Remember a simpler time, when we regarded our houses as places to get away from everybody, rather than investment vehicles? When a chill-out zone was two bean bags and a plastic Buddha? When a man in an open-to-the-waist floral shirt could be a sex symbol to a nation? Remember, is what I’m getting at, Changing Rooms?
I worked very briefly for a TV channel focused on home shows, and there was an ongoing debate about them buying and showing old episodes of the classic make-over show. Would it be a bit of kitsch fun, or forever drag down the channel’s reputation? I put in my twopenneth – “Buy it! Buy it!” – but was overruled, naturally. But stumbling on this Buzzfeed appreciation of the show the other day made me think again of how much I would enjoy a station that showed it day and night on a loop. Linda Barker stippling for her life. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen glossing masterfully over extremely passive-agressive reactions to an astro-turfed living room. Handy Andy taking a jigsaw to health and safety concerns… The show had it all, and the cringe-inducing reveals (don’t forget this was two teams of neighbours making over each other’s houses) surely set the tone for the theatre-of-discomfort that became the norm in reality TV until this very day.
If you have 5 minutes to kill then I urge you to check out Buzzfeed’s ’13 Changing Rooms Designs That Really Haven’t Aged Well’ (one wonders which ones have). You’ll find all the classic tropes – mauve paint in abundance, a random beach ball for set dressing, beds draped in flammable ‘sari’ fabric off the market. The author, sadly, hasn’t attributed which disastrous room was the work of which interior designer, but I feel pretty certain that I can spot the Larry Bowen finger marks on a few. And, might I add, that these rooms, while totally naff (see above), at least adhere to some sort of design principals. At least still resemble rooms. Unlike some of the others… You also get the video of the infamous ‘priceless teapots’ episode at the end. Go on, enjoy yourself. The 90s are having a moment. Pass the stencilling kit.