I know The Great Interior Design Challenge, has been around since 2014, but I only recently discovered it on Amazon Prime. I just finished binge-watching all four seasons over the last few weeks and wanted to share with you some ideas from the show that have inspired me and expanded my home-decor boundaries.
I originally thought I’d do just one post on the entire series, but there were so many ideas I loved in a reexamination of season 1 that I decided to take it season-by-season instead (eventually), starting today with the 12 episodes from 2014.
Here’s some of what I learned and loved…
1. Yes, wallpaper & I could hang out
A mural Jordan Cluroe used in a Brighton, UK, regency townhouse living room in episode 8 sewed the first seeds of doubt in my lifelong distaste for wallpaper.
Co-host Sophie Robinson said during judging he positioned the mural perfectly because if you thought it a mite too strong you could sit on the sofa below it and not look at it. But I couldn’t QUIT staring at it. It gave such magical dimension to that room I felt like I was PART of it and could walk in and out of the scene.
I also loved this mural Jordan included in the living room of a Georgian Liverpool terrace home. But, lest you think I’m only developing a thing for murals…
I went gaga over this–another Jordan touch in the same home. The vibrant colors, the water-colory look, and the matching fabric in the curtains bowled me over.
2. A remedy for cat-scratch fever
I’m ALWAYS looking for ways to divert Maisie-Cat’s necessary scratching behavior away from the upholstered pieces in my home, and this kitty play-table cooked up by Luke Wells in episode 4 for a London apartment might just do the trick.
Here are a couple of under-construction photos. Luke repurposed the owner’s cat tunnel, perch and scratching post, as well as legs from her kitchen chair to create this fun piece. I love how it incorporated midcentury modern styling–particularly in the tabletop shape.
3. Think outside the box on shelving
In the same apartment, Luke combined crates the judges gave all the contestants to use some way in their design (called the signature challenge and done with different items each episode) with constructed boxes to create this assymetric, sculptural bookcase. Note the cat-bat toy Luke incorporated on the lower right.
At the other end of the same living room, Luke designed and built these very cool triangular wall shelves that again shout midcentury modern and echo the shape of the cat play table beneath.
These shelves in episode 7 by Johnny China wowed me, too. They wrapped the corner of a living room in a semi-detached home in the London suburb of Surbiton to cleverly join it to the adjacent dining room.
4. Think outside the bulb on lighting
Ever the innovator, (spoiler alert!) Jordan returned in the episode 11 semifinal to prove there IS a use for all those cast-off children’s toys in thrift shops. He glued a few dollars’ worth together to make this one-off table lamp. Spray-painting all to match is what made it work as part of his design for a playful family room in a Victorian house in the Moseley suburb of Birmingham.
Table lamps aside, just about anything, when paired with a decorative bulb, can make a chandelier. Take this bicycle wheel, for example. How about those cool patterns it makes on the ceiling? Episode 6 contestant Neil Gauckwin appropriately designed it to light the living room/workshop of a bicycle mechanic in the Georgian-styled Hopton’s Almshouse complex in southeast London.
Neil designed another winning light fixture–this one from hand-wrapped wire–with equally cool shadows in his episode 10 quarter-final, a bedroom in a 1950s Brutalist apartment tower in southeast London.
5. Coloring is clearly not only for kids
Both Neil’s wire light and his hand-drawn throw pillows in the same apartment bedroom won the judge’s accolades.
Here he is in action. He purchased inexpensive cotton pillow covers in white for his “canvas,” then embellished with different-sized black felt-tip pens. Easy-peasy!! The design pictured even mimics that cool light.
Sarah Moore created her own fabric for throw pillows in a guest room in a Georgian terrace home in Liverpool by dabbing different shades of blue dye, with a paintbrush onto inexpensive muslin.
Here’s a closer look. I love how some shades bled outward and created a halo effect.
In episode 11, Sarah was coloring again. This time she purchased inexpensive white linen napkins and hand-dyed them green to complement a dining room scheme.
For the living room of a thatched cottage in rural Dorset, in episode 9, Jordan dip-dyed some lampshades. But instead of fabric dye, he diluted water colors in a kitchen pot. I love how the colors bleed upwards when dipped, then when you turn the shade over the bleed goes down.
Luke played with gravity as well, on the nightstand table legs in the Brutalist apartment bedroom he designed for episode 10.
The trick used was to paint with the table upside-down and loading the paint on so that it forms bulky drips. Once the paint dried and the table was righted, it then looked as if the painted defied gravity, going up instead of down.
In episode 5, filmed in the Westfield neighborhood of Ashtead in Surrey, Kimberly Plested used plates the judges gave each contestant in the signature challenge to make a wallhanging and unify her color scheme. First she colored each plate with an irregular swash of the kitchen’s three main color components, then she joined them and added a backlight.
6. It really is all about the line
Here you see more of that color scheme Kimberly depicted in her plate upcycle. But the real star of this modern kitchen in a 1960s Spann-designed home is how she continued the sleek gray line of the kitchen counters down the side of the peninsula. That’s an idea I’m filing for possible use in my own kitchen counter revamp!
Jordan’s line was also a gray one in episode 8. Remember that to-die-for mural? It’s through to the living room and over the sofa on the left. But the real story in this view of the space is the gray line of the mouldings and how it continues at the same level on the cabinet on the right. How cool is THAT?
He even carried his line over into the signature challenge–the bust he dip-dyed gold.
Just as subtle but no less effective is the architectural line of this conjoined cabinet top, mantle and shelf. Paula Holland designed it for the living room of one of the homes in episode 7.
Not so subtle but entirely successful is Sarah’s green line in a child’s bedroom she designed in the episode 12 final.
Notice how she extended it all the way across the room and even onto the window. It creates a sort of road for the lucky boy whose room it is to drive his toy cars on. I love how green-for-go is paired with a red stop sign. Too fun!!
8. The power of flowers
There’s a lot to be said for the lines in this guest bedroom Sarah designed in the episode 11 semifinal. The white floors, ceilings and walls down to the shelves make even a dark navy blue room sing with light. But it’s those floral pillows paired with the orange coverlet that make everything sing.
I tend to be more drawn to geometrics rather than florals, but this room has me rethinking that. The key is the RIGHT floral, of course, a BIG print, but not too much of it. This is such an intense room colorwise but still so restful. Quite a design feat!
9. Sleeves of shade
Another Sarah idea was to sew a sleeve-like lampshade cover, as she did for her episode 11 dining room scheme. It’s less of a commitment than gluing one on, don’t you think? I always mess up with the glue part and live in fear of ruining the original shade as well as the cover.
10. An alternative to painting cabinets
I’ve painted my dated bathroom cabinets, but I hesitate in the kitchen. Though I’d like a brighter look, kitchen cabinets get so much more wear and tear, and I don’t want mine chipped and grimy looking. So here’s one alternative: In episode 8, contestant Jenny instead used lime wax to tone down the wood’s ginger tones.
With STUNNING results, I might add! Lime wax can also be combined with painted treatments. I found lots of tutorials online. If you’re interested, just google it.
If you want more…
You can access complete episodes of The Great Interior Design Challenge through Amazon Prime. Show narrator Tom Dyckhoff also has a couple of books out that detail all 55 episodes. Follow the (affiliate) links to check them out and perhaps buy: