Before austerity – back when Boris Johnson was a just another newspaper columnist, and about as serious a threat to the nation’s security as Janet Street-Porter – Britain was busy watching home improvement shows. The nation was fixated on expressing its domestic individuality, and if you could staple-gun it to the wall (a magenta stag’s head, a wobbly mirror, a circle cut out of zebra-striped fun fur), anything was fair game.
It’s hard to imagine that kind of cheery, blind optimism now, isn’t it? We can barely pay the mortgage, let alone afford all those purple voile curtain panels. Home makeovers are for well-connected Instagram influencers only, and our interior design dreams often don’t make it past the Pinterest board.
There’s a rumble in the jungle on Amazon Prime, and leaping from the undergrowth is – you guessed it – Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, the Lord Byron of B&Q.
But there’s a rumble in the jungle on Amazon Prime, and leaping from the undergrowth is – you guessed it – Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, the Lord Byron of B&Q. He’s back with a new show, Laurence of Suburbia, and this time he’s being pitched as a leather-trenchcoat clad, Dave Grohl-esque, punk-rock renegade in shades, who is here to shake up the boring bedrooms and lounges of suburban Britain. Personally, I never thought we’d reach a point in the culture where Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (or LLB, as he is trying to make happen) was subversive, but who knows anything anymore? Next week, the Hairy Bikers may destroy the very fabric of society, with help from Tommy from Ground Force.
Like a more benign Boris, Llewelyn-Bowen has somehow managed to attach himself to the nation’s psyche using public schoolboy charm and sheer force of will.
Like a more benign Boris, Llewelyn-Bowen has somehow managed to attach himself to the nation’s psyche using public schoolboy charm and sheer force of will. In this show, he acts as if he’s never been away, and even has his own silver inflatable dome, where he takes to the stage like a rock star to destroy the home-decor decisions of Britain’s province dwellers.
It’s essentially a bitchy TED talk for people who want some ideas to liven up their dining alcove.
It’s essentially a bitchy TED talk for people who want some ideas to liven up their dining alcove. He says withering things like “beigified” and “ooh, that’s been hit with the grey stick”. Then he goes to people’s houses, slags off their fish tanks and knackered corner sofas, and promises ‘artistic’ design solutions that lie somewhere between the frescos of Il Duomo in Florence and William Morris’s downstairs toilet.
If you pay for the magazine you should always take it. Vendors are working for a hand up, not a handout.
Of course, there’s an entertaining and predictably disastrous outcome. Taking his inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright, Italian design and Welsh textiles, in the first episode he turns Judi and Ian’s living room in Stratford-upon-Avon into a Nineties Travelodge, complete with vile indigo-patterned wallpaper, rubber plants and dark-blue MDF shapes tacked on to either side of a clunking stone fireplace.
It seems we have learned nothing from the Changing Rooms S&M bedroom disaster of 1997. Still, we’re used to condescending posh guys with big egos fucking everything up now – and at least LLB is only messing with our pelmets.
Laurence of Suburbia is on Amazon Prime now.