Did we like it?
We hate interior design, damning it as the ultimate act of indolence by the idly rich, which is why we are a little puzzled that we rather liked this.
What was good about it?
• Charismatic and affable hosts in husband and wife designers Alex and Danielle Proud. It’s evident that the fact they’re a couple makes this so much more watchable as it makes the competitive element both genuine but not too cut-throat – both of which are typical failings of similar shows – as in this opener Alex helped Nick and Danielle came to the aid of Nick’s wife Katie as they each designed their own dream living room which would then be judged and the winning design transported to their home in Worthing.
• Alex is a big rolling bear of a man, and while many of his opinions were lost so far upstream in the dark heart of design glossary, his ostensible generosity in actually listening to his clients’ points of view rather than stomping all over them in I’m An Expert Ergo I’m Right bovver boots meant you as a viewer were also willing to listen to him. Of course he often conceded defeat in some areas, perhaps even construing a mock dispute, in order to oblige Nick to go along with some of his ideas.
• Danielle, too, employs similar tactics, but in this opener much of her time was spent warring with the fractious Katie about the whether her sofa should be orange and carpet brown or vice versa.
• And it was this ubiquitous sense of conflict that was this otherwise fluffy show’s brightest attraction. Not only do Alex and Danielle engage pistols at dawn in a game of marital one-upmanship, but Nick and Katie did likewise as he desperately tries to hang on to his immaturity in the form of a plasma screen TV, while she fights blinding white tooth and fake nail to keep her ethnic decorations to ease the malaise of perceived superficiality that afflicts so many in the Western world.
• Although edited with a clinical precision more often associated with splitting the atom, the often tired narrative trail of seeing Danielle and Katie argue and Alex and Nick bicker had the peculiar quality of a Beckett play as the dialogue exchange was both absorbing and rational yet it was essentially about nothing at all. The world will not spin off its axis if Katie’s curtains are gold or orange or if her wallpaper is adorned with birds or not, empires won’t collapse on Nick’s decision to reject tacky trolley drawers. What entranced us was the bitter yet benign, often uncompromising jousting force of wills that means it’s possible to enjoy this if you don’t have a clue about interior design (like us).
What was bad about it?
• The introduction of Alex and Danielle wasn’t very promising. She was described as being “considered by many to be the new face of modern craft”. What sort of testimony is that? We’re sure that many people still think that Adolf Hitler is the acceptable face of fascism, but it wouldn’t make them right (and they would probably be the sort of person who would purchase the Union Jack carpet that Nick thankfully rejected).
• Both Alex and Danielle seemed to be able to distinguish between all kinds of interior affectations down to the last atom but struggled somewhat more with real life. “For women, the most important thing is the look of the sofa,” crowed Danielle, throwing a blanket of bland uniform conformity over the blazing inferno known as womankind.
• Alex wasn’t much better, he was actually worse. “Then you’ve got the television,” he remarked. “It’s the centre-piece of any man’s room. It’s the big boys’ toy; it’s there to be impressive and I can’t understand why women can’t understand that.” So in the space of a few sentences he has branded all men and all women with the kind of dumb, mindless orthodoxy only seen on beer adverts in the half-time interval and sponsors’ ads in Friends. And he wasn’t finished: “Men and women have to live together so they have to design together – why do you think gay couples have such lovely homes?” So men and women will never ever agree on interior design and all gay people have immaculate style sense.
• The timidity of the criticism from all camps. If you took out the polite bile expressed in this show, you’d be down to about 10 minutes. For instance, Alex implies his disdain subtlety about Nick’s wall colour: “It’s green… It’s very green.” Katie meanwhile, began each critique with “I love it…” and then picked out one insignificant affectation, which is then inevitably followed by a venomous verbal avalanche of 10 things she hated.
• Too frequently were we exposed to the fetid bacterium of design-speak, a cipher so cripplingly pointless were it ever to take human form it would resemble Louis Walsh’s curdled grin. Alex suggested that the room would look good with the walls painted in ‘rectory red’ to which Nick replied that it was the same colour as it was painted at the moment. This sent Alex into a maelstrom of sanguine apoplexy, “That’s like saying the mini in your driveway is like your Ferrari.” But Nick was right; ‘rectory red’ was just, well, red.
• Danielle said: “Do you feel this sofa is ‘chilled out’?” It’s a bloody sofa not a comatose raver so blottoed by amphetamines that you could chop him up and feed him alive to the pigs during which time he’d only have a dream about snorting cocaine from a cistern.
• Mind you, Nick and Katie weren’t much more tolerable. He mused: “I don’t want to overpower the room with pattern.” It’s a fancy rug not a deadly nerve agent used to flush out terrorists in a hostage situation. And of the chest of drawers Alex suggested for the room: “It’s Tibetan, it’s fantastic.” The only reason anything Tibetan has any aesthetic kudos is because it is a repressed nation, and adopting the fashion of any repressed peoples is such a vicarious comfort to soothe the apathetic guilt of many Westerners.
• While she enthused: “This orange rug is very rustic and ethnic.” It’s not, it’s an orange rug for sale in an upmarket boutique and is about as ‘ethnic’ as a Boeing 747. “I love the fact that this sofa is bright and daring…” Bright it certainly was, but daring? Until the sofa has plunged selflessly into a burning building to rescue a pair of screaming children and the family cat, we won’t be convinced. And: “I love the bookcase it’s absolutely stunning.” It wasn’t, it looked like a pigeon coop glossed with white paint.