Interior Design Masters 2023, Episode 7: Moderately Important Bristolians

This week Claudia Winkleman was sitting in for Alan Carr.

To Japandi, or not to Japandi? That is the question.

For their semi-final design challenge Tom, Jack and Monika were heading to Bristol to makeover three different salons, each with very different briefs: High-end, Alternative and Non-descript Other. Guess which one got eliminated?

Plan D: Japandi

Jack’s client were the owners of a high-end salon which was absolutely massive but did come with the upside of most of it being a front window

and for their makeover the clients were wanting something Scandi inspired and after their Skype call, Jack went into the nearest alleyway, I imagine screamed for a little bit before them basic and saying he wasn’t doing that

to be fair, he’s absolutely right. I think a lot of people wanting a relaxing or calm space just say “Scandi” because it’s kind of a popular interior design buzzword and, to me at least, it’s an aesthetic that doesn’t entirely make sense for a salon, let alone a high end one that comes with its own VIP section – which was VERY generously being called a VIP section despite just being to one side, directly next to the door and in full view of the public

who exactly are your VIPs?

So for his Scandi Diversion, Jack was pulling from Japan for a Japandi aesthetic – Japandi is apparently an actual design term, or at least there’s one book about it, but everyone insistently saying “Japandi” did begin to feel a little bit Gretchen Wieners

The Japanese influence was most strongly felt in the hair washing room, which honestly felt like more of a VIP section but because Jack only had 2 days and no NVQ in plumbing couldn’t exactly change that

that pale yellow-green colour is beautiful and being so unusual does add to the luxuriousness of the space, but the cherry blossom and bamboo mural is gorgeous – I really enjoyed the texture he got into the bamboo and the tree branches

I genuinely think that hair washing room is my favourite design from the entire series – and he tried to somewhat replicate the feel in the Moderately Important Bristolians Area

I was so glad he decided to forgo it because it does look a bit like a piece of community theatre stage design, but it did mean the area went just about unchanged except for a paint job

it needed to be made its own separate room but time, budget and the fact you were at constant risk of Tom stealing your wood weren’t going to allow for that

The Very Important Branch wasn’t Jack’s only arts and crafts experiment as he tried to create a textured landscape by mixing sand and paint, much to one of the decorator’s visible discomfort

the result wasn’t unsuccessful and looked kind of fine – it was quite funny that Michelle walked up to it and was very complimentary about it

and then guest judge Mary Portas shot it down and Michelle very quickly moved on from the entire area

I didn’t mind it, I think it broke up that red colour which could have looked quite heavy as one block – the VIP room was Jack’s only slight fumble in my eyes because the front desk and the colouring bar which does look a bit too much like a juice bar were great

again, the unusual but very well paired colours make it very luxurious and memorable, and previously the only memorable part of it was the filing cabinet that would charge you £500 for being a very naughty boy

file that under S for Sexy.

Bricking It

I think Tom had the hardest brief because the original space tells me NOTHING about who the salon is catering to

because it feels like a barbers, but it’s set out like at least a unisex salon – and I know, I shouldn’t gender the exposed brick but I would walk right past it because I would assume it was a men’s only salon, and then I’d call the font police because their sign deserves jail time

it’s bordering on Jokerman script and that font only belongs on a very insensitive Year 8 PowerPoint presentation about Mexican culture. And if that’s not enough evidence, there’s also the installation of vintage hairdryers hanging from the ceiling like they’ve been punished for crimes of piracy in 1742

this entire place was a disaster. Burn it down and start again – how much could arson possibly eat into your budget?

The salon owners were, understandably, very attached the industrial elements of the space as well as the fact their downstairs waiting area had a courtyard and was currently decorated like a cereal café (who did they pay to do the decor? I will train as a lawyer to get your money back.)

so Tom basically had two spaces to do up and knew he could barely touch them, so his big solution was to drape certain walls in fabric, which did look nice because the colour and way it hung resembled corrugated iron roofing but still looked soft and blended well with the bricks and scaffolding

but he also couldn’t get away with just hanging up curtains so he decided he was going to go with a mural given that the shop already had one, which did look a bit like the sort of graffiti mural the counsel puts up on the walls blocking off a building site to make it look slightly more aesthetically pleasing

it was also the only vaguely feminine feature of the whole space (I can’t explain the two hanging bicycles) and Tom was painting over it with swirling golds, browns and reds which did make it feel like you were descending into an ant nest

but Alan was on hand to try and find some positives in the shapes of the design that Mary Portas called “dystopian”

Tom was not playing ball because he was in the middle of an existential crisis

it is a pity because the mural in the 3D render looked like a gilded coffee stain which looked really cool

and it just didn’t quite come together in the end for Tom.

One of the big features that the clients wanted made over was their reception desk which started life looking like someone had fortified their office desk with packing crates

and ended up looking a little bit like someone had sailed their pirate ship into a Bristolian warehouse

it’s just not great – the paint job is rough, it looks like there’s a 60% chance you’re getting a splinter while you’re booking your dye job and does have a distinct feeling that it was once upon a time in a skip


the desk did look a lot better from the inside looking out – there’s just something charming about a cubbyhole cabinet

but the real success of Tom’s salon was on a practical level because he’d added extra lighting to soften the previously harsh overhead lighting

that’s not to say all of the lighting was good

I am so sorry but that light looks like a used condom and I cannot in good conscience let it go unmentioned and I think it marks the moment that Tom lost control of the design.

Rock and Rollers

While Jack and Tom somewhat butted heads with their briefs and clients, Monika’s felt like hers was tailor-made for her, or at least she was easily able to project her own aesthetic onto a salon called McQueens

the client described it as “a place full of nice things to looks at” despite that being objectively untrue because you walked in and it looked like you were trapped inside a napkin at a wedding dinner

thankfully it was the first thing that Monika removed from the equation, deciding that she was going to paint the ceiling black which is where we encounter the weekly Monika Hiccup™ because she hadn’t realised that the absorbent paper pulp panels would need more paint than a regular wall – but don’t worry, she wasn’t going to panic because Tom was having a worse time and she was finding it very hard not to be too happy about it

and because a purely black ceiling would look too much like an endless void, she was going to be hanging gold grids and plasti- BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! That sound you can hear is Michelle Ogundehin’s Plastic Plant Alarm ringing

I look forward to the next series when a brave soul tries out some fake succulents and Michelle disembowels them on that sofa and leaves the corpse there like a butcher bird sending a message to anyone else that wants to drape a strand of Ivy across a mirror top.

But when Monika wasn’t refusing to learn from previous lessons, she was once again going all out with her gothic maximalism, forgoing the taxidermy for sacrilege

I know everyone’s a bit cross that Tom was eliminated instead of Monika, but I find it very hard to be mad at her because she was very charming this episode, which I’m sure was mostly because she had a brief that she could actually relate to, and the final result spoke to her enjoyment

it is a little bit too dark – I don’t think she managed to get up all 16 of her upcycled lampshades, but the bigger problem was that it was all overhead lighting which forced Mary Portas to come face to face with her mortality

but the colour scheme was nice and I liked the fact the hair washing station had been painted gold and looked a barbershop quartet taking to the stage

you could easily host Jools Holland’s Hootenanny from here.

The only part of the design I found to be unsuccessful, aside from the Chiaroscuro lighting and the fake plants, was the wall of picture frames

I get it and I’ve seen it done before but I think they should have been filled – even if you just stuck a few objects in some of them and painted them the same red colour because with the blank frames something about it is reading a little bit horror movie, and perhaps it’s because it’s almost the same colour as the red door in The Haunting of Hill House

see also Sweeney Todd, which is marginally more concerning considering you’re sitting there waiting for your blow dry.


It was an interesting judging – Jack was the clear stand out and the first to advance to the final, and it was very well deserved. Monika and Tom meanwhile both had very different issues – Tom’s was practical but had kind of backfired aesthetically, whereas Monika had succeeded aesthetically but maybe hadn’t been as attentiative to the practicalities of a hair salon. I did think that Monika was going to go home based on the fact she had used fake plants again, and learning from mistakes is kind of a key part of the whole process. But this is Interior Design Masters and if Michelle Ogundehin loves to do anything, it’s crush the dreams of a gay man in the semi-final

and sadly, Tom was her third victim

he had such a strong start to the competition and I know a lot of people had him down as their favourite to win, so hopefully that means there’s a glittering career out there for him.

And so, we head into the final with just Jack and Monika

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