On his new show, Neville Knott arrives at people’s houses unannounced to make-over one of their rooms on a strict budget. Suzanne Byrne chats to the interior design guru at his home which has recently had its own make-over!
Your new show is different – both from what you’ve done before and on a different channel . . .
Neville Knott: I have been presenting TV shows for years but I’ve very rarely got to show my own designs and what I can do. I always thought it was interesting when designers on other shows would say to me ‘I can’t do that room for less than €10,000’ and I was always thinking ‘you must be joking me!’ I think RTÉ saw me only saw me as a presenter, rather than an expert in the field. So, it was very exciting and scary when I was asked to do this show, to go into a house and make-over a room for no more than €1,000 and my own hard work.
Is it actually possible to completely make-over a room on that budget?
Well, I think people thought I was just going to come in and do a Kim & Aggie on it and just clean up the room and then add one or two new focal points and that was it. But that’s not what I did at all. I wanted to create the impact that you used to see on Showhouse, but show them how they could do it on a budget – max €1,000 and your own design ideas. My mantra was good design can create style, but it doesn’t need loads of money.
What do you mean by good design?
For example, on one of the shows I find a very inexpensive shelving unit in a DIY store, so I bought two of them, put some canisters on the bottom, flip it up, get a second glass top, put some pebbles in it and suddenly you’ve got a bespoke coffee table. I am trying to look at things differently.
Did everything always go according to plan?
I have come to the conclusion over the years that neutrals tend to look very bland on TV and they have been done over and over. I love colour and this was the ideal opportunity to use really powerful colours and let me tell you, even though I had mixed them up and chosen each one especially for the show, there were times when they went up on the wall, that I did worry. I just thought this risk is just too big and I am about to make a huge fool of myself in front of the nation! However, I think once the rooms were complete they came together they way I wanted them to.
You have been busy making over your home as well . . .
I have an old house – this is a different make-over project, because this is a protected structure and I couldn’t do anything to the building. Also I hate houses that have the original features ripped out and destroyed. For me a dining room shouldn’t turn into your kitchen. I approached this project with the idea in mind that it’s not what I do with the space, but what I put into it. It was the choice of furnishings, furniture, accessories; it’s down to detail. We took up all the old carpets and restored the old floorboards. We didn’t replace any broken ones, we left the holes in! I think a space should show its war wounds and its age.
You have chosen some beautiful wallpaper with very striking prints, but how did you match them?
The house really tells you what to do with it. I found little tiny bits of wallpaper from the original house just in corners that had been covered up over the years and I tried to match them up as best I could to get a representation of how it looked originally. It’s not perfect, but it has character and I love it.
What is your favourite part of the house?
The marble fireplace and service bells in the drawing room – they are beautiful. They were all boarded up and when the wood panel came away, the fireplace was completely intact.
Where do you spend most of your time?
I made a decision when we moved in that we would live in the house – that it would be used as it was built and be our home. We have great friends and family so the dining room gets used properly and in the drawing room, the fires are lit all weekend and that’s our room for chatting – no TV. The kitchen is downstairs, so I love having breakfast in there on Sunday mornings.
Neville’s Doorstep Challenge,Tuesday, 7.30pm, TV3