Binge-Watching ‘The Great Interior Design Challenge’–Season 2 Tricks & Triumphs

When I first wrote about Binge-Watching The Great Interior Design Challenge a few weeks back, I stopped with season one after logging 10 faves. So in this post I’ll move on to season 2, sharing:

  • Three TRICKS I learned
  • Four GIMME MOREs
  • Two AWARDS of sorts (bestowed by yours truly and carrying absolutely no weight or prize)

Trick #1 – Fun with FURNITURE

Contestant Fiona Wilson kicked off the first episode by showing how to turn an ubiquitous round coffee table into an upholstered ottoman/cocktail table for a 17th century holiday rental cottage in the Cotswolds.

Then in episode 11 she upped her game by painting a chair for a sitting room in an Edwardian house in the Wimbledon area of London.

Yes, I said painting. A chair. Not the wood frame, mind you. The upholstery. A recipe for disaster, you’re thinking? Me too.

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But to my surprise, it turned out well. Don’t you agree? The painted areas look like expensive leather, and she accented the piece with an interesting mix of unpainted patterned fabrics (softer to the tush), as well as those fun tassels on the ottoman.

Martin Holland, however, was the one who kicked it out of the park with his trompe l’oeil bag of furniture tricks.

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First, in episode 12, he disguised that perenially ugly necessity–the television set–behind this bespoke wall of shelves and metal screens for the owner of a River Thames houseboat.

And as if that weren’t enough, he enlarged a sectional for the episode 13 owner of a 1960s modern house in Surrey who wanted an Austin Powers look. The photo on the left shows the basic box he built for additional seating, while the photo on the right shows the box upholstered.

Little did I know then, Martin was just getting warmed up.

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In episode 15, his seemingly basic white boxes disguised storage behind rococo-style table-shapes cut out of the front panels. The insides were painted dark to “ghost” the shelves and their contents in this sitting room in the Marchmont neighborhood of Edinborough. A second one, not pictured, held a TV on top and hid all the accompanying electronics inside where their black casings disappeared into the dark interior.

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But his piece de resistance had to be these mirrored half-tables he created in the episode 16 final for the owner of a condominium in a 19th century castle in Cumbria. I definitely think these merit a closer look:

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One table was cut in half and each half placed in front of a mirror-tiled wall to look as if they were whole tables. Granted, the mirrored walls might have cost just as much as buying a second table, but the trick is fun. AND it’s a perfect solution if space is at a premium. The mirrors have the added advantage of reflecting light as well as the rest of the beautiful room.

Trick #2: Connecting with COLOR

In episode 13, Fiona transformed the atrium of this 1960s modern house in Surrey with wall-paint color-blocking to accent its unique architecture.

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And Luke Wells tried some color-blocking in episode 14 in the sitting room of this apartment in a school conversion in southwest London. The odd-shaped and -sized rooms–once classrooms–made tricky work for all the designers in this episode to bring together a cohesive plan.

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In fact, the judges expressed serious doubt that Luke’s color-blocking of this intense blue fabric panel at one end would jive with the purple at the other.

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But you can see why it worked: He scattered bits of the blue at the purple end and bits of purple at the blue end for a stunning impact. The other stunning bit of color-blocking he did that you might have missed completely involved cleverly “hiding” the TV by painting the wall behind it black. The effect? It virturally disappears!

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The color trick that REALLY took my breath away, though, was the dark gray contestant Charlotte Pearson used on the walls in this episode 3 Victorian house in London’s east end.

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One of the judges commented that the room was a great example of how a dark color can make a space look BIGGER, not smaller, like most people think.

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And the dark, WARM gray has another trick up its sleeve–something I noticed when I painted part of my kitchen a warm gray. It’s a marriage made in heaven with honey-colored wood tones AND for unifying different wood tones.

I love this idea so much, as well as Luke’s camouflage of the TV with a black wall, that I plan to combine the two and paint the TV wall in my great room the same dark gray used in my adjacent kitchen. I’ll let you know how that one turns out. For now, it’s on to our next season 2 TRICK.

Trick #3 – Tripping with TEXTILES

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My absolute favorite textile trick of season 2 was Fiona’s rejuvenation of this vintage retro sofa in the same house with the stunning atrium color-blocked so well in episode 13. She found the sofa in someone’s trash, got permission to take it (for free), and then set about bringing it back to life, which involved sacrificing some of the moldy original cushions for new ones in this groovy mix of midcentury modern patterns.

Except for the mold, just up my alley!!

Fiona is truly a marvel at mixing patterns and textures, as her painted chair (left) proved. Episode 15–the Edinborough sitting rooms–also saw her pattern-mix a wing chair (right). This time, though, the leather “look” was authentic. The patchwork upholstery is very Parisian and fun, in my book.

In episode 3, Lucy Pass block-printed her own fabric for cushions to decorate a Victorian house in London’s east end. It wasn’t the fabric that caught my eye so much, but that she made her stamps out of coasters and craft foam, cutting out the design with an x-acto knife and gluing it to an inexpensive coaster.

Luke also did some fabric stamping in episode 15–this time for seat cushions in his Edinborough sitting room. He made stamps out of a piece of carpet tile, adding duct tape to the back for a handle. Ingenious!

More PURPLE, please!

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I already showed you Luke’s use of purple paired with royal blue in episode 14. But that majestic tone bears another look, methinks.

Luke wasn’t the only one relying on a purple punch in the school conversion heat. Contestant Michael Vaughan used a different shade for impact–more aubergine than Luke’s plum and on the opposite living room wall.

Martin limited his use of purple in episode 15 to accessories, which popped out against all the gray and white. Note that the insides of those rococo-inspired table/storage units were also painted a deep purple.

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Then in episode 16–the Cumbria castle–he pulled out all the stops and gave the owner a purple and sage-green Shaker kitchen to-die-for.

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I don’t think there’s a color alive that looks better with purple than sage-green. This kitchen is a certain stunner…

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…right down to the purple chair hanging from the sage-green pegboard screwed to the purple wall!

Did I say I ADORE that color combination? More purple and sage-green, PLEASE! Yes, yes, YES!!

Next up, more MORES

In my season 1 post I shared:

  • it’s all about the line,
  • outside the box storage, and
  • outside the bulb lighting.

This post I’m reprising those three categories to show you even more ideas…

MORE ‘it’s all about the line’

Both Martin (top) and Luke (bottom) used stripes on or around the ceiling to connect the open spaces in the houseboat heat and define the architecture. Luke’s treatment was especially effective in that his homeowner, who pronounced at the outset she didn’t like stripes, LOVED the result–a good lesson for all of us to try to step outside our comfort zones.

Martin also used stripes in episodes 15 and 16 to draw attention to gorgeous period fireplaces. The gray vertical stripe in the Edinborough sitting room on the left connected with the band of gray that ringed the room near the ceiling line. And the broad white stripe over the fireplace in the master bedroom of the Cumbria castle condo connected with a simple side table.

Here’s a closer look at that one. Notice the sweet, teeny-weeny birdcage hanging down in front of the stripe on an oh-so-long chain. What a wink-wink detail!

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But it was contestant Kelly Sparkes who, in episode 8, turned the use of the line on its head with her assymetric arrangement of wall plates in the bedroom of a Dutch-influenced factory workers’ cottage in Port Sunlight.

Just because it’s a line doesn’t mean it has to be a straight line, right? Leave it to a woman to show the men how it’s done.

MORE ‘beyond the box’ storage

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In episode 8, Luke created this simple but striking on-high shelving for CD storage for the owners of a semi-detached home in Welling’s Garden City area. I can’t for the life of me understand who, in this age of digital streaming, would KEEP that many CDs on hand (and this was only part of the collection, mind you), but if you’re more like them than me, here’s a great solution for you.

And Fiona gave us another way to hold a lot of stuff in episode 15. In this case books, which are more my downfall than CDs, for minimal cash outlay. Much to her Edinborough homeowner’s chagrin, she started with flat-pack melamine-over-particle-board bookcases. But then came the Fiona magic…

She added molding to dress it up and paint to make it match and hide the lack of wood grain.

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And voila! Lots of storage AND impact for little ca$h. The homeowners fought her tooth and nail on this one, but in the end, they loved the results.

I think she could have been a bit more elaborate with the molding, however. That said, I love the addition of the teal paint on the backs of the shelves. It gives the piece more dimension and makes the books and other accessories pop.

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Speaking of pop, while this treatment isn’t shelving, it is storage of a sort. In episode 5, Martin redesigned a guest bedroom that doubled as an artist’s studio and made these inexpensive paintbrush hooks to hang some of the homeowner’s supplies, including these palettes. I like the extra touch of first dipping the brushes in a bit of paint. What fun!

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But perhaps one of the most dramatic moments of the season was the unveiling of Martin’s protruding box shelves on a paneled wall in episode 15. I love how the third box is a side table. And I agree with the judges that the system worked so well that a couple more boxes could have been added. Such a gorgeous do-able DYI!

MORE ‘beyond the bulb‘ lighting

True to her surname Sparkes, Kelly was the master in the lighting category, showing us a different cool, fun and (usually) easy lighting project in every heat she advanced to.

First, in episode 8, was her jam jar light (left); second, in episode 10, a dimmable cloud light crafted from cotton wool; and third, in episode 14, a chandelier hung with acrylic Christmas tree ornament crystals.

Still she grew more ambitious, almost to a fault. In episode 15, she chose to make a HUGE pendant for a sitting rooom.

The process involved wrapping yarn around an exercise ball, then applying fabric stiffener, waiting for it to dry, popping/removing the ball, and spray-painting gold. Only problem? The fabric stiffener never dried or stiffened up properly.

After a call to the manufacturer, she learned that had she used 100-percent wool yarn instead of synthetic the stiffener would have worked. But at that point, it was too late. Kelly crafted a fix, though, that was quicker and no-mess. She followed the same process but subsituted WIRE for yarn.

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And as you can see for yourself, the results were awe-inspiring.

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So good, in fact, it deserves a second look, in reflection. And ever-cheerful Kelly really deserved an medal for sticking it out on this one and coming up with an even better alternative.

Speaking of awards…

Plaudits also to:

…Jack for making a silk’s purse out of a sow’s ear

Not only was THIS the bedroom contestant Jack Hoe started with in episode 9’s revamp of 1930s-era West London apartments. But the owners also had a laundry list of interests they wanted reflected in the outcome. Their wants included everything from keeping the current draperies to incorporating Hindu culture, yin-yang, arts & crafts, and Celtic mythology. Oh yes, and please make over that dilapidated old door being used as a headboard into something bespoke.

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A tall order, and Jack nailed it. Even the draperies, which looked a bit dowdy amidst all the other dowdiness of the “before” room, come alive. For ME, the killer piece is the colorful bed coverlet.

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But he also worked miracles with that door headboard, stripping, adding onto, aging, and finishing the piece into an heirloom. You’ll want to check out this episode yourself to see how he mixed in all those homeowner wants and still came up with something cohesive and beautiful.

Martin for giving the best advice (according to me)

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The advice? “My mum always said to keep your iron with you whenever you sew.”

You gotta love a guy who actually remembers his mom’s advice, follows it, and then shares it with others.

If you want more…

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  • Let me add to Martin’s advice: Keep that iron CLOSE by the sewing machine to save steps, and press in any fold you can BEFORE you sew it for a cleaner finish.
  • I’d also suggest a BRAND of iron: I couldn’t live without my Rowenta with the retractable cord. It cost more but it works so much better, and Rowentas last, so you save money and aggravation in the long run.
  • Beyond that, stay tuned for end runs around seasons 3 and 4 in upcoming posts. And if you want to relive season 1, follow the link to my Jan. 17 post. You can also access all the episodes in all four seasons on Amazon Prime.
  • Finally, show narrator Tom Dyckhoff also has a couple of books out that detail seasons 1 and 2. Follow the (affiliate) links to check them out and perhaps buy: