Interior designer and Changing Rooms star Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, 56, on hanging out with millionaires and getting into his leather trousers again.
You have lovely decor, Laurence!
This is just a computer-generated background – it’s really a hovel! It’s funny doing this Zoom thing because it feels like a séance when you’re all sitting around going, ‘Are you there?’ And then someone vaguely materialises but you can’t hear them.
It’s nice – I can see your living room, your art, your cushions, your coffee table. I’m hanging out with you.
Don’t judge me! How have people’s interior tastes changed since lockdown?
Brits spent £55billion in the first lockdown on home enhancements. They normally buy beige and greys, and although they’re not quite where I live yet, it’s close.
Behind me is our top-selling wallpaper, called Damask Dangereuse, and you should not use it in a home – it’s far too fun and big.
Our four walls became so important but they weren’t reflecting people’s personalities because they felt bullied by estate agents. After lockdown people were going: ‘It has to be raspberry damask.’
The British interior has become a swirling Paisley-licious hotbed of pattern and colour. We’re all stiff upper lip on the outside but inside we do eccentricity with a capital X.
Did you give your house a bit of a makeover over lockdown?
A couple years ago we put it on the market and painted it not beige but one of my own colours, called Mrs Whippy. It was a disaster!
We ended up fending off loads of sweet little old ladies who wanted to buy a 17th-century manor house but had fallen in love with our orange kitchen, which of course we didn’t have any more.
That was a very important lesson. It’s also rekindled an incredible love for where we live. Everything important in our lives has happened in front of this wallpaper.
And now you’re hanging out with lottery winners in My Lottery Dream Home International…
Yes, trying to find lucky people who have won lots of money a lovely new house. I knew the American version of the show, which is a ratings juggernaut.
They got in touch saying they wanted to do an international version, getting to know the people and their stories. That’s when I thought it was interesting.
When you watch the American show it’s all about another five-bedroom house in Malibu, all beige. Whereas we’ve got small houses: one’s £250,000 in Redditch, bought by a hard-working couple who won £200,000 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Does money buy you taste?
Taste is relative. No one’s got the same taste, thank God. That is the hill I’ll die on – the fight to ensure that you have your taste and I have mine, and obviously my taste is much better.
But I will defend your taste too.
Do people want a house they can move into rather than put their own stamp on it?
Several times I showed couples houses with so much potential but we didn’t have as many brave people as I thought.
I think there’s a sense of safeguarding their luck a bit. It’s very British – I’ve won half a million quid and I’m not going to use half of that to buy a crock and lose all the money.
It’s the perfect time for Changing Rooms to come back…
I’ve got my leather trousers, pencil case, packed lunch and I’m raring to go.
Anyone who thought that me being 56 and a Cotswolds squire with grandchildren would somehow make me nice… you’ll see some of the most out-there designs I’ve ever done.
And this time we’re building them well. I do freely admit that in the first few series, my tarts’ boudoirs divided the nation and a few were like a Crossroads set, you couldn’t really lean on them.
Now they’re indestructible so my only advice for anyone taking part is that they better like them because they’ll survive a nuclear explosion.
You needed coaxing – why?
There was a moment when I felt it should be about someone new. Then you just go, ‘F*** it! It always was so much fun. Why would I not?’
But I am the oldest person on set by about 20 years and the first time round I’d be exhausted after three days.
How I’m going to do six programmes and squeeze into leather trousers every day – I’m just going to have to up my medication and hit the gym.
Wasn’t Davina McCall supposed to present it?
She’s doing The Masked Dancer and Singer instead and the idea of watching celebrities with a deflated space hopper on their head… why would you choose that over Changing Rooms?
You work a lot in Oz. Are you keen to get there or stay in the UK?
I’m fond of Australia but I’ve enjoyed spending time with my wife of 32 years [Jackie Bowen] and she’s got used to me being back here again.
I’m going through a ruralist phase: getting fat, growing a beard and doing irritating watercolours of my flower border. All very William Morris. Or Johnny Morris – I’m not sure.
My Lottery Dream Home International is available to stream on Discovery+