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Interior Design Masters S5/Episode 6: East Grinstead Shops

Interior Design Masters S5/Ep 6: Shops Week

I’m not entirely sure that ‘Quarter Finals Week’ will catch on (or is even correct), but as that’s what the BBC are billing this week’s episode we’ll grudgingly go with it. 

Quarter Finals Week sees the last four remaining would-be designers divided into pairs to breathe new life into two shops in East Grinstead’s High St.  Bookies favourite Anthony joined floral-mad Roisin to re-vamp a two storey ladies dress and accessories shop; with Twitter favourite Matt and beret-clad Ben re-designing a three story crystal and fossil shop next door.  Both shops were in listed buildings, meaning that beams and original features could not be touched, with Matt and Ben having the additional limitation of not being able to do much to the original lime and plaster walls.  Outside signage also came with precise stipulations – all wording had to be white on a black background.


Exteriors of both shops

Anthony and Roisin met with the owner of Twelve Middle Row to discuss the brief, and discovered that the owner needed a prominent display for her best selling handbags, wanted to move the till from a cramped spot under the stairs, needed privacy in the upstairs changing room, and also needed additional changing space if possible.  Style-wise, she hankered for an industrial style (a challenge considering the building’s limitations) and wanted a better window display.


Twelve Middle Row 'before' photo

With the ‘you haven’t been on the sofa yet, have you?’ klaxon blaring metaphorically in the background, Anthony and Roisin came up with a plan.  To the surprise of absolutely no-one they both chose (or ‘landed on’ as they kept referring to it) green as the main colour for their transformation.  Anthony ‘drenched’ the downstairs space in a heavy dark green, moved the till, came up with new display cabinets requiring a huge amount of carpentry, and built rectangular plinths to showcase handbags in the window.  Meanwhile Roisin chose a very un-Roisin wallpaper for the upstairs room, created a second changing room, introduced some chairs for tired companions to sit on whilst the shoppers tried on umpteen frocks, and spoilt the view of East Grinstead’s peeping toms by covering the large changing room window with an adhesive screen.


The Old & Curious 'before' shot

Matt and Ben had a different brief from their client, who sold a strange mixture of crystals, fossils, ornamental insects, skulls, plants for terrariums, together with the odd bit of sculpture and taxidermy.  The Old & Curious (the shop name, not Ben and Matt) asked to make the shop feel less crowded, improve the lighting, and provide something for visiting children.


Carving the Matt-erhorn (see what I did there?)

Matt took responsibility for the ground floor, and ‘wanting to push myself’ came up with making two large polystyrene moss-covered mountains for the window display and a large freestanding table with yet another moss mountain surrounded by sand for children to look at the crystals through a magnifying glass.   Definitely different, but practical?  Probably not -  I suspect the floors would be covered in sand most of the time, but as Head Judge Michelle Ogundehin and Guest Judge Mary Portas probably have people to sweep their sand up for them it wasn’t mentioned during judging.


Ben's UV lighting top room

Ben was in heaven (well the top two floors of the shop anyway) as this was his Big Chance to showcase his love of Victoriana in the way the various curiosities were displayed for customers.  On the top floor, Ben also had the Big Idea of installing some UV lighting that would enable the crystals and rocks to glow in the dark. 


Roisin's wallpaper goes up

Much of the episode consisted of shots of Roisin’s decorators putting up copious amounts of wallpaper, usually followed by Roisin wondering if her choice was wise.  It probably didn’t help when host Alan described it as looking water damaged.

Meanwhile the new signage went up outside (to be honest I’m not entirely convinced that the dress shop signage was a massive improvement on the original), Matt continued to chip away at his polystyrene mountains, Ben made jokes about things he’d got up to in back alleys, Anthony worried he wouldn’t finish in time, and the music department treated us to background bursts of the Pet Shop Boys song  ‘Shopping’, Foals ‘Mountain at my Gates’, and at one point the theme tune from Are You Being Served?  Yes, really.

More moss than Stirling and Kate combined

Ben worried that he was using spider lights for the third time this series, and also learned the hard way that it is wise to listen to the experienced carpenters when it comes to ambitious till designs and leaving room for lighting cabling.  On a similar subject, Anthony worried that removing some of the current display racking had unearthed some unsightly cabling of his own in the dress shop – again I thought this looked terrible, but the judges didn’t comment.  I’m worried I’m getting too picky.  Roisin, meanwhile, was still worrying about her wallpaper.

Lighting was taking a third of Matt & Ben’s £3500 budget, which meant that Matt’s display mountains had to be done on the cheap.  Using polystyrene and glueing dried moss saved a huge amount of money, but took a huge amount of time: virtually every shot of Matt showed him painstakingly glueing greenery.  Would this backfire?  What would the judges think of his unusual approach to display?


Anthony likes green paint

With Roisin’s wallpapering finally finished, Anthony could get the decorators cracking on the deep green paintwork he’d ‘landed’ on.  It’s no good, I still can’t type that without the use of inverted commas.  Would the judges love the green?  Or maybe they would prefer the pink till area he had created?  With time ticking by and Anthony still furiously applying emulsion, I began to worry less about the colour and more about the possibility of Michelle and Mary leaving East Grinstead covered with wet paint.

Before judging the two shops, Michelle and Mary spoke about what they were looking for.  Mary wanted the entrance to create a vibe that enticed customers into the store, while Michelle was more concerned as to whether the designers had managed to hit the brief.


Twelve Middle Row after Anthony's paint job

Twelve Middle Row was the first for inspection, with both Mary and Michelle giving a definite thumbs down for Anthony’s green paint.  Mary felt it made the window look a bit dark (and she HATED the plethora of plinths), with Michelle feeling that her energy had been knocked down by the shade chosen.  They both, however, liked the new till area, the handbag display, and – much to the relief of us all – Roisin’s wallpaper.  Roisin’s upstairs space garnered much praise all round, with both feeling that the new fitting rooms were a triumph.  I began to fear for Anthony – only Matt’s mountains could save him now, I fear.


Roisin's upstairs space

Oh – and can we take a moment to think about Mary’s footwear?


The Old & Curious transformation

The Old and Curious was next for a visit, with both judges loving Matt’s mossy mountainous window display.  They also loved the sandy mountain table in the centre of the ground floor and thought it great fun.  Sadly the spider lights were deemed ‘messy’, and Mary would have preferred more prominent pricing and information as to each crystal.  Upstairs they were in raptures over Ben’s design and displays – with Mary declaring it very classy:  ‘a shop worthy of Paris’.  They were less enthusiastic about the UV lighting display, thinking it a fun idea that didn’t really work.



Both shop owners were shown the finished makeovers, and both seemed to love them…..and my usual snoop around their social media reveals that Twelve Middle Row has kept the green (but ditched the plinths), and The Old and Curious has kept the mountains in the window but ditched the sandy table.


Back to Interior Design Masters HQ, with Michelle awarding Standout Space to Ben & Matt’s crystal shop, leaving the Sofa of Doom to be occupied by regular sofa-sitter Roisin and first-timer Anthony.  With both Mary and Michelle much preferring Roisin’s upstairs room to Anthony’s green downstairs, Michelle was left with a dilemma.  Should she send home Anthony for a first offence, or send home Roisin despite liking her design more?  With a tear in her eye, Michelle made the difficult decision to send Anthony home, to the surprise and dismay of his legions of fans.  A big surprise?  Does this leave the field wide open?  Who do you think will now claim the prize?  Let us know in the comments or on social media; we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Footnote: Anthony posted a 'gutted to be leaving but thanks for an incredible experience' type of post on Instagram following transmission of the episode.....but added this interesting postscript: "But the story doesn’t end here.. I was incredibly overwhelmed with the amazing feedback and support shown by the incredible guest judge @maryportasofficial She really made a bitter pill easier to swallow by gracing me with her time and, after seeing my previous designs, offered me the opportunity to work in her London office!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 Couldn’t quite believe it 😃"

1 comment

  • Oo I wonder if there were Portas machinations at work re Anthony – get rid so she could snaffle him before he won and became harder/more expensive to lure 🤔 Agree re sand – v lovely idea but it IS a shop rather than the local Children’s Centre, which it could easily become with the exciting sand table. Also lolz re M&M prob never having to sweep up sand! Brilliant recap as ever 👏

    Nicky Briggs

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