BLOG: Why Interior Design Masters has much to teach us about PR


Well, what a final. I’m not talking about anything to do with the world of sport – I’ll leave that to the experts, writes Lucy Stephens.

No, I’m of course referring to the obsess-worthy design series fronted by Alan Carr and the approaching-actual-goddess (girl crush!) Michelle Ogundehin.

The contestants on series 5 of Interior Design Masters, with Michelle Ogundehin and Alan Carr.

Yes, the final of Interior Design Masters has now graced our screens. For those not in the church of IDM allow me to briefly run through the format: wannabe interior designers compete week on week in a series of challenges; the one judged the weakest each week is eliminated, and the last one left standing is the winner. So far so standard, but as this is a design show and not, say, a singing or dance contest, the blood, sweat and tears from the competitors concern such matters as the wrong paint colour, poorly measured chair legs, dilemmas over cork surfaces being retro and cool – as opposed to simply retro and retro – and whether it’s possible for a room to be “just too green”.

So, as of last Tuesday evening we all know that in the end (SPOILER ALERT!) one-time seeming underdog Roisin triumphed over the coolly … well, cool … Matt, who many had predicted would triumph with his penchant for concrete-style walls, clean lines and achingly contemporary architectural design aesthetic – as well as excellent hair and a lovely TV manner.

But, it was not to be for Matt, as Roisin emerged victorious with her joyful final makeover of a chalet in the grounds of Blenheim Palace.

As it turns out, you can mix sunshine yellow walls and vivid green ivy wallpaper within the same space. Who knew? And her scalloped edge theme carried through from wooden fixtures into bed headboards seriously impressed the judges.

So, another year, another design series finished, and now more months of anxious waiting from me for my literal actual favourite TV series to return in 2025.

But what did we learn? And what does it all have to tell us about PR?

I think we learned the following:

  • If you want to go on TV dressed as a clown, or an extravagant Victorian for that matter, just do it!
  • Michelle Ogundehin might be the best person ever for giving useful, constructive feedback that doesn’t pull its punches but is never unkind.
  • A red bedroom is a hard thing to pull off, interior design wise. Ditto a Matisse style entrance hallway. No disrespect to the contestants though – as I’d be completely lost with any kind of interior design brief. Obvs. (Personally I love my lime green kitchen – but it is an acquired taste, I’ll admit).
  • If you’re trying to impress someone more stylish than you, consider sprinkling the conversation with liberal use of the phrase “design language”. As in: “I love how you’ve continued your design language through your kitchen and living spaces.”

Hard-working creativity

I think that Interior Design Masters tells us a lot about creative industries such as our world of PR.

And the reason is this: a recurring theme throughout this excellent series (which I quite enjoy, in case that wasn’t entirely clear) was the tension, if I can use that word, between a creator’s vision and the client’s needs.

Both in series five and those before, a repeated stumbling block for many a talented designer has been their failure to successfully achieve this balance.

In any creative job, your role is both to have ideas and listen to those of others. In a discussion with a client, only by carefully listening to the brief and asking questions can you achieve success. What does the client want? What do they need? Are those two things necessarily the same thing? Can you manage to do both?

True success will lie in the professional designer, artist or writer listening to the client’s needs and then employing their talents in coming up with a great solution that manages to fulfil requirements AND do something creative and special at the same time.

It was fascinating to watch the fallout when a designer stuck to their vision and ideas, only to fail during the all-important judges’ visit at the end when it turned out that through concentrating only on one aspect of design – the aesthetic appeal – some important practical needs had been seriously missed.

Witness in the semi-final at Wembley Arena, when the flamboyant and brilliant Ben was so focused on creating a fabulous all-white space, that he neglected to consider what happened when a pop star came in to do her make up and accidentally dropped it all over those pristine surfaces.

A point well made by Sophie Ellis-Bextor when she came in to critique the design. Yes, an all white dressing room is glamorous and 1930s – until it isn’t. You could hear Ben’s bubble bursting through the TV screen. (Although he took his exit extremely graciously).

So when you’re in your next design or PR meeting, prepare for any professional you employ to ask a lot of questions. And prepare for them to surprise and delight you with what they produce, that hopefully is just what you asked for, plus something extra that they bring to the table.

And roll on Series six of Interior Design Masters. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to make do with old episodes of Changing Rooms.  

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