It’s semi-final week on Interior Design Masters and the three remaining designers, Monika, Jack and Tom, were tasked with transforming three hair salons in the vibrant city of Bristol.
With a budget of just £3,000 each, exacting creative clients and retail guru Mary Portas as guest judge helping chief judge Michelle Ogundehin make the decision on which two contestants would go through to the grand final next week, everyone was determined to make the cut.
But sadly, despite impressing Mary and Michelle with his considered lighting, and delighting the salon owner and manager with his makeover of their dated industrial chic interior, Tom Power, 47, a waiter, upholsterer and former actor, had to leave. This has left Monika and Jack to face their biggest challenge yet — transforming two pubs — in next week’s final.
We caught up with Tom at home in South London and heard why Harrogate was his high point.
You said that you felt very safe and confident until this week, and Alan said you’d lost your mojo. Were you really having a wobble?
We had three days to prepare for it. The salon owner had very strict limitations on what I was allowed to do. It was such a tiny time slot, and a lot to handle that week.
I don’t know if this comes across. We were all given that time slot, so that’s not an excuse. I just felt that aspects of my brief were unfortunate – not allowed to touch the walls, floor, ceiling, keeping things temporary so they could be removed. I feel a bit sorry for them, because I thought, why don’t you just trust us to do the best job possible? I’m a very calm, diligent, designer. I know what to do and how to do it.
Tom, you said, ‘we’re going to embrace the industry and make it a bit sexier’. Did the salon’s owner, Doug and his manager, Neil, agree that you’d achieved this?
It was a really tricky thing because the owner, Doug, was retiring. He’d designed the salon himself. And his manager, Neil, didn’t want it to change until he left. Neil was ecstatic that we’d made a change. But this was a tough one. It was this very specific space, everything was interconnected. All the lighting was connected to each other. It was like a deck of cards.
What was your favorite scheme of the entire series?
Definitely the wedding lodge [in Rutland, episode six] – that and the sheepskin shop [in Harrogate, episode four]for two different reasons.
The sheepskin shop was so successful. It worked for the shop and their products; the new design made them all look like lovely, beautiful things. That was less to do with lovely paint colors. That was about respecting what the product was. And I really enjoyed working on that with Temi.
And the groom’s wedding lodge, the end point was just magical. I came away from that thinking, ‘no matter what happens, I did have it in me to create something that is magical’.
But the highlight of the groom’s lodge was that there was a lot of communication between me and Monika, a lot of consideration about the palette, how it feels, what’s the experience, the play of the light of the space. We were still ourselves and did our own spaces, but it came together beautifully.
Michelle and Mary weren’t too keen on your ‘dystopian’ mural. And Alan said it reminded him of a ginger nut. In hindsight, would you have done it differently?
That was a difficult challenge. Mary Portas? I think she’s a wonderful woman. I was very excited for her to come and look at it. I thought that the existing murals were dated in space, and I felt it needed to be updated. I was happy with what I produced in the allotted time.
They loved your wall lights though… how did you get the lighting just right?
I said it a hundred times during the filming. There is nothing worse than going to a salon where you look appalling. You want to look in the mirror and think, ‘I look really good, I look fresh, I look healthy, yes, I look really great, I’m really happy with myself’.
So you have side lights, not downlights. The owner and manager did have a conversation with me about the lighting. They admitted it was awful for photographs and made working in the salon really tricky. It’s not just about fluffing cushions. Design is about making practical decisions.
Tell us one thing about the show we don’t know
I think I wasn’t ready for the amount of camera time. It’s in your face every minute. That didn’t dawn on me until I was actually in the show. And that’s really bizarre, because I’d been an actor. For the first few weeks I’d think it was scary and run away. I just wanted to get my job done.
You said in this episode that ‘interior design means everything to me, it’s the career I want’. Is that what are you doing now?
Yes, it’s early doors. I’m having some really lovely people reaching out to me [on my website, Tom Power Design]. A couple of projects have got the go-ahead, all residential at the moment. I think what I showed in the show was that I’m a very competent, careful, considered designer. I had a level I wished to reach, and what I was trying to do was the best for each individual client. It wasn’t about me – it was about the right thing for this space. I think my future clients can put their trust in me.
Both finalists are amazing, but do you have a favorite to win?
I’m going to be very diplomatic and say that they both deserve to win. Monika has had an incredible journey, and Jack has been consistent with every single thing he has done.
• Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr, series four, airs at 8pm every Tuesday on BBC One. You can also catch up on BBC iPlayer.
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Freelance homes and property writer
Jayne specializes in advice stories for House Beautiful magazine and writes about a wide range of topics, from gardening and DIY to decluttering and mindfulness. Based in Yorkshire, she has recently renovated a 1920s house, where she lives with her family.