It was a DIY show that captured both my heart and my nightmares (Picture: Jon Cottam/Channel 4)
I am a child of the Changing Rooms generation. It was the cornerstone of British TV when I was growing up in the late 90s.
Give me a bold emulsion, some 2 x 4 and a roll of sticky back plastic and I could transform your living space with the confidence of Laurence Llewelyn Bowen at a cravat competition.
But just because I could, doesn’t necessarily mean I should. If the Changing Rooms’ interior designers had shared the same mantra, then hundreds of British living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens could have been saved from the horrors of 90s décor, and their owners could be spared the trauma of having to live in it…but that wouldn’t make good telly now, would it?
It was a DIY show that captured both my heart and my nightmares as I witnessed neighbours exchange house keys and responsibilities over each other’s interior design. But after 17 years being locked away in the cupboard under the stairs, Changing Rooms is back tonight, and I hope it brings the flamboyant master bedroom energy we’ve all missed.
Although I do wonder how Changing Rooms will fare in an era where white walls and the tasteful simplicity of Danish design have become de rigueur, and gold leaf and leopard print are understandably defunct.
Will Llewellyn-Bowen have to tone it down with a few potted succulents and the muted tones of Farrow and Ball? If the trailer is anything to go by – absolutely not. In 40 short seconds I was treated to a glimpse of walls more colourful than the contents of a pencil case, a floral lavender mural and a broom handle wrapped in blue foil.
It was bright. It was bold. It was bonkers. Everything I hoped it would be. Considering the subjectivity of interior design, it’s a stretch to call Changing Rooms a home improvement show.
It would perhaps be more fitting to call it a home experiment. One that seeks to push the boundaries of home décor and test the limits of the relationship between once-friendly neighbours.
Afterall, Changing Rooms’ appeal came not only from the thrifty ways in which Linda Barker, LLB and resident carpenter, Handy Andy would spruce up a room, but from the reactions of the people whose homes had been sometimes decorated, oftentimes decimated, all with their neighbour’s consent.
I lack the confidence to ask a neighbour to turn down the volume on their TV, never mind redecorate my kitchen.
Who could forget the anxiety-inducing episode where Linda Barker destroyed a collection of antique teapots, all in the name of ‘modernity’. Two neighbours were put in charge of renovating their friend, Clodagh’s living room on the 14th floor of a block of flats in Wandsworth.
Clodagh was an avid collector of china teapots, and although her neighbours tried to steer interior innovator and storage pioneer Linda Barker towards a more traditional – and sturdy – corner cabinet to display Clodagh’s pride and joy, Barker opted for a ‘nice modern hanging shelf’. Suspended by wire. In the centre of the room. What could possibly go wrong?
After the hanging shelves predictably collapse – along with £6,000 worth of teapots – Ms Barker and Mr Andy return to the scene of their crime and attempt to pick up the pieces. ‘I don’t know Andy, I think we just have to put our hands up on this one’, says Barker in an award-winning performance of stating-the-bleeding-obvious. An award one would hope she displays in a corner cabinet.
When recently asked about her thoughts on Linda Barker, Clodagh – now 75 – replied ‘On the very rare occasion she’s on television now, when I do see her, she’s still very bouncy, and I just don’t think she earned the bounce’, throwing shade so sassy, Laurence might turn it into a lamp.
While shows like Grand Designs and Escape to the Chateau have us following the long, arduous task of building homes from rubble to riches, there’s nothing like the cheap thrill of a two-day makeover.
Where Grand Designs builds tension over whether or not a marriage will survive a three-year build that’s gone way over budget, the drama of Changing Rooms lies in the reaction of the participants to the final reveal, and the presenters’ desperate attempts to keep things light and smiley in spite of the circumstances.
Speaking of which, Carol Smillie has not joined tonight’s reboot, with Channel 4 favourite Anna Richardson taking the helm instead. Richardson is known for her work on Naked Attraction, a dating show in which contestants judge each other based on the look of their genitalia, and her professionalism and authenticity manage to make a show about nudity feel tasteful. I wonder if she can work the same miracles with Laurence’s designs.
In a world where Instagram keeps us abreast of the latest interior design trends, which are increasingly simplistic in style, I hope the latest series of Changing Rooms provides us with the antidote… maximalism, an aesthetic with excessive colour, patterns and a ‘more is more’ ideology in its big, bold heart.
After 18 months of staring at the same old four walls, it’s time to grab your paintbrush, your overalls and a throw cushion to hide behind, because Changing Rooms is back.