Christine Hamilton bites back after home makeover

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The Independent Online

But for kitsch, bitchiness and displays of outright rancour, the tussle between a pair of camp home makeover experts and Christine Hamilton is unlikely to be rivalled for several weeks.

Channel 5's Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan clashed with the doughty Mrs Hamilton from the moment they first criticised the chintz of the London flat she shares with her husband Neil, the former Tory MP.

During filming of the new series of How Not To Decorate - screened tomorrow - the Glaswegian designers had a fractious relationship with the matriarch.

Mrs Hamilton described the gay couple's plans for their home as "absolutely vile" and "ridiculous".

They responded by calling Mrs Hamilton an "old bitch", said she had a hairdo like Margaret Thatcher and likened her to "a heat-seeking missile in slingbacks".

McAllister and Ryan, best known for turning £100,000 into £1m for BBC2's Million Pound Property Experiment, began the 10-day transformation of the Hamiltons' one-bedroom flat in Battersea six months ago.

They did not hold back in their criticism of the living room's traditional "country house" look of scarlet sofas, floral cushions, patterned rug, and wooden dining table and chairs. They questioned the cleanliness of the kitchen and branded the Hamiltons "crazy" for wallpapering over bathroom tiles.

Ryan remarked: "This is the most boring dump I've ever seen in my life. It looks like council offices."

The duo updated the living room with fuchsia armchairs and a black velvet Chesterfield sofa, centred on a black avant-garde coffee table. Mrs Hamilton described the centrepiece black and pink carpet as horrendous. "It's a Morticia Addams pastiche of a funeral parlour," she protested. "This is not a morgue. This is where I live."

The Hamiltons received no appearance fee but they received the makeover, estimated at £70,000, free.

When the designers left, Mrs Hamilton screamed: "You have screwed my flat into the most godawful mess I have ever seen!"

Ryan said the three of them had been like "old actresses slugging it out for the limelight". He said the strained relationship between the two sides worsened after a champagne-drinking session in which he ended up kissing Mrs Hamilton.

He recalled: "She said: 'That was my Mrs Robinson moment' and Colin - who thought she looked like a cross between an American footballer and a Butlins drag queen - said: 'No darling, that was your Mrs Doubtfire moment'."

Mrs Hamilton said she tore down a black velvet curtain put up by the designers as soon as they left and threw out the dining table and sofa. "They are a great pair but they have rather weird design ideas," she said. "They designed it for themselves, not for us."

For their part, the presenters claimed that the Hamiltons had at one point threatened to stop filming - "blackmail" - unless they did up every room in the flat, including the spare room where the camera equipment was stored.

Yesterday Mr Hamilton - who once had an eight-bedroom rectory in Alderley Edge, near Manchester - said: "There was no blackmail. Black is their colour."

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