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Interior Design Masters Episode 3: The Story Behind My Design


High-end sophistication


Ascot Racecourse


Ascot is the most famous racecourse in the world, with the race meeting Royal Ascot that takes place every June attracting A-list celebrities and Royal guests. We were invited to transform private hospitality boxes within the racecourse Grandstand into modern, inviting and sophisticated entertaining spaces, suitable for up to 12 guests to hire for a range of events from corporate away-days to hen parties and family celebrations. 

We were required to include a space for dining and mingling within the box and our designs also needed to incorporate a private balcony, with spectacular views over the racecourse and the gorgeous green Berkshire countryside beyond. There was also a private bar area with a drinks fridge, a small cloakroom and a large flat-screen TV to consider (the fridge, counter-top, cabinet and TV could not be altered) and our tables needed to be dressed for a buffet or afternoon tea.

'Before' shots of the box (Image: BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions)

We were encouraged to think beyond just referencing horse racing in our designs and to embrace Ascot’s history, but above all to deliver a fun and sophisticated yet practical space. The allocated budget was £2k per designer.

Now, to say this challenge was a little out of my comfort zone would have been an understatement. I don’t think I’ve ever been called to design a space that oozes sophistication and luxury before and I’m definitely not your typical racegoer (or a royalist for that matter!) So trying to find that hook to build the design narrative around was actually really tricky for me. Anything I thought of just seemed cheesy and inauthentic and with such a limited timeframe in which to gather ideas and design, I thought it made sense to focus on what my version of luxury might look like and build my design around that.

The design, looking in from the balcony

You can take a look at the Pinterest board I used to gather my inspiration on  here .

Although the chairs were probably only 15-20 years old, I knew with the right fabric on the seats they could look like mid century originals. The upholstery fabric I ended up using was one of my most costly purchases for this room (nearly as expensive as the flooring!) But it made those cheap cafe chairs look super expensive, so the spend was totally worth it.

Top-down view

After securing the chairs, my inspiration headed in a mid-century direction, with subtle references to Japanese design and geometric shapes once again creating the connecting thread throughout the room, but this time I wanted to convey a sense of luxury through the combining of different textures. The wallpaper I sourced had a tactile, woven quality to it and fabric-like appearance. I would've loved to have taken the wallpaper onto the ceiling too, but sadly the budget didn’t allow for this.

The finished room

On the bottom half of the walls I added arched panelling, upholstered in velvet fabric. The shape of the panels added a playful element to the design and connected the room to the hills and trees in the landscape outside.

Tablescape and the controversial sliding screen!

I chose to keep the balcony area quite minimal (although I really wish I’d had some budget left to add some plants out there), but I still wanted the area to feel considered and to connect to the rest of the design, so I upholstered the seats of some second hand wooden bar stools (painted black to match the interior) in the fabric I had left over from my dining chairs, covered the table in some luxe-feeling marble vinyl and dressed it with champagne flutes and a vintage tray and binoculars.

Although this design saw me leave the competition and I do wish I’d been able to think of the right hook to connect this design to the heritage of the location, I was incredibly proud of this room. I still look at the photos of the finished space now and think it was a really well designed room that felt special and sophisticated and I’m happy to have it represent me as a designer.

The designers from episode 3

Even though my journey on the show has come to an end, you can still sign up to my mailing list to be notified every time I update this blog and going forwards, I’ll be using it as a place to share my sources of inspiration and generally take a deeper dive into my projects than I’m able to on social media.


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