EXCLUSIVE Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen: ‘Harry Styles looks far too much like me’

The interiors guru tells Kay Ribeiro that old doesn't mean beige

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen

by Kay Ribeiro |
Published on

"You're popping my cherry. I think you should get that on a T-shirt," Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen quips. The cherry in question is FaceTime, which the 59-year-old presenter has only just managed to connect to after our attempts at Zoom proved fruitless. He's here to chat about his new Channel 4 show Outrageous Homes With Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and happily he's on fun, fabulous and loquacious form. Beaming in from his 17th-century listed Cotswolds manor house, he explains that his home is bursting at the seams with family.

You see, a bit like The Waltons (Google it, kids) Laurence and his wife Jackie, 59, co-habit with their two daughters, Cecile, 28, and Hermione, 25, and their husbands and assorted children - he has four grandchildren in total. "We've been doing some filming because we've been remodelling the house so it can support three households. It's a wonderful thing to do," he tells us. "There are a lot of grandparents out there who never see their grandchildren and who are very lonely, and there's a lot of grandchildren who never see their grandparents and their parents are so concerned about childcare. Why don't you just all live together? Exactly what happened 150 years ago."

While it's not for everyone, we are excited about a potential Keeping Up With The Llewelyn-Bowens-style show, combining home renovation with their everyday dreams. Watch this space...

You and Jackie have been together for 35 years - what's the secret to a lasting relationship?

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen
©Channel 4

Obedience. The secret is definitely training your husband. Jackie and I will be at something, and there'll be a lot of people getting very overexcited because I'm that bloke off the telly. And she might have a couple of overexcited ladies say, "Oh, isn't he marvellous?" And she'll go, "Yes, he's my finest work." She is absolutely where it begins and where it ends. She's the planet around which everyone in our world revolves. We had the most phenomenal luck that we met at 19 - to meet the person who is going to be the rest of your life at 19 is such a break. And what that has meant is that everything we are, everything that I am, we have created together. We're just brilliant friends.

Didn't you use to write to each other when you first met?

Yes. When we were first courting, she was at [elite French University] Le Sorbonne in Paris, and I was at art school in London and there were no mobile telephones in 1984. So, we used to write. I would write her a letter, post it at lunchtime, she'd get it lunchtime the next day. We'd sometimes write to each other twice a day. And they were lovely letters, they were passionate, they were funny - they were all about what we were up to.

There's a real Bridgerton vibe to it...

Absolutely. We were Bridgerton before our time.

What's one thing Jackie would change about you?

There would be a scroll of things, I'm sure. I think I'm way too perky for her in the morning. She will always say that I leave a trail of destruction behind me - laundry, half-done things, stuff, stuff, stuff. And it's true.

You're known for enjoying the finer things in life. Any secret trips to Poundland?

It's funny, because certainly in the last couple of years, I find that I'm losing a lot of my luxe-y frills. Suddenly I found that own-brand gin is a lot nicer. One of my latest ones is not having fizzy water, so not having water imported from the shores of Lake Como. Actually, I've just started drinking tap water and I'm finding it really quite delicious.

Is your tongue firmly in your cheek?

No! And it's not firmly in somebody else's cheek, either. I think that's one of the things with old age, you get a lot more confident about just going, "What a lot of fuss and nonsense. Why would I do that? Why bother with that? Why not just, you know, do the simple thing?"

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen
©Channel 4

Tell us about your new Channel 4 show...

The whole point of the show, right from the beginning, was to show some pretty outrageous homes. So, on one level, it's the home version of Naked Attraction - in that you can have a bit too much to drink at the pub, come home and go, "Oh my God, look at that room. Look at the way it dangles." But actually, beyond that, it was an opportunity to give the people who live in these spaces a bit of a moment, a bit of time to talk about why they did that and why they are different. Because I think it's fine to be understated, of course, but what's fascinating is for people to see when a true eccentric just absolutely lets their freak flag fly - and where the hell that comes from. In a world that's a bit cold and scary, when you close your front door, you should be in a haven, a safe space. For some people, that safe space is going to be an understatement. For a lot of people, that safe space is going to be outrageous.

It doesn't feel like you're taking the mick out of people...

This is it - it could so easily have been really nudgy-nudgy. That's why I'm the best person to do this, because I haven't got an agenda. I've never been that person who's told people there's a right way and a wrong way. I've always said, "Do it your way and I'll help you." Taste should always be the individual - something that's a very personal reflection.

In terms of other shows, would you ever do Strictly Come Dancing? We could see you doing a mean Argentine tango...

I'm not really that into dancing, actually - I'll employ people to dance for me, I feel that's much better. No, but I think the problem I always have with Strictly is that it happens at a very, very busy time of the year for us professionally - that lead up to Christmas. I have turned it down again this year, but I have said to the I would like to design some frocks, preferably for some of the guys.

That would be amazing. You're turning 60 next year - how do you feel about it?

I feel like I can now say to everybody, particularly my generation of boomers, from the incredible heights of 60, that it's fine and it's not horrid - and it's not that different. We grow as a generation believing that we would live fast and die young. We spent a lot of time vice signalling, rather than virtue signalling - all the drinks we drank, and all the people we slept with, and all the drugs we took and stuff like that. But, actually, getting older, looking after yourself a bit, not drinking quite so much, certainly not smoking, going out of your way to feel a little bit of contentment - all these things are marvellous. Yes, they're not the kind of rock'n'roll things that the Sex Pistols were advertising back in the mid '70s, but there's something really very gently seductive about still being here, still being bendy, still being able to do just about everything I used to do, if a little bit more. I think both Jackie and I feel that we are fitter now at 60 than we probably were at 30 when we were smoking a lot, staying up all night and stuff like that.

So you've embraced the aging process?

I think people fear that 60 comes with beige and that becomes obligatory - that oak furniture and corduroy trousers are the standard. No. You can do all you want to do, you can be whatever you want to be. You can stick with the leather and the velvet and the frills, and actually there's something charmingly Casanova about all of that. It's a car crash when you look at yourself without your clothes on, but that's why God invented tailoring.

What kind of grandad are you?

I'm definitely the naughty one. Both my daughters made the very good point that there's one thing to have a naughty grandfather, but when the naught grandfather is someone who's there 24 hours a day, it becomes a weaponised kind-of naughty, and actually, I need to rein it in a bit. It's fine if you only see grandad once a month or every two months, but if the naughty grandfather is the one who is actually surrounding your life, you need to watch that kind of influence.

heat magazine

Are you still rocking the leather trousers?

They do come out every now and again. They're getting less and less easy to get on, shall we say. I have to stop using talcum powder and start using lubricant to get them on.

Who is your current style icon?

I always feel that the young whippersnapper Harold Styles cuts quite a good dash. He's often accused of looking far too much like me. In fact, there are some worrying moments where I keep thinking, "Did I ever meet his mother? Was there a moment in the Manchester area 30 years ago?" But no, there wasn't. No, but I think, at the moment, as with interiors, people are very accepting of individuality. It's quite exciting that we are starting to dissolve a lot of these creative barriers about gender and about where you should fit in and how you should fit in. It means people are a lot more relaxed about seeing people look a bit different in a way that they certainly weren't 30 years ago. When I started on television, there was an enormous amount of assumptions made about what I looked like and what that must mean about me, which, you know, I've never cared about. I mean, everybody's gonna have an opinion about who you are.

True. Finally, as a trained fine artist, which celeb would you love to paint?

It's obviously now a very well-beaten path, but if Joe Lycett can do a painting of Harold Styles and get paid with a Kit-Kat Chunky, maybe if I did a painting of Harry, I might get a whole bag of Revels? I could see me doing quite a good painting of him, sort of big, swirling dark sky, and he'd be wearing a cloak standing on a rock outcrop with a loving spaniel looking up at him. I think he'd love it. He could hang it in his drawing room.

It would basically be a self-portrait...

Exactly, it would be easy, I would just use my face.

Outrageous Homes With Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is on Channel 4. Stream or watch live from Thursday 20 June at 10pm.

WATCH: 'You're A Weasel!': Love Island's Ron & Lana Play Mr & Mrs

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us