LAURENCE Llewelyn-Bowen raised an eyebrow when his daughters asked him: “Why is Prince Charles calling you a Nancy Boy?”
The BBC slapping a woke warning on sitcom The Royle Family had reached the designer’s household — and got a tad lost in translation.
Laurence, 55, said: “Both my daughters saw that and got the wrong end of the stick. They thought it was the Royal Family because they are a generation who didn’t watch The Royle Family. I had to clear that one up.”
The BBC has been putting new warnings on old episodes of Fawlty Towers, ’Allo ’Allo! and Dad’s Army found on iPlayer.
The latest casualty is The Royle Family, which ran from 1998 to 2012. In one episode, grumpy dad Jim hurls barbs at the flamboyant designer while watching Beeb homes makeover show Changing Rooms, a big hit at the time.
Dad-of-two Laurence, who has been married to wife Jackie for 31 years, said of the “Nancy Boy” line: “Of course that’s what he’s going to say. That’s probably what most fathers said when I appeared on their screen.
“I’m completely and utterly realistic about that. It was very much part of its era.
“It is a very dangerous thing to remove anything we feel is contentious from history.
“But you do need to go, ‘Well, OK, that happened, let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again’.”
But Laurence says watching the controversial episode of the comedy when it first aired on TV was a breakthrough for him.
He explained: “That was an iconic moment to me. Jackie and I were just watching television and suddenly I was on it without any kind of warning.
“The Royle Family then was huge. Everyone was obsessed with it. Suddenly there I was and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m famous now!’”
Changing Rooms saw couples swap houses with friends or neighbours, with each pair decorating one room in each other’s homes with the help of top designers. The contestants met at the end to discuss the results.
Before it first aired in 1996, Laurence was working as a relatively anonymous interior designer.
Cast on the programme alongside host Carol Smillie and designers Linda Barker and Anna Ryder Richardson, flamboyant Laurence shot to fame.
He soon gained a reputation for shaking up boring beige mid-1990s homes with wacky bold colours and animal prints.
Now Laurence claims re-runs of the show should come with the warning: “This programme may contain red paint.”
He added: “I was just using things which people didn’t do in 1995.
“I was so surprised by all the attention and the fact it did so well so quickly. As far as I was concerned, I was just being me.”
Since the show ended in 2004, Laurence has kept a steady presence while filming interiors shows in Australia and Asia.
Now the telly series is set for a reboot on Channel 4 later this year, with Laurence returning and his friend Davina McCall, 53, hosting.
He said: “That was one of the things that really swung it for me. She is so salty and sweet at the same time. She’s salted caramel.
'I'M VERY TOUCHED I'VE BEEN EXHUMED'
“She has absolutely the right amount of rock ’n’ roll to stop it being simpery and day-timey.
“I’m very touched I’ve been exhumed, I’m sure they could have found a young fella.
“But they felt there was something about the way I did Changing Rooms in the early days that meant they couldn’t.
“We haven’t done any filming yet. When the news got out, Channel 4 broke. The switchboard went crazy. Everyone wants to be on it.
“A couple of times I’ve felt like saying, ‘You’ve seen the show, you know what I’m going to do’.”
In the original series Laurence faced participant Sue Dukes, from Hull, who cried after seeing his decor inspired by 17th-Century diarist Samuel Pepys.
South London couple Daniel and Natascha complained he had turned their flat into “a whore’s palace” with red walls and zebra-print panels.
And off-camera Jo Thompson, from Kent, called Laurence “a pretentious, frilly-sleeved prat with a paintbrush” over a brown and orange playroom in 1999.
But today the designer is quick to point out these were three unhappy customers from 120 episodes in which he took part.
He said: “You get a feeling that somehow I had done the worst thing in the world and I was about to be burned to death.
“I started getting letters and letters and letters, and lots from people saying, ‘I really liked it, I liked what you did’.”
But he admits on the occasions things went wrong with the speedy makeovers, he always had a trick up his sleeve.
I had no idea teapots could break into such small pieces
He said: “If I was halfway through the second day and I knew it was going a bit t**s up, I painted an 18th-Century landscape somewhere. The neighbours would come in and look at them and go, ‘That’s amazing!’
“Forget about the really dodgy sofa covered in dust sheets or the fact that the wallpaper wasn’t dried.”
The show’s most infamous moment was when designer Linda Barker destroyed a contestant’s £6,000 antique teapot collection as a floating shelf collapsed.
Linda, now 59, said last year: “I had no idea teapots could break into such small pieces. Not one teapot broke into four that we could glue back together. They were in pieces, and so were we.”
'THE ROOMS WILL BE EVERY BIT AS OUT THERE'
Applicants to the show’s reboot need not worry about wonky jobs as production and sponsors have pledged to do top-notch work.
Laurence said: “They’re putting a lot of money into making sure it’s not going to be like the Neighbours set.
“And no teapots. I might deliberately do a teapot mosaic.
“That’s the big thing. I want the rooms to be every bit as out-there. This is not going to be beige.
“This series is not going to be about meeting expectations, this is going to be about exceeding expectations.”
Throughout the pandemic, people stuck at home have collectively spent £55billion on home renovations in 2020, according to money.co.uk.
Laurence believes that with more time at home we are taking better care of our properties than we once did.
He said: “We’ve been through that phase where everyone is desperately trying to turn their home into a several hundred thousand pounds profit.
“Now we’re going, ‘This house is about much more than that. These walls have been the background to everything that’s happened to me in my life’.
“The biggest investment here is the emotional one, not the financial investment.”
Laurence has spent lockdown in his countryside home in the Gloucestershire countryside with wife Jackie, daughter Hermione, 22, and her fiance Drew Marriott, daughter Cecile, 25, and her husband Dan Rajan and their son Albion, four.
He jokes: “We are the little manor house on the prairie. We are doing that thing where everyone lives together, cooks together, plays together with the grandchild.
“This is how life was 200 years ago in our homes. The whole family lived together.”
He added of dealing with the pandemic and lockdowns: “We will never forget this experience.
“All of us will go to our graves remembering 2020 — and let’s hope not too much of 2021 — as the years that were stolen from us, the years where we couldn’t do what we would normally do but you did something else instead.
“We are better people as a result.”
Let’s make Britain bright again
LAURENCE’S mantra for the revival is “make Britain bright again” in protest at the trend for all-grey homes.
He said: “The greynaissance, as I call it. Grey is the best possible bone structure colour you can give British rooms.
“Grey walls feel further away, it’s straightforward optics.
“But you have to ensure that you use colour as well as the grey or else your room looks like a mid-1980s building society.”
The grey-on-grey decor fad has been made popular by celebrities including cleanfluencer Mrs Hinch and singer Stacey Solomon, who decorate their homes in muted tones.
Another trend is Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo’s KonMari method, which involves keeping only items that make you feel happy.
Her book Spark Joy has sold more than 1.5million copies worldwide.
Unsurprisingly, colourful Laurence has no time for minimalism.
He said: “I am so anti-Kondo, I am so anti-Hinch. For a start, these women have the most dreadful-sounding names. All of this one bloody vase with a twig in it or a bowl of apples.
“All of it is s. Surround yourself with the stuff that means something to you. Allow yourself that raffia donkey from Spain you bought after a very boozy lunch.
“Stop being so snobbish, stop being so judgey. Put them in a room and make it work.”
Below are his design tips . . .
- Declutter: PUT everything in the middle of the room then put it all back again. That is just therapy. It gives you an opportunity to look at all the things you’ve got and work out whether they mean something to you. If it doesn’t, then get rid of it. If it does, then keep it. It’s the most straightforward thing you can do.
- Light up: THIS is quite boring but, my God, it makes a difference: Clean your windows. There’s so little daylight in January and February and what we do get is such low light. You’d be astonished at how much more light you’ll get into your space by cleaning your windows. Look at light in general. I like to line the inside of lampshades with metallic foil you can get on the internet. That’s a great way of rebalancing the slightly yellow light from low-energy bulbs. Light the corners of a room, rather than the middle.
- Colour: THIS will make the most incredible emotional transformation to where you live. It takes you into a depth that just having grey walls never will. Raspberries, oranges, Moroccan leathers if you’re a hot person. Peacocks, kingfishers, jades if you’re a cool person. All of these colours are absolutely perfect in British homes. That can be one wall, by all means. It doesn’t have to be the whole thing. It could be the cushions, it could be a lampshade, it could be art.
- Texture: OUR senses are heightened by lockdown. Our sense of taste, our hearing, our smell, all of these things are very important because we are spending so much time in the same rooms. Bring your home alive again by re-texturing it. Think of velvet on a sofa, fake fur on a rug, satiny curtains. Pattern is texture too. Think of damask, think of stripes. All of these things make such a huge and a very dynamic difference to the way your house feels and looks.
- LLB signature wallpaper collection for Brewers decorator centres is available at wallpaper.com.
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