Interior Design Masters exit interview with Ben Irurzun

interior design masters, series five
Interior Design Masters exit interview: BenBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

The semi-final of Interior Design Masters series five took the three remaining contestants backstage at the world-famous OVO Wembley Arena, tasked with transforming drab dressing rooms into gorgeous hangouts for rock’n’roll royalty, on a budget of £3,000 each.

Pop princess Sophie Ellis-Bextor appeared as guest judge, helping head judge Michelle Ogundehin decide who out of Ben, Matt or Roisin would be leaving the competition.

Roisin’s bright pink chaise longue and £980 wallpaper warmed their hearts. Although Matt’s flat cushions came in for criticism, it was flamboyant Ben, channelling old school Hollywood vibes, who failed to hit the high notes with his all-white boudoir. Michelle admitted she had never seen anything quite like it in her life, while Sophie said, 'it was like walking into a ghost’s dressing room'.

Speaking to House Beautiful, former lingerie designer Ben Irurzun, 33, who lives in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, with his partner Daniel, an academic and historian (find Ben on Instagram @bygoneben) was so sad to say goodbye, but shares his dream to become the next Martha Stewart.

What's the one thing you did well and not so well in your task?

What I did well was to bring the spirt of Billy Haines [Hollywood interior designer, famous for his ‘Golden Age’ designs for actresses such as Joan Crawford] to Wembley. Anyone would look good in that dressing room.

interior design masters series 5 ben
BenBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions
interior design masters series 5 ben
Ben created an all-white boudoirBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

The bathroom though, it was the most uninspired room you could imagine, with this great big drainage pipe running up and no skirting boards. The flooring was like what you find in airports or hospitals. I looked at it and thought, that doesn’t give me luxe, that doesn’t give me stardom. The only thing I could do was re-tile the bathroom with the stick-on metro tiles and turn it into a clean, empty box.

interior design masters, series five
Ben updated the bathroom with stick-on tilesBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

Your style is so personal – what inspires you?

To me, interior design is about the whole sense of heritage and belonging. Every piece of clothing I wore on the show, I made from vintage fabrics from San Sebastian in the Basque Country, where I’m from.

My whole house is a representation of who I am, the crockery, the piano. When people come round they spot things and say, ‘my nana had that’. I love the spark in their eyes when they do. Daniel has one corner, which is his office. The rest of the house is a reflection of my own frou-frou self.

interior design masters series 5 ben
BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

Tell us one thing that goes on behind the scenes that viewers don't know…

You can’t imagine how much we learn from the trades. One of the best pieces of advice they gave me was to open a trade account with every single DIY centre or retailer when you’re working on a job. You normally don’t have to prove you’re actually in a trade to do this. You’ll perhaps get 10 per cent off but you’ll save lots of money over time.

Also, one of the things I learned was that a lot of local councils or social enterprises have wood recycling centres, where you can dispose of wood, or they collect. We have Wood Saints in Wolverhampton. There are also paint recycling centres, where people take the paint they don’t need. You won’t find every colour, obviously, but if it’s say just white you need to do a wash over your kitchen, it’s great.

interior design masters series 5 ben
Ben with host Alan CarrBBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

Do you think you have what it takes to be an interior designer?

I always had what it takes. What this show has given me is the certainty that I can do it. I always come across as a bubbly person, but I’ve got a lot of self-doubt as well. Now I can say to myself, ‘Ben, you can do it’. I find interior design very inspirational – it’s for everyone.

interior design masters series 5 ben
BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

Time to manifest! Tell us, what do you think you’ll be doing this time next year?

Right now, I’m pestering producers and publishers. I have a book conception – Make Do and Ben, a Guide for Extraordinary Living. It would be all about my style, the way I entertain, the way I do DIY, a little bit like Martha Stewart.

I’m also working on restoring a farmhouse in Spain with Daniel. It’s been in my family since the 1450s. Escape to the Chateau is over now, but this is not a mansion or a castle. You could attain a house like that. I want to show people how to bring a dream into their lives, to offer that escapism.

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