The nine remaining aspiring interior designers were this week tasked with tempting those of us who have been working from home for the past year back to our city workplaces (or as judge Michelle Ogundehin put it: “seduce us back to the office”). The challenge was to re-vamp three open plan offices in a mid-century (aka ‘concrete 1970s’) office block in Hammersmith – with their (almost certainly fictitious) clients being a tech company, a media company, and a sustainable beauty brand.
The nine were split into three teams, with each team asked to split the office space into three zones: work, meeting, and breakout/relaxing. How each team split the space so that Jim from accounts wasn’t distracted from his spreadsheets by Greg playing darts whilst Tamsin and Hugo met with important potential clients was deemed vital to the success of the project.
Amy's plywood stadium seating (complete with teeny tiny cushions)
Jon, Lynsey and Amy’s planning meeting for their media company scheme mostly consisted of the far-too-nice Lynsey and Jon biting their tongues as Amy excitedly told them of her plan to build plywood tiered seating and a couple of swings in her ‘breakout’ area. Amy does mention her children on a fairly regular basis, and I can’t help but wonder if she had come up with her plan whilst keeping half an eye on them at an indoor adventure playground – should budget have allowed, I’m sure she would have also included a slide and a soft play area. Jon and Lynsey let her get on with it, gambling that if their team ended up on the Sofa of Doom then surely Amy would cop most of the flak. Amy described her vision of ‘Wembley Stadium meets the Colosseum’ to the bemused builders – but something may have got lost in translation as what she ended up with looked more like a giant plywood sauna.
Charlotte's mural and meeting area
Micaela, Peter, and ‘Lazy’ Charlotte were allocated the sustainable beauty business brief, with Peter – who admitted he had never worked in an office – coming up with a table tennis table/standing desk/meeting table combo that was probably discarded by Ikea several years ago as ‘too bonkers by half’. Micaela did venture the opinion that trying hold a meeting to the soundtrack of enthusiastic ping pong might not be entirely desirable – but Peter has never failed an examination, so holds no truck with the concept of self doubt. Charlotte detached herself from her team and spent the time painting an (admittedly rather good) mural over the wall and ceiling of her section of the office. I nearly typed ‘happily painting’ there, but as Charlotte never smiles it’s not altogether obvious if she’s enjoying herself or not.
Siobhan's meeting area
The final team were Barbara, Paul and Siobhan. Actually I’m not sure that the word ‘team’ applied in this instance as Barbara (‘my husband would say I’m a control freak’) took charge entirely on the basis that she had purchased a 3D planning programme for her laptop. Every suggestion had to be run past the laptop, with even placid Siobhan gently teasing her about her obsession. At least I think it was Siobhan – I suspect that ‘Siobhan’ is Scarlett Moffatt in disguise; the tv work perhaps drying up and her application for the Masked Singer having been rejected. I do have to admit that Barbara’s tactic worked – she may have acted at times like Donald Trump in a boiler suit and lipstick, but not wasting time with arguments or discussion meant that their team accomplished a huge amount in the time available.
Paul used a huge amount of artificial foliage above his meeting table - I suspect the office cleaners would absolutely love this.
Alan Carr has by now settled into his ‘supportive but with a side of bitch’ presenting persona, informing Micaela that one of her furniture pieces looked ‘just like something from my nan’s house’ and hoping that her area wasn’t going to look like an old people’s home. He also commented on Jon’s love of shorts (admittedly it’s hard to take someone seriously saying ‘it’s all about bold and sophistication’ when they are wearing sports shorts and showing a lot of tattooed leg), and expressed what we are all feeling about Amy’s giant seating area.
Michelle protests about being kept in after school
And so to the judging. Uncreasable Michelle was joined by well-known designer Linda Baronkay (no, me neither), to discuss the results of the designer’s endeavours. Micaela’s work for Team Beauty was the first to be discussed, and her worries of a comparison to an old people’s home turned out to be unfounded – instead her rigid desk layout put the judges more in mind of a school detention hall. Peter’s ping-pong gender-fluid breakout space didn’t fare much better (‘a cliché’), but Lazy Charlotte earned praise for her meeting space. Would this praise result in a Charlotte smile? The nation held it’s breath.
Peter's ping pong table - I don't envy whoever has the health & safety responsibilities for this office.
Lynsey, Jon and Amy’s office was next on the agenda. Would Michelle and Linda see something in the tiered seating that the rest of us had missed? The answer to that was a resounding ‘NO’, with Michelle declaring it was too big, looked too uncomfortable, and she had no intention of ever sitting on it. Jon’s space was criticised for using flimsy curtains to divide his meeting ‘pods’, but they loved Lynsey (currently my favourite) and her clever workspace.
Lynsey's workspace - Michelle liked it as 'there's somewhere to put a Post-It note'
This left Barbara and her assistants Paul and Siobhan – and the judges were practically purring as the toured the space. They thought it looked as if a professional team had been employed, and found it hard to find any fault at all. There was only going to be one winner, and it most definitely was Barbara’s 3D computer programme.
Barbara doesn't want any ping pong or swings in her breakout space - everyone must relax in an orderly manner
The Sofa of Doom only had space for four, and so Jon, Peter, Micaela and Amy took up residence – with Charlotte and Lynsey being mentioned in despatches and so were safe for another week. Lynsey smiled with relief, but was worried for the rest of her team. I have absolutely no idea how Charlotte was feeling.
There was really only ever going to be one person going home. Amy’s giant plywood seating plan was always going to end in tiers.