And the designer was keen to wear a suit on the beach (Picture: Rex)
Interior designer and Changing Rooms icon Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, 57, on meeting RuPaul at the pearly gates, his fashion sense, and seeing an end to minimalism.
We’ve most recently seen you on Pilgrimage: The Road To The Scottish Isles – why did you want to do it?
I’ve always been fascinated by the programme. I was rather hoping it was somewhere a bit more exotic than Northern Ireland and Scotland, because we talked about Buddhist pilgrimages in Indonesia and a Shinto one in Japan, but I got the rainy pilgrimage.
But I love the humility of it. A pilgrimage starts from the moment you open your front door – why does it have to be an exotic experience?
How did you find all the walking?
I loved it. There’s something very meditative about a walking rhythm, which is why pilgrimages are so powerful. You’re suddenly alone with your own footsteps. The mist would close in and you couldn’t see the crew.
It’s basically ‘help, I’m an agnostic, get me out of here!’ It’s putting celebrities into an extreme situation but without having to eat kangaroo testicles. Although there were times I could have done with a kangaroo testicle. It might have given me an extra bounce in my step.
Laurence got to know his other celeb pilgrims on the mammoth walk (Picture: BBC)
Are you religious?
I absolutely love religion. I don’t think it needs to be about celebrating a god. I’ve always been very interested by the Celtic Church and also the people that created religion. When you look at Chartres Cathedral in France or St Columba’s Cathedral in Oban, I see the people that built it and worshipped in it.
I don’t need to see the finger of God at the top of the pyramid. It’s a very personal philosophy. I could die, be welcomed through the Pearly Gates by God – who’s probably RuPaul – saying, ‘No, no, naughty boy! You got all of that wrong!’ Pazam! And I go straight to hell.
Did you know any of the other celebrities?
I met Nick Hewer in a hotel in Lake Como many years ago but I didn’t know any of the others. I was surprised by how deeply felt Scarlett Moffatt’s faith was but then by how fragile she was about talking about it.
As an influencer and icon of the 2022s, she was very concerned she’d be losing followers by declaring her religion.
After consulting a tailor, Laurence made sure he could style out the Cotswolds (Picture: BBC/CTVC/Sam Palmer)
You’re obviously the most stylish of the lot…
Well, it’s not exactly a high bar – everyone was in Gore-Tex. I’m afraid that as a 57-year-old grandfather in the Cotswolds, I will always do things on my terms: I wasn’t going to do the pilgrimage dressed in Gore-Tex. I sat down with my tailor and thought about how we could do it in a different way.
I wanted to wear a suit. I wear a suit on the beach. So we came up with this idea of using a Lycra linen mix, which is genius because the Lycra shooed the rain away but the linen meant that I breathed when everybody else was in a steamy cloud of cheesy condensation when they took their clothes off.
You returned to Changing Rooms last year. How have people’s attitudes to home decor changed since the last series?
Fifteen years later, people’s houses are much better done than they were. There’s none of the DIY disasters, none of the chip paper, thankfully. This time we weren’t walking into rooms that haven’t been done for ten years but ones that were done rather extravagantly 10 years ago.
The biggest reactions were the tears of relief. But people know I’m going to take a room somewhere it’s never going to get under its own steam.
When Laurence returned to Changing Rooms, he was impressed by how the standard of people’s homes had risen (Picture: Channel 4)
What’s the biggest error people make with interiors?
The big thing still is lack of personality. Before lockdown people were told, ‘Don’t do anything to affect the value of your house, have plenty of storage so nobody sees your real stuff.’ All of that is so wrong. You want to be surrounded by things that mean something to you. You don’t want to be in that kind of homogenised, pasteurised state of being a commodity.
More: Metro newspaper
You have a new book out in September about maximalism…
That’s going to change the world. It is literally the last beige nail in the last beige coffin of minimalism. Because minimalism always was a s*** idea, let’s face it. Nobody liked it. But there’s been nobody brave enough to stand up to it.
It’s not a practical book, there’ll be a practical follow-up. It’s just about being you. And if being you comes with a raffia donkey from Acapulco, then own that donkey from Acapulco.
Laurence is always determined to don a suit in all but the most extreme conditions (Picture: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Don’t be bullied by your mother-in-law or the estate agent or Kelly Hoppen into believing you can’t. The point of maximalism is that you’re creating this cabinet of curiosities or museum of you.
What else are you doing this year?
Way too much. I’ve got a couple of new shows for Channel 4. We’re doing a couple of hotels here in the Cotswolds. I’ve got the Llewellingtons [clothes range] being launched in time for the summer festivals. There’s this irritating idea that I should be winding down into a gentlemanly Cotswolds retirement.
Pilgrimage: The Road To The Scottish Isles is available on BBC iPlayer.