As part of our new interview series, My Happy Home, we sit down with Craig Rowe to find out more about his interior style — and the one décor trend he thinks we should all avoid.
Craig is the newest presenter on popular Channel 4 property show, A Place in the Sun, although he is also known for fronting shows on QVC, CBBC and Sky Travel. Born in Bristol, Craig has tons of property experience and has spent the last few years renovating his flat.
What makes you happiest at home?
CR: This is easy. For me, because I lead such a busy life and live in central London, I'm happiest at home when it's quiet, decluttered and beautifully organised. I sound like such a Monica from Friends! I love it when I walk in and everything is in its place. It makes me so happy. When you're surrounded by calm and everything's organised, I think it does help us feel calmer inside.
What is the best home bargain you've ever snapped up?
CR: I am looking at it as we speak. It's my dining table/office desk from Heal's that I bought from the office section. We found this beautiful desk, which actually does look like a dining table. It has gorgeous wooden legs, a tempered glass top with a lightness to it, and is just perfect for the space. The reason it's the best home bargain is because it was in the sale — being cleared as ex-display — so I think I got it for about 20 per cent of the original price. Heal's is not cheap, so it really is the best bargain!
Tell us about your favourite memory at home
CR: I had a housewarming party at the beginning of 2020 before lockdown. It is my happiest memory here — the renovations were finally done, the flat was finished and it was so lovely to share the space with friends and family. It's that wonderful feeling of having all the people you love together in the same room. Of course we all ended up in the kitchen like you always do.
Another reason it was such a happy memory is that we were all so blissfully unaware that our lives were about to change. It's like this moment frozen in time that has a sacred feeling to it.
What is the best decorating advice you have ever received?
CR: I met Carol Smillie a few years ago and spoke to her about the renovation I was working on. The best advice she gave me was to not wear scruffy clothes when you're decorating, but to wear smart clothes instead. She said if you wear smart clothes you will pay much more attention to what you are doing and you won't just slap paint on the wall. I thought that is genius. Carol said she painted a room wearing her best party dress and didn't get a spot of paint on it because she was so careful. I'm not quite sure I'd wear my best suit painting though!
Where do you shop for the best homewares?
CR: I often start at Heal's, Habitat and John Lewis, but I've also picked up some great things in Zara Home and H&M Home. I love getting things from little independent stores when I can, too. There are some lovely homeware shops on Bermondsey Street, one of which is called Lovely and British filled with interesting finds. Another one of my favourite shops is called Truce in Bristol, which work with lots of ceramists who make beautiful earthenware.
When I'm in Brighton, I always pop into a shop called England at Home — and I will always come out with something. Last time I came out with a neon 'C' sign and the previous time I got a salad spinner. I find smaller stores easier to navigate and you can find much more interesting things there.
If you could have a snoop around anyone's house, whose would it be and why?
CR: I don't know who to choose! I love snooping around people's house as I love seeing what people have done to their spaces. I remember hearing about Kate Moss' London home and I'd love to see how she combines fashion and interiors. I've heard that all her wallpaper is made bespoke for her, so I imagine it's phenomenal. As well as Kate, I'd also love to look around Kelly Hoppen's home to see the difference between her city and country home. The funny thing is that I work with Kelly at QVC so I was thinking I might try and bag myself an invite the next time I see her!
On the other side of the coin, I'm fascinated with the tiny house movement. I try to keep things decluttered and am fascinated by how people live in these small spaces. There's a well known interior designer called Rupert McKelvie who specialises in tiny houses, so I'd love to look around his.
What is your most treasured possession at home? Why is it so special?
CR: A few years ago my friend bought me a lovely Penhaligon's aftershave. The aftershave is long gone, but it came in this beautiful box that has got elephants, flutes, and people playing harps all over it (below). There's no way I could get rid of the box as it's just so beautiful, so I've ended up using it as a trinket box filled with photos and letters.
What would your perfect night at home look like?
CR: This is another easy one because I miss doing it so much! My perfect night at home would be me hosting five or six friends at my house. I'd make some cocktails — I'm really good at making a Tom Collins — so we'd have those with some nibbles and yummy food. Then inevitably, as there would be cocktails flowing, we'd end up dancing around the living room.
What does your outdoor space mean to you?
CR: I've got a very narrow balcony. My previous properties have all had beautiful south-facing gardens. I love the sun and my old garden would get sun all day long. When I did move, because I love this area of London so much, I was willing to compromise. I've got a little thin balcony which I keep very simple. I replaced the patio stones with geometric tiles I got from Topps Tiles. The name of the tile was Shard, which I live opposite, so it really felt like everything came together. I live in a development looking onto a square, so I feel part of the community when I'm on the balcony. I love it in the summer when all the doors and windows are open. I'll have my breakfast outside and do my emails there too.
My partner and I have been talking about moving sometime this year and whether we'll get a bigger garden – but the more garden you have, the more work you have to do!
Which room do you spend most of your time in? How did you decorate this space?
CR: I spend most of my time either in the kitchen making coffee or my living room, where I'll hang out and watch TV or work. When I designed it, I created one space which has a divider in the middle. They're separate spaces, but almost work as one. It's great because I don't necessarily want to look at that pile of dishes when I'm watching TV.
It's a beautiful wooden divide that has this slatted design that slides across. Between the two rooms, I've also got lots of storage. I tried to use the whole ceiling height for storage, so I've really thought a lot about making the spaces work well. It's the perfect place for work/life balance — especially when it's tidy!
What would top your list for the worst decor trend?
CR: The worst trend that would top my list — and I've done this in a previous property — is having white walls everywhere. By white, I mean that bright, brilliant white. There was a trend for a long time to have everything painted in that hospital white and I regret doing it. It really was too stark and always felt cold, even when the heating was on.
Secondly, it's real living walls. I love them in hotels or restaurants, but when you go to someone's home, unless you're really green-fingered, they can just look a bit scrappy. It can be really hard to keep it looking like it does on day one. I was considering one in the flat because I've got a lovely big space where the hallway is, but I thought, hang on, what about all the dead-heading, trimming and training the vines to go in the right direction. Faux ones, yes. Real ones, no.
If you could design your dream home, what things would you want to include?
CR: I love this! First of all, I'd love to have moveable walls because you could open and close a space as you wanted to. Secondly, I'd love to have a sound vent that would go from my bedroom, out of the house, then underground and end up on the cliff face so I could hear the crashing waves. I sleep to the sound of the waves on my phone every night, but could you imagine what it would be like to hear the waves as if you were sleeping next to them?
Another thing, which is something I saw when we filmed A Place in the Sun, would be to have an amazing infinity pool with shallow ledges where you can have your sun lounger. You'd basically be in the swimming pool, on a sun lounger, in the sun. It would be like you were actually in the water. Of course, if you got hot you could just dip your feet in the water.
I'd also love to have wireless electricity, because there's nothing worse than cables and wires. In the absence of wireless electricity, I'd get someone far cleverer than me to come up with a design that would hide all the sockets so they would pop back into the wall when you weren't using them.
Finally, I would have a huge kitchen with functional LED lighting that transforms into disco lighting and speakers which rise up from the work surface. The party is always in the kitchen, so why not have it ready to go?
A Place in the Sun broadcasts weekdays at 3pm on Channel 4.
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