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Interior Design Masters Episode 1 - All Hallows Convent - Design Breakdown

What a rush! Take a cottage core, bubblegum kitsch loving Jewish girl to a convent and this is what you get!

The Brief

Transforming a former nun’s cell into an inviting and memorable B&B bedroom, which guests will want to book for an unforgettable experience inside an extraordinary building. Michelle wants to understand your signature style whilst creating a comfortable and practical space. This is your chance to showcase what you’re all about so don’t hold back. Stand out from the crowd and make your room a destination people will want to stay in! These rooms could be booked by anyone fancying a trip to the Norfolk countryside - from a group of friends wanting a fun weekend getaway, history enthusiasts eager to revel in the building’s past, to romping hikers walking the pilgrim’s path from Lowestoft to St David’s Head. Put your mind into the user - they must be suitable for a short stay and therefore the practicality of the room is very important. You must consider everything – from multifunctional storage and furniture to lighting and overall comfort. In keeping with the client’s strong sustainability ethos, showcasing clever ways to celebrate the ability to reuse materials in your design is essential. 

I was so excited to get this brief because traditionally the first challenge in IDM is a modern apartment and that is a brief that I know doesn't really suit my style, and I certainly wasn't ready to tackle something so alien to me the first week as I had never designed anything other than my own home and studio before getting onto the show.

I wanted to show off my signature style and I knew that meant, fun pops of colour, florals, kitsch fabrics, luscious texture and of course...stripes!

I started by considering the layout of the space. The nuns cells were all quite awkward, in most rooms (mine included) there was only really one spot to put the bed. I had a fireplace on one wall, a sink and radiator on the other and a window hiding right behind the sink. My bed had to sit under a slant in the ceiling so straight away I knew I wanted to create a canopy and had an idea of how I could stitch one that would feel slightly tent-like. I also wanted to consider and pay homage to where we were - in the middle of the beautiful Norfolk countryside inside a charity where there was a giant treasure trove rummage room! I love displaying antiques alongside modern pieces so I already knew that I wanted to find some pieces in the rummage room to display in perspex shelves to honour the old and the new.

I also knew I wanted to find an iron day bed which I could design and sew up some tie cushions for so the bed could act as a sofa in the day for reading and relaxing as well as a cosy bed at night. The room was so small and I wanted to make sure the room had some versatility.

I also wanted to do my favourite thing in the space - show my love and ability to pattern clash. I was really happy that Michelle and Abigail Aherne were so impressed with my talent with 'softness' and that Michelle recognised that clashing patterns isn't easy but it's something I did successfully in this space.

I loved the bedding I found for the space too - I had originally wanted something with red stripes to work with the stripes I had planned for the window and wardrobe but when they arrived they were more brown. It was a happy accident that I was really happy about because I always think there needs to be one 'ugly' or 'earthy' colour in a space - especially when you're as into bubblegum as I am!

The window/sink area in my room was really awkward because the sink was so close to the window that I couldn't fit any furniture comfortably into the space. I ended up buying and repainting the Lloyd Loom side table in the rummage room at the convent so that there was a side table (I hate not having anywhere to put my book and cup of tea!) but I didn't really love how that piece came out and kind of wished it was the same wood as the telephone seat I had bought and reupholstered for the other wall of the room - just bringing another earthy element and not drawing too much focus.

One of my absolute favourite parts of my space was my sink/vanity. Because my sink was so prominent in my room and because the rooms don't have an ensuite, I wanted to make the sink feel really kitsch, luxurious and hide the bloody ugly pipes! I changed the tiles which caused my carpenter Marc so much trouble (hence the wooden panel which we were really worried about but ended up adding to the area). The light box was the only carpentry I was brave enough to tackle the first episode because I am a total novice with woodwork but I had to hide the hideous strip light above the sink and I LOVED how it came out. One thing you can know for sure about me is that I love a ruffle. I loved how my curtain and sink curtain came out as well, it is so important for me as a sewist that curtains and textiles are the right length and that there's enough of it to feel generous and luxury - I can't stand a measly looking drape. I had originally planned to do something with the large botanical print over the wardrobe area and I think the judges would have probably preferred that but because I just couldn't figure out the carpentry to get my wardrobe together, I opted for stripes instead (one of the most valuable things I learnt on the show was what you can do with nails and wood!).

The stripes and the colours! A little word on the stripes. I know the judges didn't like them and that is really fair - I do think that bold design is polarising, I'm not entirely interested in trying to appease everyone because actually - you can't. Some spaces call for something plain but plain isn't what I'm here to create. Something I regret is not asking the judges what colouring they felt would have worked better in my space with my textiles. To me, pale peach is a perfect backdrop for the prints I chose and I still stand by that choice.

I think peach is divisive (as I said on the show) but it's my favourite colour and judging by a great many messages I've had after the show aired I can see that I'm not alone there! The stripes were something I wanted to use to cleverly create a dressing area without having to actually build one in. Without those stripes I think that corner would have felt extremely lacklustre and I also really wanted the spot that you'd stare at in bed to be something fun! I look at the top corner of the cupboard space and I see the juxtaposition of the pink, red and blue and it brings me a lot of joy. Too many focal points in a room is chaotic but I also don't want a dead corner in a destination room.

I hope you've enjoyed my design breakdown for my episode 1 room. I loved designing and making this space and I still want to stay there even though it is legit someone's home and they probably wouldn't be too keen on me being there.


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