Home Truths: 'It was all done with feng shui in mind'

Ginetta Vendrickas talks to the designer Linda Barker
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The Independent Online

Have you always wanted to do what you do?

Have you always wanted to do what you do?

I don't think I always wanted to be an interior designer. I've always been good at art, which is what I did my degree in, but the idea of being a designer really came through having my own houses and doing them up. Looking back, though, I was always doing places up. Even as a kid I did some decorating and I wasn't bad at wallpapering! In my twenties I loved doing up my halls of residence, but I never knew that it could be a career.

Any previous jobs?

I did all sorts of stuff. I worked in health clubs, on aeroplanes as a cabin crew member, in bars and as a model. It was very varied. I even sold double-glazing door to door.

What training did you do?

By the time I realised that interior design could be a career, I knew exactly the route I would take and I read absolutely everything possible on the subject and even did a home-study course, although I didn't finish it. But I worked for no money for friends and gradually built up my profile.

Was today a typical day for you?

I was filming something for the Home Office on fire safety in the home, which is something I've been involved with for some time. Filming is something I'm often doing now that I'm involved with Changing Rooms. In a typical day I'd be working on designs for Changing Rooms and I'd get about eight calls from my agent. I also write an interior design column.

I still take on a few interior-design jobs to keep my hand in and often work for celebrities, as these days I'm very expensive. I've just given Paul McKenna's house a very masculine look with natural overtones, which is very much my style. In the bedroom everything was done with feng shui in mind. Nothing was allowed to hang over the bed and there could be no other living thing in the bedroom.

What are the best and worst aspects of what you do?

I like the parameters of working within a budget. The Changing Rooms budget has been £500 since we started, which is a challenge. I've recently been working on a design for a beach hut near Hastings, which I've loved. It's quite bohemian. The worst bits are being away from home and staying in hotels.

Do clients always take your advice?

Usually. It's important to bridge the gap as that person has to live in that space, but they have called me in for something specific from me; but unlike Changing Rooms, with a private client you discuss absolutely everything before it happens.

Who is your nightmare client?

Someone who wants a very different look to mine, which doesn't often happen – although it has. Also the client who rings you at midnight.

Do you practise what you preach and do you take advice from colleagues?

My own home is a testament to what I preach. Everything is streamlined; the ground floor is very open and flows into the garden. But it's all very tough and there's lots of stone and wood.

As for taking colleagues' advice, for the 100th edition of Changing Rooms, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and I swapped homes for the day. My husband and I did his kitchen and he and his wife did my living room and when I saw it I honestly thought I'd been set up! My room looked like a Neapolitan ice cream. There was a border I wasn't keen on and great big pink floral panels, which were not my scene at all. Laurence was laughing his head off. It's now all been re-painted and is back to normal.

Linda Barker works on the BBC's 'Changing Rooms', which this month celebrated its 100th episode

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