‘Contestants have stepped up to display interior design genius’

When the BBC’s London-based bods carved a unique channel to celebrate Scotland’s diversity and character, the eye-popping Home of the Year series was the type of visual feast they must have had in mind.

Friday, 10th July 2020, 1:12 pm
Updated Friday, 10th July 2020, 4:38 pm
Elina James of Berwick-Upon-Tweed design studio Decodence appeared on the first episode of the latest series of Scotland’s Home of the Year showcasing her converted 19th century mill - all 10 episodes are available on the BBC iPlayer

Little wonder then that the second series landed less than 12 months after the first and the timing couldn’t have been better.

When could property porn be appreciated more but with the nation on lockdown, endlessly staring at its own walls, with our new socially distanced remote- working world creating a population looking for inspiration as much as entertainment.

In case you’re not familiar with the format, BBC Scotland’s Home of the Year featured one finalist from each of the nine Scottish regions going head-to-head in the final.

To reach the shortlist, we’ve taken a camera-led canter through a total of 27 design-led homes and we have wowed and we have oo’ed.

Unfortunately, we have also cringed at the presenting and left puzzled by the inconsistent judging.

It is here I must hold my hand in the air to declare I was a contestant in the first episode of this series where I showcased the 19th century mill I converted into my home.

The judges arrive at each location with limited information, a charming format when it works.

But limited shouldn’t mean none so I was surprised when the tall architect Michael Angus complained about the size of a bath while completely ignoring the original three ton mill wheels in the wine cellar, especially when he championed the challenge of a church conversion by the time we rolled into episode two.

Ultimately, anyone who has a sniff of genuine interest in design needs more information.

Okay I get it, this is no Grand Designs and chucking the stimulating visuals provided by 27 bombastic houses at your audience quickly boosts the wow factor and panders to those with a short attention span as well as traditional BBC viewers to ensure a broad audience reach.

But the good folk at BBC Scotland already have a captive audience and should have had more confidence when adapting the format inherited by the Danish original.

And why is everyone just so polite? I’m not suggesting they should invite Simon Cowell on but if you want to go a bit ITV, surely we could turn up the dial on opinions?

Moving onto the judges, they never really look like they’re enjoying themselves.

It is episode three we see a glance at what ‘engaged’ looks like when Anna Campbell Jones reacts to the converted Victorian-flat in Glasgow – clearly identifying our winner.

Putting the fake smiles, half-hearted high-fives and our slightly frightened doe-eyed social media expert to one side, can we please clarify the judging criteria?

What’s that Michael? You’re looking for a bit of magic? Oh great, that’s clear.

We hear in the programme they’re looking for a homely home, which leaves me scratching my head about their researchers shortlisting my 1200 square metre industrial building and episode two’s minimalist church.

I’m also left wondering whether the programme rewards people who can throw money at architects and designers without getting involved in any decisions themselves, whether they’ve bought the property as it is (you know who you are) or whether the house communicates a design ethos and personality throughout. And which is the better virtue?

But I’m not here to be a grouch or a poor loser. Television bosses know this type of programming tops the charts and let’s face it, we’re chomping at the bit for series three.

Ultimately, we are all voyeurs to be titillated by other people, whether they are poorly-briefed TV presenters or the owners of beautiful homes.

This series’ contestants have stepped up to the mark to display a range of the country’s utter interior design genius, at exactly the point in history when we need a window on the world most ... but then I could be biased.