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Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr ~ BBC 1 ~ The Final

Interior Design Masters ~ Series 3 ~ The Final!!!

After seven weeks of too-short curtains, sex dungeon shepherd’s huts, wedding shop lazy susans and enough faux foliage to defeat the most thorough of cleaners, it was time for the Grand Final.  Early favourite Banjo Beale, Aussie goat farmer and cheesemaker based on the Isle of Mull, faced Scots print designer Amy Davies – this year’s I’ve Been On A Journey contestant.  Amy teetered on the edge of elimination in the first week (thanks mainly to Paul’s dodgy wallpaper choices), but had gained confidence throughout the process.  Banjo had breezed through the first few weeks, but had stuttered as the competition reached its final stages, suffering from a crisis of confidence (and an occasional crisis of planning).  Who would win the career-defining contract to design for an upmarket Cornish hotel?  Viewers were divided into three camps: Team Amy, Team Banjo, and Team Just Glad It’s Not Going To Be Paul.


I switched on with a tingle of anticipation.  What kind of sleeve would Michelle have saved for the final?  Feathers?  Frills?  The full Copacabana?  I suspect our Head Judge has been spending time in the gym - for tonight’s sleevenotes must sadly record that her arms were completely unadorned, with just the Ogundehin guns on show.   What a disappointment.


Banjo and Amy had no time to ponder on Michelle’s workout regime, for it was time to reveal the Final Brief: each were tasked with giving a two-storey bar in London's Soho district a total redesign.  The ground floor of each bar had to be suitable for everything from daytime coffees to evening cocktails; with the basement levels aiming for a ‘louche and decadent’ evening clientele. 


Amy's bar pre-transformation

Banjo and Amy each got a chance to visit the bar and meet with owners before coming up with their design. 


Amy's basement Tiki Lounge

Amy’s bar – called 2 Floors – was a very tired building that showed serious signs of neglect.  The owner liked it’s feel of a ‘New York Dive Bar’, but admitted that it needed updating.  The downstairs Tiki Bar was in an even worse state: Amy decided that the whole area needed gutting and re-designing.


Banjo's 'before' photo: upstairs

Banjo was allocated 21 Soho: a café/bar/comedy club that the owner wanted transformed into a British Members Club with a luxurious feel.  For the downstairs bar, the owner wanted somewhere that was ‘sexy and cool’.  Banjo – obviously having little idea what ‘British Members Club’ actually meant – admitted to feeling totally overwhelmed by the project.


Banjo's basement bar 'before' photo

The finalists were then given a deadline and budget that anyone who has ever worked as an interior designer would confirm was totally unrealistic: ten days to prep, three days to transform, and a budget of £6,000.  What most interior designers don’t have, however, is the choice of one of the eliminated contestants to act as sounding board/cheerleader/mural painter/seamstress, and for this task strangely neither finalist chose Paul.  Banjo chose Molly and Amy chose Fran. 


Amy breaks her 'let's move the bar' idea to her team

Fran dismisses the builder's concerns

Amy’s plan was to transform her bar into a New York Tribeca Bar (upstairs) and Soho 1970s Bar (downstairs).  Not sure Amy really knew what Soho was like in the 1970s; the wall to wall strip joints, porn shops and peep shows wouldn’t necessarily be the obvious home for her geometric wallpapers and old tv sets, but they might have liked the shagpile carpet on the walls.  To create this bar, Amy decided to change the layout completely, which involved demolishing the tacky Tiki Bar.  The bar might have looked like it would fall over of its own accord in a light breeze, but instead it turned out to be made of breeze blocks and required the combined might of all the carpenters and decorators to remove it.  Musclebound Michelle would probably have it done in half the time, but presumably she was too busy lifting weights at the nearest branch of PureGym instead.


Banjo was much luckier in that there was less need to hire a bulldozer to achieve his Gentleman’s Club bar.  Instead he had time to ponder his paint choices, wax lyrical about rattan, and let Molly know that she would be spending the next three days sewing the most ENORMOUS pair of curtains.  Downstairs, Banjo had decided on his imaginary client for this week: Gangsta Granny.  He aimed to create ‘Nanna’s Nightclub’, using the same colour palette as upstairs, but with more pattern and soft furnishings.  He also used two large rugs on the floor, which I suspect would soon stink from soaking up spilled drinks.  The feeling of being overwhelmed by the project persisted, but Banjo had obviously been reading a book of inspirational quotes on the journey to London from Mull and wisely said to camera that ‘pressure makes diamonds’.


Molly and the enormous curtains

With only two schemes to document, the production team decided that it was time for some filler Finalist Backstory: Amy told us how years of failed fertility treatment had led to her losing her confidence, and that the competition had given her a new focus and enabled her to blossom as a designer.  We also had more footage of Banjo on the goat farm, and confessions of feelings of inadequacy that have held him back throughout his life.


Alan arrived to lighten the tone, driving a black cab into Soho and reminiscing about being thrown out of many of the nearby bars.  I wondered if he had ever done stand up comedy at Banjo’s 21 Soho Bar, but unless I can be bothered to trawl through Google I guess we will never find out.


Alan first visited Amy’s demolition site, where the problems were beginning to mount.  Having finally got rid of the downstairs bar, more issues were becoming apparent as once the paint and wallpaper had been removed it revealed that the state of the walls was so bad that sheets of ply would have to be attached before any painting could commence. 


Dodgy walls and ceilings added to Amy's problems

Meanwhile Banjo was unsure about his design and declared that he was ‘not feeling it yet’.  He decided to sleep on it, in the hope of finding inspiration overight. I wondered if the cast and crew were put up in a swanky design-led boutique hotel, but knowing BBC budgets I expect it was something at the cheaper end of the spectrum.  Would Banjo re-appear next day and decide to re-paint in Premier Inn purple?

Banjo adds copper leaf to the wall

The second day dawned, and Amy’s decorator let her know that they had a day to complete ‘about a fortnight’s worth of work’.  At this point it is worth considering whether the short timeframe of each project add or detracts from the show: would viewers prefer to see a more polished and professional result achieved over a longer period of time, or does the jeopardy of a short deadline make for better tv? 


Banjo goes bold!

Banjo’s night-time deliberations had led him to re-paint his white walls with a dark blue shade…..and to come up with an Actual List to help his decorators/carpenters to prioritise their tasks.  Once this was done, he had time to pop over to visit Amy’s bombsite, prompting him to ask if her brief had been ‘apocalyptic’.  Slightly rattled by Amy’s risk-taking, Banjo worried that he might have played it too safe.


The final day dawned, and Amy was finally able to hang her bespoke 1970s geometric wallpaper.  I wasn’t entirely convinced by some of her colour choices, but then the camera switched to Banjo’s bar and I wasn’t entirely convinced by his cane bar furniture either.  Both used plenty of soft furnishings, which I’m again not entirely convinced work in a busy bar: would they just get filthy?  Maybe not everyone is as prone to spilling a drink as I am….

 70s wallpaper (complete with matching kipper tie for Lovely Builder)

Amy didn't feel it was practical to have shagpile rug on the put it on the wall instead

Time to introduce the judges, and Michelle’s arms weren’t the only big guns on show.  Matthew Williamson made a return to judging duty, having been a guest judge on the very first show.  Michelle and Matthew were joined by former Dragon Sarah Willingham, who made her fortune in the hospitality industry so should know a thing or two about bar design and decor.


First to be judged was Amy’s 2 Floors Bar.  All three judges loved the practical solutions to the design challenge upstairs, and were blown away by the 1970s-inspired room on the floor below.  Michelle was pleased to see that Amy had moved the bar, and Matthew felt that it was ‘cool, stylish’ space.


Fran's mid-century mural

1970s Basement Bar

White throw - practical in a bar?????

Banjo’s 21 Soho Bar was next to be visited, with all three judges again being very impressed.  They loved the colour palette, with the copper wall being declared a triumph.  Nanna’s Nightclub (dubbed ‘Care Home Chic’ by a wag on Twitter) was also well received, although Sarah felt that the addition of some mirrors would enhance the space.


Ground floor at Banjo's Bar

Banjo's Basement Bar 

Back at base, Michelle was torn.  She loved that Amy had been on a journey, but also loved Banjo’s high level of consistency.  Bizarrely she thought that Amy had an advantage as her bar ‘had good bones’, whereas a quick straw poll amongst my acquaintances showed that most thought that Banjo had been really lucky to be given a bar that didn’t need two days’ worth of demolition before beginning the re-vamp.


As Michelle deliberated, it was time for all the eliminated contestants to return to Design HQ to be interviewed as to who they thought would win.  I’m sure I’m not the only one to be floored as Paul declared himself to be Team Amy?


Paul declares his allegiance

Michelle – sporting a coat of many colours of which Joseph would be proud – appeared to give her verdict…………………and declared Banjo the winner as she felt that he was the one who best understood ‘how a space makes you feel’.  The favourite had triumphed, although Amy gave him a good run for his money.


What did you think?  Was it a worthy final?  Did the right person win?  Did you miss Paul?  I must admit to being slightly underwhelmed by the finale – not sure whether it was the absence of pantomime villain Paul, or the lack of a wow factor in either scheme.  Another thing I found odd was that the bar owners didn’t appear to have been asked to give their opinion.  A little digging online, and I discovered that Banjo’s bar doesn’t appear to have changed very much; which I guess means that the owners liked it. 


As for Amy’s bar…….according to the owners’ Instagram page they are currently closed for ‘a major refurbishment’.




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