In the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to LAURENCE LLEWELYN-BOWEN.
Best known for his presenting role on 'Changing Rooms' as well as being a judge on 'Popstar to Operastar', Laurence is a long-serving homestyle consultant, with his own design company and commissions across the world.
He serves as an ambassador for the Ideal Home Exhibition, for which he sits down to talk to us today, giving us his unique take on the world...
What do you do to switch off?
What's so good about switching off? We are all frogmarched towards leisure, whereas I'm totally happy being me, which is switched on. When emails arrive in the morning, I treat them like post. I get a lot of satisfaction from being ordered and disciplined about my work.
How do you deal with any negativity that comes your way?
I love negativity. It's so incredibly important, for refining something that you are. If you're only prepared to absorb positivity, you will become a very nebulous, pleased-with-yourself version of you. I applaud those with the audacity to question and evaluate everything we are. That way, you get to polish it into something better. Also, it goes hand in hand with being famous these days, so you have to be fit and frisky in dealing with it.
When and where are you at your happiest?
Deep in the bosom of my family, preferably when we're all getting on. But I do like to be happy as much as possible, without being a complete twat. And I do feel that, serious circumstance notwithstanding, it is a choice we all have complete control over.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
I didn't hear it, but I read it, so I shall borrow it. It was in a letter from Diana Mosley (one of the infamous Mitford Sisters, brought down by the public following her marriage to Fascist Oswald Mosley). She said in the midst of her angst, even when she was imprisoned for her beliefs, "It was still lovely to wake up in the morning and feel that one was lovely One."
Which sounds horribly affected, until you realise the universal nature of that 'One'. We can all access that feeling, hopefully. It's not posh at all, although I agree it does sound incredibly arsey.
What has been the hardest lesson you've had to learn along the way?
It's been the general spirit of seeing difficulty as an integral part of the experience. My father died when I was very young, my mother suffered with MS, so I encountered a harsh reality a long time ago. It's not a despair, it's just a knowledge of how things are. And that has been my coping mechanism.
What would you say to your 13-year-old self?
Don't call your school scarf 'Catullus'. Other than that, there's nothing I see in that young man that didn't end up being me.
What 3 things are on your to-do list?
Illustrate a children's book; design an opera; travel in the sense of properly going on holiday, not just moving around for work.
What do you think happens to us when we die?
I think we have 15 seconds of absolutely clear consciousness, of absolutely real electricity, and in that time is our entire after-life, when we can make sense of everything we need to. And it will feel like an eternity, or as long as we need.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
Whenever I encounter beautiful architecture. It's not that I don't enjoy nature, but it's still a raw material. Architectural delights, like the Naval College of Greenwich, are evidence of man's collective will, and I find it extraordinarily moving.
What quality do you most like to bring to relationships?
Being thoughtful, happy and secure and enthusiasm for being part of the gang. Not taking credit nor praise for doing something loving, recognising that in contributing to the group, you make it better for everyone, and that in itself, without praise or reward, is a lovely thing.
What keeps you grounded?
Being fabulously, glamorously hen-pecked by every female in my life.
What was the last act of kindness that you received?
So many, impossible to list. Every quiet but powerful act that leaves a warm glow, when someone has gone out of their way to make my existence a little better.
Laurence is one of the Ambassadors for Ideal Home Show, which has just finished its Manchester run. Tap the picture below to open the slideshow: