Sunday, 20 November 2011

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s plan for home domination

Known for his over-the-top and dandy style, designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen tells Samantha Baden that a challenging property market will reinforce our emotional connections with home

Flamboyant designer Laurence Llewelyn-BowenLaurence Llewelyn-Bowen says a challenging property market has given the interiors world a healthy shot in the arm.
The 46-year-old who made his name on BBC1’s Changing Rooms in the 90s, says there’s a lot of talk about doom and gloom in the world of buying and selling property  right now, but really, a little realism would go a long way.

“Actually, we are in many ways re-establishing the right kind of level of interest,” the TV star, columnist and designer says. “There was too much over heating in the property market, which meant that people were purely seeing their homes as a financial investment rather than an emotional investment and that’s where I think it went wrong. 

“Now that the market has cooled, I think it’s forcing the country to re-engage with what it feels is the key to its relationship with homes. And our relationship with home is not just about a balance slip, it’s really about the creation of an environment that reflects a personality.”

Interiors are back
And personality is something Llewelyn-Bowen – a self-styled modern dandy - knows a thing or two about.  “Throughout the hottest stage of the market, some estate agents  were encouraging households to underplay their interior decorations,” he says. “At that time, my name was a dirty word. I think that’s over now and I am going to have to start rubbing off on the planet again,” the designer says with a laugh.

But the stay-put-and-improve approach isn’t just about feathering your nest, says Llewelyn-Bowen. Rather its about finding a meaningful way to reflect who you are though your home.

“I think people are suddenly realising that they may not be able to sell it and make a fortune, which means they’re then asking themselves - do I want to sell it at all? And if I don’t want to sell it, then perhaps it’s something I want to develop a much more powerful relationship with by creating it in my own image.” 

A Cotswolds home
And this is a topic on which Llewelyn-Bowen has more than a little personal experience. Together with wife Jackie and children Cecile and Hermione, he’s been living a very chic life indeed in the 17th Century manor they bought for £1.3m five years ago and now call home in the Cotswold’s village of Siddington .

Wife Jackie found the home while the designer was filming in India. “She saw this one and asked me if she could buy it. I said, yeah of course and buy something pretty with the change,” he deadpans.

But in all seriousness, Llewelyn-Bowen says he’s happy to be the interior designer of their home so long as he’s given a brief from the client, "who in this particular case happens to be the 'missus". 

“And I think that’s very important – I think one partner often has a much more emotional relationship with the house than the other and I know have a diagnostic relationship with houses.” 

Designs for all
In that vein, he'll often use the interiors of their country pile as a showroom for what he's working on. “I want to live with my designs, I design things for a reason. The fact that they’re available in Littlewoods or B&Q is irrelevant. I don’t sell stuff to the mass market and then only buy the posh stuff. I think we are the only Grade II listed Cotswold manor house with B&Q wallpaper, but I’m very proud of that.” 

He’s also proud of the fact that The Lady magazine - that bastion of country posh - recently referred to his new kitchen as having had an overdose of Berocca.
“I rather like getting criticism from The Lady magazine," Llewelyn-Bowen cackles. "It’s very rare and it’s something I am enormously proud of.”

"By the way, it’s orange and pink", he adds nonchalantly as though that somehow justified the fuss.

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is a celebrity ambassador at The Ideal Home Show at Christmas, which is running from November 16 to 20, 2011, at London’s Earls Court. It's open daily from 10am-6pm and until 9pm on Thursday.

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