Competitive reality television might be a broad church but one factor can truly determine the success or failure of every singing/baking/pottery/sewing contest: is there at least one s***-stirrer? The contestant who fixes the camera with a Machiavellian stare and says things such as “I’m not here to make friends” and “at the end of the day, this is a competition.”
With that in mind, the producers of Interior Design Masters must have breathed a sigh of relief when they found Frank. They know we’re all far more likely to keep watching a show about decorating if there’s one contestant willing to go all-in on a row about flock wallpaper, or slip into a competitor’s area and b**** that it looks like “an easyJet crew room”.
Twenty-two-year-old Frank is one of 10 aspiring interior designers competing for the show’s grand prize, a “major contract at one of London’s top hotels”. Last week saw the first contestant, Jim, sent home for deciding that the living room of a show home would have more mass market appeal with fuchsia trompe-l’oeil arches.
This week, the nine survivors are packed off to revamp the tired-looking Hotel Chocolate in Bournemouth, where they’re divided into teams and given milk, white or dark chocolate themes. Naturally, Team Milk (Frank’s squad) can’t agree on a concept. Mostly because Frank thinks fellow contestants Terrian and Cassie’s ideas are crap.
“I’m really worried about the [neon] colours you’ve chosen,” he says to Terrian. “You don’t want to be sleeping in a Stabilo highlighter pack, do you?” The show is presented by Fearne Cotton (money for old rope for Fearne, whose work largely consists of walking into a room and saying: “Why did you go for that candyfloss shade, Ju?”) and judged by former Elle Decoration editor Michelle Ogundehin.
Michelle is joined in each episode by a guest judge. This week it’s the turn of “internationally renowned interior designer Jade Jagger” (yes, that sound you can hear is Kelly Hoppen screaming), who thinks themed hotel rooms don’t have to be tacky because she’s seen the rooms at Claridge’s.
Team Dark Chocolate is most successful, taking the theme on board without resorting to a Cadbury’s factory aesthetic. Restaurant manager Jerome and design graduate Kyle appear to be leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else — they seem to understand that interior design is about working to a client’s brief rather than just painting a room in your favourite colours.
Obviously neither contestant gets as much airtime as Frank, though even he will need to work harder if he wants to match the most iconic moment of interior design television: the 1998 episode of Changing Rooms which saw a London homeowner scream at Carole Smillie that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen had turned his living room into a “tart’s palace”. Delightfully, Llewelyn-Bowen is set to make an appearance in a later episode of this series, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Interior Design Masters is on BBC2 at 8pm tonight.