With the final of the BBC’s Interior Design Masters coming ever closer, it’s no surprise that the stakes – and standards – are higher than ever. Our remaining five aspiring designers were tasked with giving traditional shepherd’s huts in Wales a glamping makeover, with each given a separate brief. The teamwork was over – this time, the contestants worked alone, with only their ideas and a small set of tradespeople for company.
And although it is inevitable that someone is sent home each week, it was still a surprise when Dean, our king of dark interiors and the colour black’s number one fan, was eliminated; many had assumed the final would be between him and Banjo. Dean, 41, who only discovered his love of interiors during lockdown (and applied for the show five minutes before the deadline!), had wowed the judges in previous challenges, but this time his trusty black just didn’t quite cut it.
House Beautiful UK had an exclusive chat with the lovely Dean, discussing perhaps the sexiest shepherd’s hut of all time and why he may ditch the black for good…
The Dark Lord has gone! How did it feel watching the episode back?
I had mixed emotions – I watched it with my wife and I kept saying ‘I should have done this, I could have done that’, but that’s hindsight for you. I just know I definitely could have done better. I didn’t want to go at all, but especially when I felt that I wasn’t going out on a high. But I want to say that I’ve had the best experience and I’ve loved every minute.
Time seemed to be your biggest enemy this week – did you have a feeling that you may end up on the sofa?
I knew. I’m a very realistic person and I could just tell that time was not on my side that week. I knew I wasn’t doing as well as I had done in previous challenges and I wasn’t working with my usual carpenter, so it felt like a mixture of factors working against me. I was working at my usual speed, but I just knew I wasn’t as strong as I had been in hotel week or school week. Every week the stakes are higher and Michelle wants more from you, so I had more to do and I just ran out of time.
You said to the camera that you had finished ‘but I’m not over the moon’ – what did you have to compromise on or sacrifice due to time limitations?
There was meant to be a hidden outside bath with a gorgeous screen around it for privacy – you’d be able to see out, but no one would be able to see you. The bath would have had incredible views of the Welsh Springs; it would be very romantic to sit there with a glass of champagne or Prosecco with your loved one. That would have been my wow show-stopping moment, but it wasn’t to be.
Your brief was ‘romantic’ – did you immediately know you were going to use your trademark black or were you tempted to use any other colours? If you could have chosen any of the other themes, which one would it have been?
Black became my staple colour and I agree with Michelle – my safety net. This particular week was hard for me; work was manic, I was surviving on about five hours sleep a night and the only shops open at times I could get to were IKEA and Dunelm – who were amazing by the way. I knew this wasn’t going to be my best week and I wish I had gone for a green and gold scheme with a beautiful wallpaper. But saying that, I was over the moon to be given the romantic brief – I just know I could have done better. If I had to pick another brief, I would have gone for the rustic theme Amy had.
Do you think the black was too much for the judges? Michelle seemed to be hoping for a different colour…
Yes – and to be fair, you can’t just keep using the same colours. Michelle had seen that I could use black, maybe if I had gone for the green hues it would have saved me. You do have to bring something different each week on this show, and although I am a huge fan of dark interiors, I won’t be immediately suggesting black to future clients!
Guest judge Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen said it felt like it had come off a shelf from somewhere else – how did that make you feel?
(Laughs) It made me say ‘Oooh!’. Dark interiors is like Marmite, you’re either going to love it or hate it, although I know for a fact that Lawrence is a huge fan of dark interiors himself. I would just like to know – what shelf and from where? Is it a luxurious shelf? Because then I won’t mind! He’s a big personality but he’s so lovely. He said I was very smooth which I took as a compliment.
The judges also said it felt more sexy than romantic – did you agree with this?
A romantic break deserves some sexy time! A space can be romantic and sexy at the same time, you need both elements. If you’re spending the money to go away with your other half, it needs to feel magical for you both – it’s about more than just the view. Going away together is a special occasion and you need that intimacy… especially when you have children!
Do you wish you had made the space more ‘practical’?
I intended it to be – but we ran out of time. We were meant to have a foldout table and chairs, but as you saw, we ended up with just the one chair.
How did you feel watching your fellow contestants give their feedback on your hut? Paul said, ‘It reminds me of one of those places you rent by the hour’!
Typical Paul! That’s just his sense of humour. What I’ve always respected about Paul is how honest he is – he said to me, ‘This isn’t as good as your hotel room’ and I had to agree with him. But as Michelle pointed out, the more time you spent in the hut, the more you came to appreciate the views. I do think it made the space pop.
Everyone has given their opinions, but do you think that you hit the brief?
I think I did in a way. It’s all open to interpretation, isn’t it? But the finishing touches weren’t completed, so I didn’t achieve my goal of having the wow factor. I understood the feedback completely and whilst I am so proud of what I have achieved on this show, I was not proud of this finish. I’m such a perfectionist and although I made it to the final five, I was prouder of other weeks in the competition.
What was the hardest part of the challenge for you?
The tiling – I’d never attempted it before and perhaps this wasn’t the best time to practise! Also, working without my usual carpenter did throw me. I had to change plans as I had so much to do and realised it couldn’t all be achieved.
If you could change anything, would you?
Apart from not going for a full-on black scheme, I would have to change the accessories. The bedding just wasn’t the best and now I would go for lots of white and gold.
Who created your favourite hut?
Paul’s blew me away. He had the biggest hut to work with, but he showed what you can do with the space. When I saw it I remember saying, ‘He has to get a special mention this week’, so I was so pleased when he did.
Who do you want to win?
Banjo – his vision is extraordinary. I knew from the first day I met him that was he was gifted; he creates the most incredible stories with his designs. But I also think Fran is amazing, Amy is so talented and so is Paul. It’s going to be a close call.
Lastly, what’s next for you?
Well, first of all I need to finish my own house! But I’m hoping to continue with my design work and build my website and Instagram following.
• Catch the next episode of Interior Design Masters on Wednesday at 9pm on BBC One. Follow Dean on Instagram @darklordinterior.
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