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Grand Designs Live, London 2017

Grand Designs Build

I was recently crowned winner of the Grand Designs Live Room Set competition, for my Blackadder II-inspired design scheme. What an adventure it’s been! After being notified that I was one of the six finalists to feature in London, I had exactly two months to get prepared and organised. This included ringing round various suppliers to try and source the furniture I needed, finding someone to make some traditional wall panelling and an enormous fake chimney breast, transporting a large piece of fragile art from Derbyshire, and working out how to get all this safely to London and back again! Tricky, when you live three hours from the venue!

When we first arrived at the show, I was amazed at the challenge that lay ahead – we were about to transform these plain MDF structures into realistic, amazing rooms within just two days! The Excel was a building site during this time and it was really cool watching all the room sets take shape, as well as seeing the venue around me change. It’s amazing how hard everyone involved works, and by day two there was a real team spirit among the room set designers.

My skilled builder and craftsman, Adrian Williams of Bewdley Carpentry Creations, helped with installing the beautiful engineered oak flooring – kindly supplied by Ted Todd Fine Floors, while I got on with painting the walls with a daring dark blue paint called Basalt, supplied by Little Greene. It’s a really clever paint from their Intelligent Matt range – it contains 5% gloss and was a pleasure to apply.

  • Installing the engineered-oak flooring
  • Installing the Tudor-style panelling
  • Furniture waiting to be arranged
  • The decorating is complete

The next item to be installed was my pièce de résistance – the Tudor-style wall panelling. To save precious time, we decided to make the panels at Adrian’s workshop and transport them to the show whole. I just love the way the light highlights the edges of the rails and stiles.

The false chimney breast was next to be installed, followed by the stone effect fire surround. Originally, I’d planned a real stone fireplace for my room, until I realised it was too heavy and dangerous to secure safely to a temporary structure. My plan B was this ideal plaster fire surround, sourced from Decorative Designs in Birmingham. I painted the surround in a fantastic limestone effect finish, supplied by StoneLux, which looked so effective that Judges Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson were amazed the fireplace wasn’t actually made of stone!

The finishing touches to this wall were the cast iron fire basket, which I filled with logs, and the extremely clever paper artwork supplied by Gill Wilson, Paperworks. The first day was complete – we’d achieved a huge amount in 10 hours.

  • Gill Wilson’s Orbit artwork
  • The finished interior
  • I nicknamed this porters' chair Percy!
  • Finishing touches

On day two, I returned to the venue to position the furniture and dress the room set. My pieces included some funky mock croc console tables from Out There Interiors, an unusual antique brass rope table from Mulberry Moon and some impressive table lamps from India Jane. The window was dressed with curtains made from Zoffany fabric, skilfully created by Notions in Bewdley. Accessories included the most gorgeous fur throw from Bell & Blue, candle sticks from Lombok and pewter goblets from the English Pewter Company, combined with my own fun finishing touches, like the Rowan Atkinson autobiography, a bowl of walnuts and some carefully placed spectacles!

To read more about the Grand Designs project, understand the thinking behind the concept and hear what the judges had to say, visit the project page.

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