Ben’s choice of outfit – is anyone else excited about the recently announced sequel to Beetlejuice?  Just me, then.


This week’s challenge was to design five show flats in a new development in the city of Sheffield.  Each one-bedroom flat has been built for the rental market and is aimed at ‘young professionals’.  Michelle hoped that each designer would produce something that would inspire potential tenants to make their own mark on their new flats……the twist being that each flat must be able to easily be returned to the original neutral grey box upon the end of the tenancy.  Also included in the brief was to add a work from home space in each apartment.

I’ve never lived in a flat like this, but my daughter rented one almost identical to the Sheffield flats when she was studying in Manchester recently.  Not only were there strict rules about not being able to drill into the walls, change the flooring etc, tenants must also return the original furniture or lose their deposit.  Even putting up a picture required a Command strip and a prayer that when you took it down a lump of paint didn’t come with it.   I don’t think it is too far-fetched to believe that these Sheffield flats had similar rules imposed by their landlords – something any sane tv viewer would bear in mind, but something that didn’t seem to occur to the judges.


Obligatory 'before' shot

Four of the five designers opted to completely remove the furniture supplied by the landlords – which assumes that they had either the means to pay for its storage, or an accommodating friend or parent who didn’t mind their garage being full of tables, chairs and a sofa.  Anthony – who told us that he’d spent some time lurking in Canary Wharf interviewing young professionals about what they did and didn’t want in a flat – was the only designer who decided to work with the existing furniture and spend the bulk of his £2000 budget elsewhere.


Francesca – who definitely heard the ‘young’ but not necessarily the ‘professional’ part of the brief decided to replace all the furniture to match her ‘Matisse meets Blue Peter’ theme.  She brought in new chairs, a new sofa, and a huge green desk and work station.  She covered the kitchen cupboards in a fake wood vinyl wrap; made a padded headboard from curtains she had bought from a charity shop; and painted wavy lines over the walls in homage to Matisse’s signature style.  She presumably then ran out of money, as her accessories included a mobile made of painted cardboard shapes fashioned from an IKEA box, lampshades with painted colourful shapes worthy of a toddler group art session,  and a weird wall hanging that needed a good iron.  Still, Francesca liked it and that seems to be all that matters.


Imagine being shown around a show flat with lighting like this and being told the rent is going to be £1500 a month..... 

Matt went for a contemporary scheme inspired by Sheffield’s industrial past.  Plus he’d always wanted to do a terracotta kitchen.  He also went for vinyl wraps on the kitchen doors, lots of lighting, and a HUGE padded headboard that took up a large part of the corner of the bedroom.   For some obscure reason he also chose to hide the doorless wardrobe with a large freestanding bamboo screen that would get on a tenant’s nerves in approximately five minutes.


Roisin wanted to add colour to her apartment, which it is safe to say she achieved by using bright green and yellow on the walls and gold in the form of a tiled breakfast bar which could double up as the working from home space.  Having been told to adopt a ‘less is more’ approach by Michelle, Roisin then inexplicably added two more tables to her room (one a flip down, the other a fold out).  The amount of workspace these created would be of more use in a sewing factory than room for the simple laptop I think Michelle intended.


Ben decided to channel his inner Bauhaus for his scheme.  Not the 1980s band of the same name (which would have resulted in a monochromatic goth theme), but the mid-century movement that loved blocks of colour.  Namely blue, yellow and red.  Blue for the entrance hall; yellow for the lounge/diner; and A VERY BRIGHT red on not only the walls but also the ceiling in the bedroom.  Ben also changed all the furniture, adding a 1930s style desk to create a working space but leaving the kitchen doors apart from some dodgy looking tape around the edge of each door to ‘give the impression of a chrome border’.  Not the impression I got, which was more ‘that will peel off after the kettle has boiled a few times’.  Ben was the only designer to move the position of the bed, which enabled him to add a walk in closet area to his redroom (see what I did there?), which Michelle who I would guess has an awful lot of shoes and handbags liked very much.


Anthony took the most practical approach, and kept all the furniture and some of the original grey wall paint and kitchen cupboard doors.  He added cladding in some areas, used the window to make a stand-alone desk (which looked great but wasn’t very big), added tiling to the floor, used small amounts of navy blue paint, and made a copper splashback to fit over the existing kitchen tiles using velcro.  In the bedroom he made a new headboard and some wall art from wooden slats.  Of all the apartments, Anthony’s would be by far the easiest to put back to the way it was at the beginning of a tenancy – but that didn’t mean that his changes didn’t make an impact.  Of all the apartments, this was my favourite.


Alan’s funny skits and sketches don’t usually raise much of a smile here at Snowbunting Towers, but special mention must be made this week for the Full Monty reference and routine – for which he dragged in some of the show’s resident decorators and carpenters.  A definite chortle from me for that one.  This was followed by Alan interviewing Matt and using the line ‘You’ve never been on the sofa, have you?’.  KLAXON!!!


Guest Judge Shane Brady - who works mostly designing luxury hospitality spaces in posh hotels - joined Michelle this week to give his opinion (which is then mostly ignored if previous weeks are anything to go by).

Anthony’s flat had the first visit, with both judges loving that he had adapted the furniture that was already there but cleverly improved the space by adding in a few other colours and accessories.  They loved the cladding, the work from home area and the bedroom too.  I think that Anthony is safe and the smoking nun from Episode 1 has been forgiven and forgotten.


As Michelle walked into Francesca’s flat she exclaimed over the choice of deep blue for the entrance hall.  ‘Do you love it or loathe it?’ asked Shane, already knowing the answer.  The judges didn’t like the wood panelling on the cupboard doors, thought the desk took up too much room, there were too many curves, and the kitchen/lounge/diner looked more like something from a school nursery than a professional’s apartment.  They liked the bedroom better and for some reason didn’t comment on the dodgy mobiles, wall art or hand painted lampshades (unless the sight of them made their language unbroadcastable).

Francesca's apartment (yes, that is a wall hanging and not a laundry rack)

In Matt’s flat the judges liked his terracotta kitchen and thought the space had been well zoned….but with too much furniture.  Matt’s statement large headboard got mixed reviews: they liked it but thought that it was too big to be able to be taken down and used again in a new home.  They also Didn’t Like The Screen.

I think it is fair to say that the judges liked Ben’s flat more than I did.  They liked that some of the original grey paintwork had been left, and Shane liked the kitchen cupboard taped borders (Michelle didn’t).  They were more in agreement in the bedroom in that neither of them liked the red paint, thinking it ‘not calm’.

Roisin’s apartment was the last to be judged.  The gold tiled breakfast bar was a big hit, but otherwise there were mixed reviews.  Both felt that there was too much furniture, too many tables, and that the hours that Roisin had spent glueing wooden balls to the edges of all her artwork was completely unnecessary.  The bedroom fared better, with Michelle pointing out that Roisin had come up with ‘simple ideas that any renter could do’.

Back to the Design Bunker for the verdict.  To no-one’s surprise, Anthony was awarded Standout Space (making him now the firm favourite?), but to lots of people’s surprise Ben came in second and was spared the Sofa of Doom.  Not sure I agreed with that, but maybe making space for Michelle’s handbags swung it for him.

Matt, Francesca and Roisin were therefore on this week’s Sofa of Doom.  Michelle told both Matt and Roisin that their flats had too much in them and therefore both felt cluttered.  Causing a collective swoon in Twitter, Michelle asked them ‘why do you think you were so much more successful in the bedroom?’ – something many of Matt’s fans felt able to answer on his behalf.  Francesca, it was felt, had slightly(?) missed the brief and forgotten that she was designing for a young professional and not a set for a CBeebies show – at which point Francesca admitted that she had gone for things that she loved (oddly including the word ‘slime’ in her list).   As Zebedee might have said on the Magic Roundabout (a programme I am sure Francesca also loves) it was time for bed and Francesca was eliminated from the process.


Did the right designer go home?  I suspect I know the answer to that……but I’d be keen to know who you think will win?  Early on I thought it would be Matt, but now I think it is more likely to be Anthony… week’s shops task might give us a better idea.

1 comment

  • Francesca’s curtains! I have some identical in my new house and am desperately looking for two more sets to match. So annoying!


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