Say Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's name to people and they'll instinctively come back with something about smoking jackets, lace cuffs or his makeover having made that poor lady cry that time on Changing Rooms. You may love or loathe his distinctively flamboyant sartorial and decorative style, but 15 years on, Mr Llewelyn-Bowen's media and design careers have not only flourished, he's become something of a national treasure. Shy and retiring he is not: talented, passionate and charismatic he absolutely is.
Whether it's popping up with an unexpected cameo in The League of Gentlemen, starring in his own reality tv show, sitting on the panel of Popstar to Operastar, designing schemes for Blackpool Illuminations or advocating fabulous patterned loo roll, you never know quite what to expect from Britain's best known interior designer - and that can only be a good thing. We fired 20 questions at Laurence to find out more about the man behind the flock wallpaper:
1. I loved To The Manor Bowen (the show which followed Laurence and family's move from London to the Cotswolds) – have you found the good life since moving to the country?
I'm not sure about "good" – we don't really do "good", but we've certainly found a glam life. It really has worked incredibly well for us. I get quite cross with people who think the country is full of strange beasts all wandering around wearing tweed. We have continental coffee and everything in the country now you know.
2. What's a typical weekend at your house like?
Very untypical. Because I'm away so much I like to take the dogs for a long walk, so they remember who I am – and it's nice to reintroduce myself to the country. Saturdays tend to be very much about duties, getting things done, but we'll often have friends round for supper. Even if it's only an Indian takeaway, which I think is often the best way because then nobody has to worry about the food, we'll still set a very ornate table.
3. A friend is popping round for a cuppa and a catch-up. Frantic tidy-up or take you as they find you?
Well, we don't live in a slum. We're 'take us as you find us', but the house is nearly always pretty photogenic. As an interior designer I'm always slightly on-call.
4. What kind of host do you think your friends would say you are?
We always try to throw amusing parties – we often have 10-15 people for lunch on Sunday. People leave well-fed and watered, but often having had the piss mercilessly taken out of them.
5. What three words would you most like people to use if describing your home?
It's so you.
6. Apart from your own, whose is the nicest home you have ever visited and why?
I visit so many it's difficult to choose just one – it would be bits and piece from lots. I'll go into a house and think: that's the best way I've seen this or that done, but it's difficult to choose just one.
7. What was the last thing you bought for your home?
We're having the kitchen re-done at the moment, so we've bought lots of brilliant orange wallpaper by Manuel Canovas.
8. What's on the walls in your home – are you art collectors?
Yes, we are collectors. We were at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Gala last week and bought a print by Stephen Chambers. Although our house is quite large, there's actually not as much hanging space as I'd like – there's quite a lot going on on the walls with beams etc, but yes, we are collectors.
9. Does your wife get an equal say in the style of your homes or does she leave it to you?
It depends on the area – my wife is a passionate gardener, so that's very much her domain. In the house, for example, our kitchen scheme was going to be pink on one side, orange on the other, but she loved the orange so much I changed it to be all orange. Because decorating is my job I'll always have very strong opinions, but I don't bully her into things. I don't think there's a man in the world who could do that.
10. What's the most you've ever splurged on a single item of furniture?
Most of our stuff we find very inexpensively – we don't really go in for big statement pieces. If I spend say £300-£400 on something, that's really going it.
11. What's the most amazing bargain you've ever found?
Mrs Llewelyn-Bowen – she's probably been the best bargain, with all the fabulous years we've had out of her...
12. Has each of your homes had a similar LLB signature look or do you mix things up stylewise when you move from house to house?
Every house has had a different attitude, because all of our houses have had very strong characters. One couldn't apply a Georgian scheme to a later building for example, but I've always been a great fan of bold colour and pattern, so to an extent there are common themes.
13. What are your pet hates interiors-wise?
When I visit someone's house and it's just obviously 'not them' – when people do what they feel they should be doing as opposed to what they really like. It should be about individuality.
14. Is there anything you miss now you're not living in London?
Not really, no, but then I'm still in London so much. I actually don't think London has the monopoly any more – I think Manchester is a lot more fashionable and a lot more fashion-conscious than London these days. I guess I'm not yet buying my clothes in the country though – I did have a brief flirtation with tweed, but it's over now.
15. Where do you tend to spend the most time when you're at home?
In the summer we're very much in the garden – there's lots of space to hang out and we have a series of garden rooms, which are lovely. We rarely sit down at the weekends, except when we're eating. On Sunday night we might sit down to watch a dvd, but as everyone says, once you move to the country you become busier – there are chickens to muck out, dogs to walk – there's livestock involved.
16. Is your home filled with your own products and creations?
It is. We're very proud to have my B&Q wallpapers at home and we're having a Moben kitchen put into the cottage. I think it's really important – I don't want to be advocating democratic design then going for haute couture at home.
17. What's the worst mistake you've ever made interiors wise?
One of the joys of being a designer is that a 'mistake' becomes 'that's just how I wanted it to be'. Things that end up being completely different to what was planned are often better than what you originally had in mind, so it's always a good idea to be open-minded and flexible.
18. Do your daughters have an interest in design?
Very much so. Cecile is very into fashion and Hermione is currently mounting a charm offensive about decorating her bedroom in her own inimitable style. She likes black and white, which is fine – I can live with that. I think it's a real shame that most people give up on art, it's very much treated as the poor relation when it comes to subject choices. I'm passionate about getting kids to look at creative professions. Our creative industries are worth billions, yet they get very little respect.
19. Where and what would be your ultimate fantasy home?
We're very pleased where we are, and we've got a place in Cornwall which is a great alternative. We do quite like the idea of trying somewhere else for a couple of years though and we've been looking at Venice, but I'm not sure how the dogs would cope with the canals...
20. No home should be without...what?
A very well-appointed, well-stocked drinks tray.
Laurence is currently working with Andrex as brand ambassador for the new Andrex Limited Collection. With his passion for quirky and vibrant designs Laurence is championing the 'Bright & Bold' design.
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