Mad About . . .

And the Winner of GIDC 2016 is….

8th March 2016

As if you didn’t know… Sarah Mitchenall, a garden designer from Hove, near Brighton, was this year’s winner and well deserved it was too. At the end of January I ran an exclusive interview with the presenters of The Great Interior Design Challenge and, towards the end of last week, I managed to catch up with Sarah for a chat about life after winning a tv show.

“It was all a bit strange because we finished filming last August and I wasn’t allowed to say anything to anyone so it was a bit of an anticlimax because I just drove home and carried on,” she says.

“When the show actually aired it made it all a bit more real. I hadn’t been able to keep it a complete secret because I had had to call in quite a few child care favours during the filming but I kept it quite tight.”

Sarah is tactful about her client in the final. The one who clearly thought she was getting a free makeover and then freaked out when she realised she wasn’t going to get exactly what she wanted. Sarah will say only that she has had her share of tricky clients in her time.

This is because Sarah is, by trade, a garden designer. And, when it comes to tricky clients, she says that it can be much harder to convince the owner of a garden that it will all turn out all right in the end simply because it takes so long for it all to grow and come together.

“All they see is mud and destruction and you know that it’s all going to come together perfectly but it will take a few months and it’s hard for them to see that.” The implication being that if you’ve only got to wait for the paint to dry before the client can see you were right then that’s easy.

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So what of the future? Has Sarah abandoned the bucolic pleasures of the garden for the smell of turps and a paint brush?

Not at all. She is, frankly, baffled, that the two are not designed in conjunction more often. “There is such a relationship between the house and the garden. We have sort of got the hang of linking our patios and terraces to the kitchen by having the same flooring but that’s as far as it goes.

“We should make more of architectural similarities. And most garden furniture is awful – something definitely needs to be done about that,” she says.

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the cheese plant pendant light from the final of The Great Interior Design Challenge

And you sense, that if Sarah gets her way with her business partner Alexa de Castilho, something WILL be done about that. For as much as Sarah is driven by the desire to create beautiful interiors and exteriors, she is also passionate about product design.

Remember the fabulous cheese plant pendant light from the final episode (pictured above)? The range has been expanded to include these gorgeous wall lights in black perspex and gold as well as other lights. And she’s quite keen on creating a range of textiles as well. And don’t forget the garden furniture…

She admits that the programme has been a massive confidence boost, but that she would have set up her own business anyway. It has long been a passion for her and she refuses to draw a boundary between inside and outside when it comes to design.

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cheese plant light by Black Parrots Studio

“The programme was the catalyst. I had been thinking about moving into interiors for a while and decided to use the programme to see if that was the right thing to do.”

A brave move you might think. Most of us, when toying with the idea of a career shift might have a little quiet practice first rather than going on national television and facing trial by Twitter. For GIDC, more than almost any other programme I can think of, has a hugely interactive audience who don’t hold back from sharing their opinions. Good and bad.

“I am new to Twitter but it has been, so far, a hugely supportive community,” says Sarah.


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And with that she must dash. Clients to meet, rooms to design, gardens to plant. It’s all going to be non-stop from here on in and she’s totally ready for it.

If you want to keep up to date with Sarah then check out her studio Black Parrots.

But before she goes where did the name come from?

“Because parrots are flamboyant and black really classes up an interior.”

Amen to that.

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  • Nicole 8th March 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Really love the design, feels unique. I haven’t seen anything like it before.

  • Hope Goodwin 8th March 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Lovely job! Funny, calling those leaves “cheese plant” such a bucolic name for such an amazing plant. Living in Hawaii for a few years taught me to call it “Monstera” which sounds so much more poetic to me. I love those light fixtures!

  • Sophie Robinson 8th March 2016 at 11:31 am

    Great contestant- she’ll go far I’m sure!

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