Many, many years ago, when I was young and impressionable, I was quite addicted to Changing Rooms. The Changing Rooms of the 90’s and 00’s that had a bit of everything for everyone: eye candy for the ladies or gents (Oliver Heath, anyone?!) bright, family-friendly personas (Carol Smillie – the clue is in the name) and sometimes, SOMEtimes they would unveil an ok design scheme.
The Changing Rooms of the 90’s encouraged us to experiment with our homes in a simplistic and creative way to unleash our individuality; from paint effects and stenciling to creating our own mosaics with battered tiles (totally guilty of that one). Rarely did you see an episode without garish paint colours, that trusty Frog tape, a few sponges and some hessian fabric.
But that was the 90’s.
We lived in a very different world: a world that included the Yellow Pages, TVs with big booties and wallpaper borders.
Most of us didn’t have desktops in our homes, never mind a laptop; there was no Wifi and we certainly didn’t have direct access to lots of design inspiration on Instagram via a tiny hand held computer.
So it stands to reason that our requirements back then, as both Changing Rooms contestants and a viewing audience were also very different.
We made do with a lot less.
But that doesn’t mean the overall perception of Interior Design was in safe hands because you and I both know, that it wasn’t. Changing Rooms and similar Interior Design/Makeover TV shows of this format all collectively portrayed the image of an Interior Designer as someone who wore flowery shirts with oversized cuffs; who clashed bold colours with pattern, plumped cushions, designed MDF TV units and maybe did some sewing on the side.
The Interior Designers on these shows were airy-fairy, creative types who were good at helping people be more adventurous when it came to colour but lacked any substance.
The danger with this breed of TV show was the growing, and grossly inaccurate public perception of what Interior Design entailed, including the skills, knowledge and experience ACTUALLY required to design and implement a project successfully.
It could be said that the legacy and enduring (negative) impact of these types of TV shows is still around today and has been exacerbated by Instagram accounts from Bloggers and Influencers who have decided to become self-titled Interior Designers/Stylists, partly due to the misinformed portrayal of the ‘TV’ Interior Designer.
I’ve spoken about this in one of my podcasts. You’re very welcome to get involved in this discussion!
When I heard that Changing Rooms was coming back, I was genuinely excited and was looking forward to seeing its return. I assumed that the so-called ‘reboot’ would be an updated, refreshed version of the original, taking into consideration the landscape in which it now finds itself:
Environmental concerns, wastage, sustainability, supporting local businesses and mindfulness in design (including Biophilia).
Not only was I expecting the new show to reference these topical issues on some level, but I was also assuming that the overall quality of the design would have evolved to match the show’s continually evolving viewing public (let’s not forget that the general public has much more direct access to design inspiration than ever before. They are definitely more clued up on many aspects of interior design than they would have been 20 years ago).
And I was hoping that the Changing Rooms of 2021 would represent the role of the Interior Designer much more accurately and offer VALUE to its eager audience.
I. Was. Wrong.
As if seeing Laurence lounging, legs akimbo wearing baggy leather pants wasn’t bad enough, he produced a design featuring a tacky swing in the centre of a living room, fit for nothing more than displaying a range of admittedly, nicely patterned cushions. A whole range of itsy-bitsy flooring (because that’s how you ensure your room appears spacious), with VINYL running up the wall.
Two bar stools: just BECAUSE, and lots of clashing painted outlines of rectangles.
The saving grace? The velvet sofa and prints which were engulfed in paint, plastic and ponce.
The designing duo referred to as 2LG didn’t fair much better with a bed hemmed in by two pink wardobes, a rug the same colour and texture as the carpet (I mean, NO), the world’s WORST ‘feature wall’ described beautifully by Laurence as an up-and-over garage door and the crème de la crème: an art installation made of wigs.
The redeeming aspect of their design was the shade of pink they chose for the walls and the artsy attempts at adding design details to vases.
As Keith Lemon would say:
I’ll give you a hint, THERE IS NO MESSAGE. NONE! Changing Rooms hasn’t actually given us a reboot at all. It’s a rehash of the same old, tired format from the 90’s and I’m gobsmacked that the Creators and Producers (are they the same people?!) decided to bring back an outdated TV show and plonk it into the year 2021 thinking that 1. This was acceptable and 2. That they would get away with it.
It would appear that they did try to adapt the show for the present day by ensuring they had a more inclusive approach, but upset the balance with no female representation among the lead Designers (no females in a female dominated industry – you couldn’t make this stuff up); and they chose outwardly flamboyant personas that are historically linked with this profession but do not accurately represent it at all. For the record, there are many inspiring female Interior Designers in the UK right now, providing a range of interior design services to suit all pockets and tastes.
Terian, Cate and Rebecca (I’m referring to them like we’ve known each other on a personal level for years but whatever), work hard day-in-day-out to offer their audiences top-notch quality content and their paying clients, life enhancing interiors because that’s what Interior Designers do. Really.
The central female figure in the first episode of Changing Rooms was the presenter, who has absolutely no background in Interior Design and tried too hard to win the audience over. She also flashed her ‘tramp stamp’ (Laurence’s words, not mine) and informed everyone of their ‘Drag name’ via an online name generator.
Welcome to the wonderful world of interiors, kids!
What disappoints me the most is that professional Interior Designers have signed onto this show; professional Interior Designers who have undertaken ‘serious’ commissions in the real world and are acutely aware of what it takes to produce a successful design scheme both in terms of aesthetics and function. How can the same people agree to literally downgrade the role of the Interior Designer in the name of ‘light entertainment’? And what’s SO FRUSTRATING is that good design is very achievable on a restricted budget. Affordable, accessible design is all around us; from online retailers, the High Street and via the tiny squares of inspiration we see on a daily basis via Instagram and Pinterest.
The Interior Design industry was impacted by these Makeover shows when they first hit our screens over 20 years ago and it’s happening AGAIN?! It must be so demoralising for Interior Designers to watch this show, knowing that it completely and utterly misrepresents their role and objectives as Designers. I’ve witnessed first hand the stresses and strains of what it takes to be an Interior Designer, alongside running a business. The demands placed on these individuals is insane. Us Creatives get it hard enough as it is, what with constantly having to justify our costs and design time. Design skill in general has always been underestimated and hugely undervalued. It’s an unfortunate legacy that Designers, even in the modern day still have to grapple with and challenge on a regular basis. Which is one of the biggest reasons why Interior Designers feel so frustrated with TV shows of this poor calibre.
Even if I could accept the argument that it’s an entertainment show and not about serious design; then I’d like to see a disclaimer before every episode that spells this out.
But even then, it’s difficult to accept this because of the sheer waste of time, effort and materials that has gone into this production. Because you can bet your bottom dollar that those designs will be ripped out of those houses within the next couple of months; after the paint starts to peel and the hastily constructed ‘furniture’ comes loose.
I know for a fact that I represent the majority of Interior Designers when I say that they’ve had enough of these sub-standard TV shows that provide little in the way of education and insight into the interior design process. We would have welcomed a reinvigorated Changing Rooms show that was relevant and offered quality design solutions within the context of the current cultural landscape but it did none of these things and instead insulted its viewing audience with more of the same cheap and tacky room designs.
I’m sorry Changing Rooms, it’s you not me. Stay in a bygone era where you belong.
IF YOU ARE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! NO MORE COMPLAINING UNDER THE RADAR! APATHY DOES NOT HELP BRING ABOUT CHANGE. JOIN THE DISCUSSION AND VENT YOUR ANGER AND FRUSTRATIONS! TELL ME WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO SEE ON TV WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR PROFESSION! LEAVE A COMMENT AND GET INVOLVED.
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