Karl from Interior Design Masters | YourHomeStyle interview
We caught up with Karl, the first contestant to leave series 4 of Interior Design Masters. Here he spills the tea on behind-the-scenes drama and tells us how he grappled with designing in the middle of a heatwave in London!
Last night we saw the return of Interior Design Masters on BBC1. For the episode, we saw contestants challenged with the task of making over showroom homes, with a special focus on sustainable design, for a new development of apartments in Elephant & Castle in south London.
Interior Design Masters series 4, episode 1
This week judge Michelle Ogundehin was joined by guest judge Jonathan Adler, known for his glamorous, colourful and contemporary designs. After grilling the four bottom contestants, the pair decided it was architect Karl who would be leaving the competition.
Hi Karl, it was so lovely seeing you on the first ep of the new Interior Design Masters series! We were so sorry to see you eliminated this week but we hope you had an amazing experience and we loved the design you came up with...
What inspired you to enter the show?
I'd watched the show since the beginning, I still remember being big fans of season 1 contestants Nicki and Ju. Then when I saw the ad for applications last year I thought why not?
I'd been building up my Newcastle-based business, Friends Studio, for the past 4 years and just got a bit stuck in a rut with planning applications, fire regulations and so on. This seemed like the perfect thing to get my head stuck into and further pursue my passion for interior design. So I made an application, filmed a little demo and before I knew it, I was cast! It still is surreal to this day.
What interior design style would you say you most align with?
I call my style 'tropical retro-futurism' because it's a real mash-up of styles. I draw hugely on Wabi-Sabi and retro vibes, particularly mid-century - I'm a real sucker for a conversation pit (which is what I was trying to emulate on the show).
My Malaysian background taught me to do more with less, and favour raw materials and natural textures. My experience in design in Newcastle has been flavoured with a lot of signature mid-century pieces, Eames chairs and tables etc. There is a huge range of mid-century goods available in the north, you can find me at a salvage yard/flea sale most weekends. I also draw on Mexican and Balinese influences in my moodboards.
One of the elements of your challenge was to create a sustainable-friendly design. What would you say is the most accessible way (or ways) of incorporating sustainability into interior design and decorating?
In my design I used a lot of repurposed furniture and materials. The fabric was warehouse scraps I found on eBay and the furniture was from various yards and homes on Facebook Marketplace. I can't drive so I had to lug around pieces on the train from Leeds - I guess you could call that sustainable but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it!
If you are attempting a sustainable interior project then you need to insist that you'll be using at least 60-70% reclaimed items.
I think sustainability has to be thought of from the start - I decided early on that I would try and minimise waste and using new items. I didn't want to be adding to landfill by buying new items from IKEA or other fast furniture brands (even though it might have made sense for ease and time).
If you are attempting a sustainable interior project then you need to insist that you'll be using at least 60-70% reclaimed items. Design with intent, whether that intent is in using anti-toxic paints or hypoallergenic fabrics, reclaimed furniture pieces, or integrating nature into your space.
I come from the tropics and grew up in open-plan houses that had large bifold doors opening into a garden, letting a breeze in. Now living in the nippy north, I find a lot of joy setting up little gardens in bay windows or creating a sea of green around my sofa area - you can get grow lights to help with the lack of natural light too.
What interior wisdom from Michelle and guest judge Jonathan Adler will stay with you?
My highlight was definitely getting to meet Michelle on the show, I'm a big fan. Jonathan was amazing and an absolute bonus to meet on the show, he was so funny.
I will take away a lot from the feedback I received, but I think the one thing that will stay with me is to just have fun and loosen up when decorating. If given a chance to do my space again, I would have loosened up and bought more furnishings - probably not tried to make a dining table, reupholster the chairs, build a sideboard AND an L-shaped sofa all in two days!
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Before this show I thought of myself as a bit of a Jack of all trades. Now I see the importance of finding a signature style.
Jonathan actually gave us some invaluable tips off-camera about the business of design, which was amazing. He told us to ground ourselves to a theme, for him his three words were 'New American Glam' and just get your head into it. I see what he means, before this show I thought of myself as a bit of a Jack of all trades. Now I see the importance of finding a signature style. I've had a bit of a go since then, and chosen my three words; 'New Urban Jungle' - let's see where I can take it, stay tuned!
Has the show changed how you view interior design? Will you do anything differently now?
What I'm not sure will come across on camera is that all my plants went missing on the courier that was arranged for me from Newcastle. I think if I was to do it again I would've got my driver's license for the show!
People don't think so, but interior design is very competitive and physically demanding by nature.
Also when we were working on the apartment it was during the summer heat waves in London. You will have seen a very sweaty version of me on telly, I was struggling with the heat having been used to the north for the last ten years!
It's really made me realise that to be a better designer I need to prioritise my stamina and health to keep up the pace. People don't think so, but interior design is very competitive and physically demanding by nature. Since the show I've been taking more steps to stay active in the gym at least 4-5 times a week. I would've put myself on a diet and probably avoided caffeine before the show!
Check back on our Interior Design Masters series 4 page each week to see more contestant interviews
Katie is a Staff Writer for HomeStyle magazine and YourHomeStyle.uk. She previously worked on Gardens Illustrated magazine and has written for various other lifestyle magazines and brands. She particularly enjoys writing about indie and eco homeware brands, interior styles through the ages, urban gardening, and decor hacks for small spaces. She is also responsible for HomeStyle's buyer's guides, so you'll often find her testing out the latest homeware gadgets and kitchen appliances.