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Interview: Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen

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Best known for his eccentric wardrobe and his flamboyant furnishings, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has been on our TV screens since the beginning of time telling us how to redecorate our houses. The man of property revamping programmes such as Fantasy Rooms, Home Front and most popular of all, Changing Rooms, has become one of Britain’s most favourite interior designers.

Charming in more ways than one, Laurence seems to have disappeared from the limelight over the recent years - but that doesn't mean he's been sitting back with his feet up. Oh no. Laurence has been spending his time consulting other peoples projects or designing his own bespoke collections for leading furnishing manufacturers - he's even written a couple of books!

Born in London in 1965, Laurence won a place at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, from which he graduated in 1986. Pursuing a career in all things design related, shortly after he landed a place with a company which specialised in industrial flooring and then he got the opportunity to work with a team of interior designers, leading him to launch his own designing consultancy. Then, in 1996, his first episode of Channing Rooms was aired. This became his big TV breakthrough and from there onwards his broadcasting career just kept expanding.

Now living in the Cotswolds, Laurence has been kept busy with his new project. Joining forces with entrepreneur and founder of money.co.uk, Chris Morling, Laurence has created one of the coolest offices you will ever see. Whilst to some a kettle may seem a privilege to have, this particular office is equipped with its own Star Wars themed cinema and an ice cave.

Described by Laurence as an "a new way of looking at how people work" he explains, "We spend more of our lives at work than we do at play, which is a really very irritating and unfortunate reality.

"But from my point of view as a designer that to me says that we should be being far more creative with our working spaces, we should be using them as energising  experiences and this is very much at the heart of the collaboration."

The £3m refurbishment has turned a Victorian castle on the Bathurst Estate in Cirencester, East Gloucestershire, into money.co.uk's new headquarters for 50 staff members.

"My inspiration comes very much from the building, the building is madness!" he says.

"The building is eccentricity incarnate, this is no medieval castle; this is a folly. It's never been a terribly serious building, so I felt very strongly that it needed to be hit very, very vigorously with the Alice in Wonderland stick."

And that it just has, the hugely impressive design of the castle means workers can enjoy a cinema, a ski lodge, pinball machines, PS4s, pool tables and a football table. Each room has different themes, from Star Wars to The Rolling Stones. You name it this office has got it.

"I'm not known for my office designs, but that in many ways is why I think Chris liked the idea of me getting involved because this is not about making an office at all, this is about making a creative, energising environment in which people happen to work and I think that's exactly how you feel as you walk through the door," he says.

Laurence explains that he doesn't take on projects very often: "It's been something that I've enjoyed enormously. With what I've got on at the moment with the international business and programmes in Asia and Australia I don't take on projects very often.

"They've got to be pretty special and very unusual, they've got to have a big story to tell and I think this does, it proves to everybody that actually you should make a commitment to making your working life as much fun as you play life."

Speaking about the locations of the castle Laurence said he loves the fact that the rest of the country are looking at them this week and what they have done.

"This project just proves that it's not just all about London or Manchester or Edinburgh; actually where you live should and can be where you work. It can work, it can be a very fulfilling experience.

"You have to make such a  big commit to the job that you do - why not have it on nice terms? Why not have it as an experience that gives you pleasure, that you find rewarding?"




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