Launching his new range of fabrics for Littlewoods, celebrity interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen tells Helen Carson that adding a little colour to the boudoir can lead to couples having a red-hot love life.
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen says that while the economy may be gloomy, things are definitely looking up in the bedroom. The 47-year-old designer was making a quick pitstop in Belfast along with Mrs Llewelyn-Bowen to launch his glamorous new interiors collections for Littlewoods.com when I caught up with him.
The pair were ensconced at a suite in the Merchant Hotel, but, of course, Jackie (48) and Laurence are anything but strangers to Northern Ireland’s scenic shores. As well as two series of the successful BBC NI House of the Year show where Laurence was one of the judges, the couple proved a ratings winner here with Northern Exposure where the terribly English husband and wife team toured the province in a classic Mustang showcasing its many attractions — some of which we were blissfully unaware of ourselves.
Meanwhile, Laurence is in fine form pointing out the importance of design in all our lives. And he has cast aside the hotel’s cushions and replaced them with his own.
“Look at my Littlewoods.com cushions, they don’t look at all out of place in the Merchant,” he announces triumphantly.
He moves quickly on, though, to a recent survey by Littlewoods.com which revealed people with purple bedrooms get the most action between the sheets — a sexy 3.49 times a week to be precise, while those with red boudoirs score 3.19 times in seven days.
As if to prove a point he asked the youthful Belfast Telegraph photographer David, who is 22, what colour his bedroom is.
“I’m a sky blue,” says David. Laurence looks confused, but adds: “If you had a purple bedroom you would have sex more than three times a week.”
“Yeah, but that’s not very much,” says David.
“Ah, but you’re young, when you’re old like me, having sex involves pullies and winches,” Laurence jokes.
He gets back on task waxing lyrical about the online interior collection: “Littlewoods is so associated with fashion and this interior collection has enabled me to close the gap between fashion and interiors.”
And Laurence says attitudes to our homes are changing and there is a link between this and economic uncertainty. Home-owners are rebelling against beige living and embracing ‘grown-up style’ which oozes personality, he claims.
Well-known for his flamboyant appearance, Laurence has created cushions in tactile fabrics which include black with cerise pink, grey paisley patterns with black and bright pink motifs as well as decadent bedding in black with gold feathers and purple flowers — it’s all about looking ostentatious without the hefty price tag.
One of his more unusual creations is a gold pineapple which he describes as very ‘Margo’ or ‘Hyacinth Bucket’. “People want individuality and personality in their homes and colour in the bedroom.”
All this design talk takes another saucy turn, as he cites the ‘50 Shades of Grey-effect’ as evidence that home-makers everywhere taking control of the things they can change — like their sex life. Please explain Laurence?
“The top five bestselling books recently have been erotica, not porn or made for women in LA gyrating in G-strings. It’s all part of a new confidence. We want our own sense of glamour which only happens in a society that is in crisis. People use design to make the world better.”
And according to Laurence it is women who are leading the backlash against all this recession misery: “Women look at life, decide what’s wrong and then do something about it. Men don’t, they just scratch their heads. Women know if they create the right environment they will get the sex life they want.”
With purple and red topping the Littlewoods.com report into the key colours for a hotter sex life, Laurence says: “This is no surprise to me. For years I have been telling British home-owners a beige bedroom makes for a beige sex life and that’s one thing I wouldn’t wish on anyone. This report proves that I have finally starting rubbing off on the country.”
And while the Llewelyn-Bowens are in town I take the opportunity to ask them about their love of Northern Ireland.
Laurence loves Mussenden Temple on the North West coast, while Jackie describes Slieve Gullion in Co Armagh as ‘one of the most beautiful places’ she has ever seen. “The view over the volcano is very Tolkien”.
Laurence says he never has any hesitation visiting this part of the world: “It’s a great place and the people here are as mad as pants. I always try to get any programme I’m involved with to come here. I made sure the Littlewoods launch came here.”
The couple only had one worrying experience when filming Northern Exposure: “We were driving around the country in the car one evening and a dangerous-looking car with two dangerous-looking men in it was following us.
“And do you know who the dangerous-looking men were? The park ranger and his mate with the key to the loo. They were worried we would need to use the loo which is locked at night because of vandals.”
Northern Exposure was a massive success, and Laurence says initially he wondered why: “I was asking this BBC executive why the show was so popular. It was a one-word answer ‘Jackie’.”
The Llewelyn-Bowen’s are famous for their love of the countryside having swapped London life for a home in the Cotswolds which they share with their two daughters’ Cecile (17) and 14-year-old Hermione: “We love the country and the girls have been filling the house up this summer with their posh teenage schoolfriends.”
They are also fitting in a treat as Jackie has just bought the local football team Corinthians FC.
“I think sport is a really positive thing for young people to be involved in, and a football team is very important to the local community.”
Laurence adds, though, there was some trepidation on the part of the players when they found out who their new boss was: “I think at first they were so glad of the money, but now they are thinking what on earth are we going to be made to wear. I’m thinking peacock feathers.”
He says he doesn’t miss London life: “Everywhere is so accessible now and we have really good restaurants in Cirencester. Mind you we’ve changed the name of Birmingham Airport to Cotswolds International.”
Now sporting a beard, Laurence says it’s because he’s ‘getting old’, but Jackie takes full credit for his facial hair, pointing out while they were on a recent holiday in Mauritius he wasn’t shaving: “I told him to leave it and I’d see if it looked okay after three days.”
Before I say my goodbyes, Laurence and Jackie are posing for David — they really are fascinated with him.
“What’s your tattoo?” he asks.
David describes the inkwork which is rather, how shall I say it ‘avant garde?’
“When you’re 70 and commander of the fleet, don’t you think you’ll regret that?” asks Laurence.
“You’re too young to remember Echo and the Bunnymen,” says Jackie.
“I was thinking The Smiths,” says Laurence staring at David’s hair.
“Robert Smith?” asks Jackie.
“That’s The Cure,” says David, who actually knows all the aforementioned bands.Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s collection is available from Littlewoods.com
Changing rooms to grand designs
- Best known for his work on BBC TV programme Changing Rooms, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was born in 1965
- His father was a Harley Street orthopaedic surgeon and his mother a teacher. He has a brother and sister
- During a celebrity special edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Laurence and his wife Jackie answered the £1m question wrong, dropping back to £32,000 but were given a second chance later and won £500,000 for their chosen charity