More More More: Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on why minimalism belongs in our past

Changing Rooms' flamboyant lead designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has spent his entire career encouraging people to reject decorative modesty. His new book, More More More, encourages people to embrace individuality and curate a home them can truly love spending time in. He chats to Jenny Lee about Marie Kondo, Simon Cowell and how a maximalist home can save you money

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is encouraging homeowners to embrace colour and design in their homes
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is encouraging homeowners to embrace colour and design in their homes Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is encouraging homeowners to embrace colour and design in their homes

"FOR the past 20 years we've all gotten rather used to the idea that houses of grey are understated and the same as everybody else's.

"Lockdown and being confined for months in bunkers of our own devising, the sensible majority have worked out that where we live needs more us in it," says Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (LLB), whose new book, More More More, celebrates the need for what he calls maximalism in our homes.

The flamboyant designer and host of Channel 4's Changing Rooms is keen to encourage people to embrace his interior philosophy of self-expression, individuality and the dense display of possessions that make you feel special.

There are no rules to maximalism. "It's about being brave and having the courage to own the stuff that celebrates you," enthuses the 57-year-old, who is excited to see people increasingly embracing colour, pattern and objects in their homes.

"We shouldn't be feeling that we've got to conform to a fundamentally 20th century concept of minimalism which suggests we should be controlling our interior spaces as if it's some kind of pathogen against nature.

"I've always said right from the beginning of Changing Rooms (in 1996) that celebrating existence through objects is basically the factory setting of humanity.

"For all carbon-based life forms, their default setting is to maximise. You should allow a room to grow towards the light, like some fabulous coral reef, that has layers and layers of memories and happenings."

What maximalism is not, however, is a license to clutter.

"You do need to curate what you got. Mark it out as being incredibly special and very particular to you," says LLB, who advises people to seek out and visually celebrate their personal treasures, heirlooms, family photos and souvenirs.

"It could be a childhood memory or a memento from a boozy lunch you spent with someone. These are literal souvenirs of a life well lived, and they should not be confined to 'storage', but celebrated in the space that you inhabit."

So what mementos can we find in Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's home?

"We can't even start that. There is a scroll that would stretch twice around the globe practically - I've never denied myself maximalism."

Renowned for his exuberant outfits and plush extravagant designs, LLB has never been afraid of letting known his thoughts on minimalism and shooting down people like BBC Sort Your Life Out presenter Stacey Solomon and

cleaning guru Mrs Hinch.

During our chat, he waxed lyrical about Japanese organising consultant and TV presenter Marie Kondo.

"I'm sure Marie Kondo is a lovely person, but I suggest she never gets stuck in a lift with me as I don't think it's going to end well for her," he laughs.

"I think anyone that built a career on preaching to people to fold their underpants to look like fortune cookies really should be taken with a pinch of salt."

However, I suggest the pair have more in common than he thinks as in his book, More More More, he introduces readers to 'furniture therapy' – asking your possessions if you like them, what memories do you share and if you want to live with them for the rest of your life.

"Yes, there is a very good life lesson to this idea of just asking the stuff that you share your world with if they give you pleasure and have a story to tell.

"When you don't do that, it just means that you are ending up creating what can only be described as 'cat lady'. If you don't want something, just pass it on to someone who does."

LLB spent two decades railing against all shades of beige, especially magnolia, and has now turned his guns on grey.

"On its own, grey is a disaster. On its own and accented with more grey, it's a disaster of national proportions," he insists.

"To really get grey going, see it as the camera-shy background to jewel tone accenting."

LLB tells me that "personality comes from colour". "Storytelling comes from pattern," he adds; his favourite colour is the "space between" green and blue: "I love that people are feeling more and more confident about using peacock and kingfisher colours, teamed with oranges and pinks. It looks sensational."

He also encourages people to use fragrances within their homes – but to stay away from modern trends, such as green grass and clean laundry.

"Why on earth would you want to smell of laundry? Why not smell like chocolate, indulgence, sex or romance," he teases.

Surprisingly, more can mean less when it comes to cost-effectiveness and environmental damage.

"One of the things I really liked about maximalism is that it's got a very light footprint on the planet unlike modernism, which encourages a throw-away culture and is all about buying the latest trend and conspicuous consumption of raw materials of energy," argues LLB, an advocate of exploring preloved goods on the internet, checking out thrift shops and antique fairs.

"Maximalism is about buying something that means something to you, not something that means something to someone who wrote a magazine article."

While colour can add a sense of warmth to homes, filling our rooms with cosy belongings can even save you money on heating costs.

"When you've got a room full of furnishing and a rug, carpet and curtains it immediately warms a room. It's so comforting and homely and instantly feels as if it's giving you a great big cuddle. I shudder to think how much an empty glass box costs to heat," adds LLB, who enjoys being back on our screens with the relaunched Changing Rooms show.

"I feel very much like the old war horse doing another cavalry charge. I love the fact that the show is now very much, much more about interior design and about the techniques used to build these rooms.

"The only struggle is getting me back into the leather trousers," he jokes.

And does he have to ensure his exuberant fashion choices don't clash with the décor?

"I'm always someone that is happy to clash," he giggles.

Although there are no Northern Ireland homes featured in the current Changing Rooms series, he very much hopes to bring the show over here in the future.

"I've always felt there's a tremendous strain of independence in the Irish home. I remember launching my wallpaper collection in Ireland about 1999. Whereas everywhere else was stopping wallpapering and painting their walls grey, Ireland loved it."

The home he would most love to put his stamp on is that of his new Cotswolds neighbour Simon Cowell.

"I'm going to see him at a charity event soon. It's going to be quite amusing to see whether he takes me up on my offer to sort his manor house out. My worry is that it looks like an operating theatre in there - never trust a man who has 300 white T-shirts in his wardrobe," he laughs.

:: More More More: Making Maximalism Work in Your Home and Life by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is published by DK and is out now.