Now in his third year as judge on Seven’s renovation reality show House Rules, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is well acquainted with the taste of other people.
The English interior designer – joined this year on House Rules by Jamie Durie – has seen it all, from brilliant bathrooms to ill-advised sofas, faddy paint jobs and, already this year, a wardrobe with a revolving clothes rack.
While ‘LLB’ is known for his cutting honesty over contestants’ decisions, there’s one inoffensive piece of everyday household furniture he has been restrained about.
Turns out LLB, 54, hates coffee tables.
“I don’t use coffee tables at all,” LLB – who doesn’t have a single one in the 17th century country manor where he and wife Jackie live in Gloucestershire – tells The New Daily when invited to our Melbourne home.
“I can’t bear them. They end up being repositories of stuff because they’re there.”
He attacks the (coffee table) books on TND’s coffee table – “They should be in the bookshelf” – and doesn’t accept things like TV remotes need somewhere to sit.
“A coffee table ends up being this big pile of schizzle in the middle of a sitting room. It’s irrelevant. Useless. Why bother?”
LAURENCE ABHORS THE COFFEE TABLE
A London art school graduate, LLB’s suite of reality TV credits include the BBC’s Changing Rooms and The Big Build, and ITV’s House Gift. He’s perfectly placed to know if good taste can be bad taste, or vice versa.
“Good taste doesn’t exist,” he says.
“You’ve got your taste. I’ve got my taste. Obviously my taste is much better than your taste, but that’s the way it should be. I’m the anti-design guru.”
HOW DOES TND’S HOUSE STACK UP?
For those curious about LLB’s home, “It’s not about a contrived, controlled design experience, it’s much more easygoing.”
He likes a “sticky” kitchen floor and authenticity, hates smelling bleach and enjoys seeing family photos on a fridge if they’re lined up straight.
“You can be way too house proud. When you take out all, the germs, your house stops being a living organism.”
As well as a bit of grime, LLB is also a fan of his neighbour “around the corner”, the Duchess of Cornwall: “I love Camilla. The first time I ever got introduced she was holding my hand, and looked me up and down and went, ‘He-llo.’ It was like a Carry On film.
LLB DESCRIBES HIS OWN PLACE
When it comes to easy design hacks you can try at home, LLB advises – “talk about doing myself out of a job” – rejigging what you already have rather than buying into trends.
He suggests piling all your furniture into the middle of the room “then play around and see what sticks and what gets thrown out.
“Be decisive. Rooms can end up stagnating slightly, but one mistake is this obsession with the total renovation.
“The total makeover is not necessarily always the best thing to do at all. Something in between moving stuff around and the makeover … having a big rethink is a very good way of doing it.”
THE EASY HACK YOU SHOULD DO AT HOME:
As LLB admits, this year “salmon is the new avocado” and while we’re continuing “our obsession” with the 20th century, we’ve moved “very quickly” from the modernist 1950s and ’60s to the 1980s.
“This was a very glamorous era, so there’s these very kind of characteristic modernist shapes but they’re given a lot more depth, a lot more texture, with strange pastelly salmons and mint greens.”
We shouldn’t be afraid of print, even on big pieces of furniture. LLB says TND’s five-year-old grey modular sofa would look “wonderful” covered in a William Morris print, mixing Victorian design with contemporary shape.
SO WHAT DO WE ALL DO WITH OUR GREY SOFAS?
Australians love a big open-plan room with kitchen and living areas combined, but they can be problematic, says LLB: Too much glaring light and not enough contrast.
He suggests using different paint shades to fix the issue. “That will be $48,000 thanks,” he says of giving his advice.
HOW TO DO OPEN-PLAN LIVING
At school, LLB’s favourite subject was art, particularly needlework.
Luckily, TND had some homemade tapestry work to delight him with, but he seemed to get the wrong end of the stick over a specific part of a needlework fox’s anatomy.
YOU BE THE JUDGE ABOUT THE FOX’S ‘WILLY’