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Interior Design Masters Episode 3 - Ascot - Design Breakdown

The Brief

This week is all about opulence, high end spaces. We are heading to Ascot racecourse where each one of the eight remaining designers will make over a private box. In the box is a bar with a fridge, a television for watching the race, a large dining space that needs to sit up to twelve and a balcony with six plastic fold down seats. As a designer you need to design an uplifting, elegant and original space for people to spend the day in. There needs to be an area with soft seating and of course a dining table set for tea. The balcony is up to you. There should be a nod to Ascot in your design, use the heritage of the brand to inspire you.

My Design

As soon as I saw the words 'high end' I got excited. I live to design fancy things. It's also so much fun working on the individual challenges on the show after a group challenge (even if you get on with your teammates) because you have full creative autonomy and you don't have to convince anyone about your vision, you can just fully indulge.

The space was relatively uninspiring. Grey carpet, cream walls, ugly wooden panelling and a horrible strip light. It was just a box, nothing distintinctive or beautiful.

My initial ideas were mansions of the 60s and 70s, where there is a mix between old fashioned grandeur - like wall mouldings - and mid century glamour, so checkerboard floors, pastel walls and a fun chandelier. You can have a look at my pinterest board for the challenge here.

The other part of the challenge that I wanted to start thinking about early on so as not to forget to include it, was the element of Ascot that I wanted to incorporate. There is really only one element of Ascot I've ever been interested in and that's the jockey silks. They're so fun, weird, colourful and patterned. I knew that would work for my style. I wanted to have interpretations of jockey silks hung around the room in between the mouldings to create a gallery of racers. I loved the idea of doing something a bit silly or less serious in the room, I didn't want the space to feel corporate. I love David Shrigley's paintings and I always loved the pink room in Sketch Cafe that was such a fancy dining room but dotted with silly Shrigley paintings, breaking up the seriousness of the space and allowing people to feel fancy but also laugh at the walls and themselves,

I asked my brother to paint me a series of Shrigley inspired jockey silks and I think the were really successful, they hit the right note of silly and colourful but in the black frames they were elevated and worked with the rest of the space. I was shocked that neither of the judges knew who Shrigley was and so kind of missed my reference. In hindsight, even thought I thought they worked, I wonder if it would have worked better if I had sewn quilted interpretations of jockey silks to frame - I had planned on it but I was really concerned I wouldn't have time. That is one of the greatest compromises with doing the show, you have to weigh up your time over the two day build in a way that you wouldn't in real life.

One of the most important elements of the room was the colour. I started off with purples - I was thinking royal Ascot and what colour is more royal than purple? But then I found my vintage Italian chairs on facebook marketplace reduced to £25 each. These are the kind of pieces you find when doing interiors that you really don't want to give up. I would have loved to keep just one of these for myself, but they were so perfect for the vibe I was trying to convey in my room, they had to go to Ascot. Of course, I didn't have time to reupholster four chairs (let alone the six dining chairs in the room) and the pale blue was already so stunning that I decided to go blue instead of purple. A sky blue would be perfect with the jockey silks and I felt it would probably feel fresher and lighter, after all Ascot is a daytime event. I found Sky Blue by Little Greene paint company and I have to tell you it is the most stunning shade of sky blue. I went with a gloss paint to reflect the light from the balcony as the spaces were quite dark - I would have loved high gloss but in the time we have with these spaces it never would have dried.

OK. My chandelier. What a triumph of painstakingly slow crafts to make something incredibly cheap that looks quite expensive. We can prep some things at home for the show (it is nearly impossible to do everything in the two days) and I had to paint and drill the holes in the 300 dowels it took to make these chandeliers - which took two days in itself. The things you don't see on the show - me sobbing at the kitchen table at midnight over my painted sticks. I had seem some contemporary colourful takes on midcentury crystal chandeliers and I was obsessed but of course they cost more than my entire budget, so I had to figure out how to make my own. I'm still kind of surprised how well these came together and how much Michelle liked them. I also had to buy a very cute little clamp to hold them while I drilled them which I'm sure I will never use for anything else but it's so cute!

Overall I think my box at Ascot was incredibly successful. I think I married retro kitsch with high end glamour really well and the room exuded opulence and glamour. I think a room that looks fancy makes you want to be fancy in it and I would happily spend a day in my finest clown suit in here.

One thing I would have changed in the room was the bright blue fabric I used for my dining chairs and banquette seating areas. I really ran out of money for fabric but what I would have loved was something a bit more refined or even with one of my favourite florals (although that might have been adding too much to the room) the blue corduroy I found was also a stretch fabric and it really didn't sit well on the chairs. or cushioning.

One of the fabrics below could've worked really nicely in the space. Or even just a blue velvet keeping the luxury feel.

Also final note on my seating area - I could not BELIEVE how perfectly my little triangle H&M home side tables fit beside the chairs, it was a bit magic when I popped them in, it was like they were meant to sit together. Also those glass lamps were from Asda, mad.

I think this might have been my favourite room of the entire season - from any designer and I am incredibly proud of that.

In the words of Kelly Hoppen.


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