Interior Design Masters 2023, Episode 2: Flintstones-themed Oubliette

I feel VERY attacked.

Grab your juice box and crustless sandwich, it’s recap time.

Having survived the first episode, the difficulty was being turned way up in this week’s challenge for which the designers had to work in teams of three to create three daycare rooms for children up to aged 5 at a location that looks a bit like it might be the setting for one of Agatha Christie’s novels

it gives new meaning to The ABC Murders.

It was a particularly hard challenge because… kids in general, but also the rooms were open plan spaces and each designer within the team had to be responsible for either the Calm Zone, The Creative Zone or The Imaginative Play Zone.
As for the Team Divisions:

Team Baby: Tom, Ry and Temi
Team Toddler: Peter, Charlotte and Buse
Team Pre-school: Jack, Joanne and Monika

Call Me Baby

Team Babies did have a slight advantage because Temi had walked the infant gauntlet last week, and thankfully she had taken the lesson that children are not in fact 6 foot tall to heart, and brought the sensory features of her imaginative zone down to a baby’s eye view

Michelle and guest judge Sophie Robinson had a lot of praise for how well researched her space was as shes opted for a black and white ceiling feature to cater for the fact babies are more responsive to high contrasts rather than colours

and of course there was Baby’s First Home Burglary Training Centre For The Criminals of the Future

no home in Oxfordshire is safe.
But beyond the sensory play, Michelle felt it was a little bit too simple and by that she apparently meant she just needed two more rugs

I would be quite happy with only being two rugs short of perfection.

Temi was a little bit concerned about how her more colourful section going to work alongside Tom’s more neutral calm zone

Tom however was not budging because he was bonded to this beige wall and could only look at her like Frodo Baggins looking at Sam before he put The Ring on at Mount Doom

no fingers were lost though as they did manage to make the spaces work really well together in the end with Tom carrying Temi’s colours across to his zone but in more pared back tones

and I thought the colour blocking with the beige coming over to Temi’s side also really helped with the cohesion

but the star of the room was the baby-sized bookcase sofa that divided the room and created an all too comfortable looking area

apparently what appeals to babies also really appeals to 30 year olds coming face to face with their own mortality – although those cushions are a magnet for wine, which I suppose is at least less of a concern for the babies.

Ry’s Creative Zone was in a separate room just off the side but he’d used the same colours so it all flowed together and the pops of colour from the toys and ceiling installation made it a little more fun

and of course there was the bubble machine

there is not a single room or situation that wouldn’t be dramatically improved with a bubble machine.
Once they’d turned off the bubble machine so that Michelle could focus on anything else (I imagine it was a cat-meets-lava-lamp situation) she was very impressed with his multi-purpose desks that came with blackboard lids

indoor sand with babies does sound like an absolute nightmare to me, but given that it featured in every single team, I’m guessing it was a contractual requirement from the daycare regardless of the fact some of that is definitely going into a baby’s mouth.

This team was definitely the best collaboration – choosing a set colour palette and really sticking with it was a great approach and they didn’t overthink anything so it didn’t feel gimmicky or like it might age poorly within a matter of months, and sure you could say that it was too simple and underdesigned but…. so are babies.

Toddlers and Tiaras

I think Toddlers was probably the hardest category this week because it’s very easy to either skew it too babyish or too mature, Charlotte was however getting into the right headspace and came dressed as Miss Frizzle – she’s a method designer

and they mostly did quite well and were wise to choose a theme, opting for the safe option of generic woodland – it made sense, the age ranges seemed to be named after birds (Babies were Wrens, Toddlers were Robins, Pre-schoolers were Finches.) I was slightly concerned for them when Alan went to talk to Peter and he was in the middle of creating a toddler corral

if you misbehave, you will be put in the naughty triangle

but it did actually look really good in the room and keeping it #neutral was definitely the right thing to do – both because it makes it a little more versatile but it also doesn’t look intrusive

I really liked Peter’s section – the colours are perfect and it feels very open and playful, my only concern was the lack of anything up at the ceiling to dampen sound

that is a VERY open, echoey looking room and toddlers are LOUD, you are not getting through a work day without a severe migraine and Charlotte’s Calm Zone was perhaps not soothing enough

like in Peter’s, I enjoy the colours and the mural that she painted, it reminds me a lot of the background art in Steven Universe, which is the best part of Steven Universe

and I wish the creativity of the mural had carried through to everything else, which was all just kind of fine – #the teacher’s desk area needed to be a little more incorporated and cohesive because it does look like it’s taking up most of the space despite there being a quarter of a to-scale oak tree in the corner

she put a lot of time and effort into the tree, and it turned out very nicely, but it being in the corner does mean the rest of the space is very open, which is perfect for reading time and I’m sure her intention was for the cushions to be dealt out to the kids rather than the teacher hoarding them in their tree like a squirrel storing nuts for a long hard winter, but some more creative seating wouldn’t have gone amiss, or just fun-shaped cushions – you cannot drape a giant bath mat over 2 yoga mats and call it seating.

While Charlotte and Peter had gone for easy, breezy pastels; Buse decided she was going to go for brown

I get it – lots of comforting things are brown: hot chocolate, cold chocolate, ambient chocolate. The problem was her shade of brown was just too dark and oppressive

and she was putting it right around the room – the only break from it aside from the windows was the occasional panel of equally dark reclaimed wood and a mural of huts

it’s a difficult shade to make work and I think this just sucks the life out of everything, making it all look a bit cheaper than it actually was. And the thin strip of blue right at the top does make it look like you’ve just thrown the kids into a Flintstones-themed Oubliette

“What are you in for?”
“I’m serving 3 hours because I ate the red crayon.”

There was also the issue of her imaginative play features which mostly consisted of cutting out the middleman and just dumping the sand on the floor and surrounding it with logs

They might be outside for a reason.
There are multiple reasons that those logs are a liability, not least of all the risk of a centipede crawling out of one of them and young Alphonse Terwilliger-Smith’s mushy little toddler brain telling him it’s a great idea to eat it and the entire place getting sued. (My therapist has told me to stop catastrophising in my day-to-day life, so I do it here instead.)

Michelle and Sophie did not respond to the room well, with Michelle having a particular gripe about the reclaimed wood which had taken Buse a long time to make child-safe because it was from 1945 when rusty nails and firewood were considered toys

that is a WILD critique to give after last week we were championing sustainability

leave your morals at the door, only the tarnished succeed in interior design – that’s why the rooms of Elden Ring are so beautiful.

This team lacked the cohesion of Team Babies and given that Charlotte and Peter’s designed gelled so well, they probably could have done more than just stare in stunned silence when Buse told them she was going to paint the entire room the colour of Green and Black’s 90% dark chocolate


Pre-School’s Out For The Summer

Given that Monika reacted to finding out she was designing for children like Mariah Carey pretending not to know who Jennifer Lopez was

I was worried for her, but much like last week Monika did a really good job of switching off her base instinct to bedeck a room in taxidermy. She had however pulled a bit of a short straw with her room being very small and narrow

and she hated the lino floor, which she was entirely redoing with proper wood in what was perhaps a little bit of an underestimation of how long it would take to do a room-sized jigsaw

When the carpenters and builders eventually rebel, we shan’t blame them.

Her flooring change ended up taking an entire day, which did mean the next day was a bit of a panic with Monika spending a lot of her time crouched on the floor going goblin mode trying to get things finished

but you wouldn’t have known when it came to the final result

I like it, it does perhaps still look a little bit like a nurse’s room, I think it’s entirely down to the curtained cabinets and the shade of the green is a little bit NHS-y

I did much prefer the other end of the room with the display trees and desks

Michelle thought it looked “too school-y” which I don’t think is a bad thing, these are pre-schoolers and it’s probably a good thing to have something like that to make the transition from a pre-school to school a little easier and make more sense. I also know that as a kid I would have much preferred to be at the desks rather than in whatever nightmare a pre-school imaginative play area is. That being said, Joanne’s play area was very cute

and I did enjoy that when Sophie went and stood in it she looked a bit like she was hawking things at the Grand Bazaar

I did also love that I think Joanne was having a fun little jab at herself with the “Can you write a shopping list?” written on the blackboard

the problem was, because the “versatile structure for imaginative play” (which is what I write on all my dating profiles) was so good, the other end of her zone didn’t quite match the energy

I think the bigger issue is that the pre-schoolers are called “The Finches” and that is a picture of a sparrow, and as “A Bird Kid” I would have taken immense glee in pointing it out every single day until they changed it because I was born petty.

It also probably didn’t help Joanne’s case that Jack had the other end of the room and had knocked the whole thing out of the park

every single part of this feels like a flex – there’s really no complaints to have about any of it, especially the hot air balloons which he made himself out of beach balls to great effect

I love that seating area in the bay window that looks like the sort of place the high society spinsters meet to gossip and play bridge


An Unofficial Design Ranking
1. Jack’s Full of Hot Air
2. Tom’s Baby Switzerland
3. Ry’s Bubble Machine – there was a room?
4. Fight at the Toddler Corral
5. The Baby Burglary Training Academy
6. A Versatile Structure For Imaginative Play
7. Too School-y For Cool
8. One Quarter of a Tree and a Desk
9. The Flintstones Brand Oubliette

This week’s winning team were Team Babies – and they were the strongest as a whole, but I do think Jack’s was the best individual space – so he was also safe alongside Peter meaning Joanne, Monika, Buse and Charlotte were on Michelle’s Sofa

Monika was very much there as a cautionary tale of not paying attention to the smaller details of a client or a brief – it didn’t ever feel like she was in much danger of going, but I appreciated that she still showed up in full slightly intimidating glam

the best defence if a yassified offense.

Then of course the emotional destruction of Joanne had to continue at pace

again, it didn’t feel like she was going to be eliminated because most of her zone functioned very nicely which left Buse and Charlotte to fight it out – Charlotte for mostly designing one corner and producing her debut album

but it was a hard hole for Buse to climb out of with Michelle calling both her design choices and risk assessing into question – and also, I’ve already likened the room for toddlers to a medieval torture chamber and I’m not sure there’s any coming back from that, so it wasn’t entirely surprising given the circumstance that Buse was the second designer to be eliminated

I have a lot of time for her design ethos and approach to sustainability, I think there’s a lot of space for her in the design world.

And so, 8 interior designers remain

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