With the BBC final Masters in Interior Design getting closer and closer, it’s no surprise that the stakes – and the standards – are higher than ever. Our five other budding designers were tasked with giving traditional Welsh shepherd’s huts a glamping makeover, each given a separate brief. The teamwork was over – this time the candidates worked alone, with only their ideas and a small group of tradespeople for the company.
And while it’s inevitable that someone will be sent home every week, it was still a surprise when Dean, our king of dark interiors and number one fan of the color black, 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 succeed.
Beautiful home UK had an exclusive chat with the lovely Dean, discussing perhaps the sexiest shepherd’s hut ever and why he might ditch black for good…
The Dark Lord is gone! How did you feel watching the episode?
I had mixed emotions – I watched it with my wife and kept saying “I should have done this, I could have done that”, but that’s hindsight for you. I just know that I definitely could have done better. I didn’t want to go at all, but especially when I felt like I wasn’t going to go on a high. But I want to say I had the best experience and loved every minute.
The weather seemed to be your biggest enemy this week. Did you get the feeling that you might end up on the couch?
I knew. I am a very realistic person and I could tell that time was not on my side that week. I knew I wasn’t doing as well as I had in previous challenges and wasn’t working with my regular carpenter, so it felt like a mix of factors were working against me. I was working at my usual pace, but I just knew that I wasn’t as strong as I had been the week at the hotel or the week at school. Every week the stakes get higher and Michelle wants more from you, so I had more to do and I was running out of time.
You told the camera you were done “but I’m not over the moon” – what did you have to compromise or sacrifice on due to time constraints?
There was to be a hidden outdoor bath with a wonderful screen around it for privacy – you could see, but no one could see you. The bath would have had an incredible view of the Welsh springs; it would be very romantic to sit there with a glass of champagne or Prosecco with your loved one. It would have been my sensational moment, but it wasn’t.
Your brief was ‘romantic’ – did you know right away that you were going to use your brand’s black or were you tempted to use other colours? If you could have chosen any of the other themes, which would it have been?
Black has become my go-to color and I agree with Michelle – my safety net. This particular week has been difficult for me; work was manic, I survived on about five hours of sleep a night, and the only stores open at certain times I could go to were IKEA and Dunelm – which were amazing by the way. I knew this wasn’t going to be my best week and I wish I had gone with a green and gold scheme with a nice wallpaper. But saying that, I was thrilled to receive the romance dossier – I just know I could have done better. If I had to choose another memoir, I would have gone with Amy’s rustic theme.
Do you think black was too much for the judges? Michelle seemed to be hoping for another color…
Yes – and to be fair, you can’t keep using the same colors. Michelle had seen that I could use black, maybe if I had gone for the green shades it would have saved me. You have to bring something different every week to this show, and while I’m a big fan of dark interiors, I won’t immediately offer black to future clients!
Guest judge Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen said she felt like she came from a shelf somewhere else – how did that make you feel?
(Laughs) It made me go ‘Oooh!’. Dark interiors are like Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it, although I know for a fact Lawrence is a big fan of dark interiors himself. I just want to know – which shelf and from where? Is it a luxurious shelf? Because then it won’t bother me! He’s a big personality but he’s so adorable. He said I was very sweet, which I took as a compliment.
The judges also said it was more sexy than romantic – do you agree with that?
A romantic break deserves a sexy moment! A space can be romantic and sexy at the same time, you need both elements. If you’re spending money to go away with your significant other, it must be magic for both of you. It’s not just about the view. Going away together is a special occasion and you need that intimacy…especially when you have kids!
Do you wish you had made the space more “practical”?
I wanted it to be – but we ran out of time. We were supposed to have a folding table and chairs, but as you saw we ended up with only one chair.
How did you feel watching your fellow competitors give their opinion on your hut? Paul said, ‘Reminds me of one of those places you rent by the hour’!
Typical Paul! It’s just his sense of humor. What I’ve always respected about Paul is his honesty – he told me, “It’s not 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 cabin, the more you enjoyed the view. I think it made the space pop.
Everyone gave their opinion, but do you think you got the brief?
I think I did it somehow. Everything is subject to interpretation, isn’t it? But the finishes weren’t finished, so I didn’t achieve my goal of having the wow factor. I totally understood the comments and even though I’m so proud of what I accomplished on this show, I wasn’t proud of that finish. I’m such a perfectionist and even though I made it to the last five, I was more proud of the other weeks of the competition.
What was the hardest part of the challenge for you?
Tiling – I had never tried it before and it might not have been the best time to practice! Also, working without my regular carpenter threw me off. I had to change plans because I had so much to do and realized that not everything could be achieved.
If you could change something, would you?
Besides not going for a full 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 favorite cabin?
Paul blew me away. He had the biggest shack to work with, but he showed what you can do with space. When I saw him, I remember saying, “He at to get a special mention this week,” so I was so happy when he did.
Who do you want to win?
Banjo – his vision is extraordinary. I knew from the first day I met him that he was gifted; he creates the most incredible stories with his creations. But I also think Fran is amazing, Amy is so talented and so is Paul. It’s going to be a close call.
Finally, what’s next for you?
Well, first of all, I have to finish my own house! But I hope to continue my design work and build my website and Instagram following.
• Watch the next episode of Masters in Interior Design Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on BBC One. Follow Dean on Instagram @darklordinterior.
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