Six Questions For Oliver Thomas: Finalist Great Interior Design Challenge

Right!  So let me start by saying that I'm so excited about my blog post today.  For the past three weeks, I, together with most of the nation and the entirety of Instagram, have been tied to BBC2 at 8.00 pm for the Great Interior Design Challenge.  If you're reading my blog, I can only presume that you are as obsessive about interiors as I am and would agree with me when I say that the GIDC ticks every competitive interior junkie box.  I bloody loved it.  So when the Instagram interiors community realised that Oliver was not only a contestant on the programme but was smashing his competition, everybody got behind him and was willing him on.  Hashtag 'teamoliver' was the buzz word of the month.

Oliver's rooms wowed both the judges and us who were watching.  From the Regency townhouse bedroom complete with a fabulous upholstered headboard to the four postered Broadstairs castle apartment, every room was a work of art and Oliver's passion shone through.  His art deco gentleman's club room brought the property owners to tears of joy.  Nobody was surprised when he reached the Final and was head to head with Daniela Tasca York, whose super sleek designs ultimately won her the top spot.  But she couldn't have had a more worthy opponent than Oliver.

 Oliver's own home is a demonstration of his creative talents.

Oliver's own home is a demonstration of his creative talents.

During the show, Oliver's personality and absolute conviction in his designs won us all over and his creative projects were a joy to watch develop throughout the three weeks of the competition.  When he agreed to answer my six questions, I couldn't wait to find out a bit more about him and what got him to where he is today.  Oliver is a genuinely lovely person and a fierce talent and I'm absolutely 100% sure that we haven't seen the last of him on our screens!  I, for one, can't wait to see what he does next.  The world of interiors needs more people like Oliver, that's for sure.

Oliver, we don't know enough about you and we NEED to!  Tell me a bit about how you became interested in design and how you ended up applying for the GIDC.

I was born and raised in East London, in the days when there were Barrow boys and cockney sparrows.  My mum and dad divorced when I was five so my mum was a single parent.  We didn't have a great deal, but mum was always incredibly house proud and did her absolute best to create a lovely home environment.  I'd come home from school and the furniture would have been moved round every week, she was painting and upcycling furniture long before it was trendy, I think that's where the seed for creating interiors was planted.  

 The fabulous upholstered headboard in the room Oliver created in the Cheltenham Regency townhouse.

The fabulous upholstered headboard in the room Oliver created in the Cheltenham Regency townhouse.

I did pretty well at school and excelled at English, Drama and Art, but left sixth form to train as a hairdresser at the London College of Fashion.  This was an amazing time, being a youngster (17) and having to travel into the West End everyday was such an eye opener.  It gave me a taste of the big wide world that was out there. I did qualify as a hairdresser but found that I didn't enjoy working as a Junior Stylist.  So I enrolled at my local Tech to go back to my original plan which was to train in Art and Design.  After completing a Foundation in Art and a Diploma, I was lucky enough to begin getting illustration work in editorials and magazines.  However, that wasn't full time so I started cutting hair again.  

 One of Oliver's favourite pieces in his own home, a luxe upcycled mirror.

One of Oliver's favourite pieces in his own home, a luxe upcycled mirror.

So, you see, I've always see sawed between the two professions.  I was a slashie, hairdresser/ illustrator and intermingled with all of this was my love of interiors, which when I look back, has always been a huge part of my life.  I've always been tinkering around with one project or another, whether it being learning to make soft furnishings or teaching myself carpentry, etc.  That's one thing I will say, I've never been fearful of learning something new, I'll always give anything a bash!   Thankfully, things never turn out too bad.  So when the GIDC launched a few seasons back it was just SO logical that I should apply, it was like the show was created for me. Friends and family were all like, "you've got to go for this!"   I must admit that after applying and getting accepted, I was on Cloud 9 for a very long time!

 Oliver with the GIDC judges, Daniel Hopwood and Kelly Hoppen.

Oliver with the GIDC judges, Daniel Hopwood and Kelly Hoppen.

We loved seeing your passion for design and colour when you were appearing on the GIDC.  How would you describe your own personal style?

What's my personal style?  This is a pretty difficult subject to nail as I'm constantly being influenced by SO many different things, all at the same time.  I think that's where the eclectic tag comes from.  It's great to mash things up a bit and come up with something new.  There is inspiration all around us, it's just a question of looking rather than seeing.  I think it would be fair to say I do love colour and pattern, a pure white minimalist interior would really give me the heebie jeebies, it really is the stuff of nightmares!   I sometimes look to the past for what I call indicators, like the dining room I did for GIDC with the wallpaper, curtains and blinds all matching.  That used to be done loads back in the 70's and when I was searching for inspiration for the room, that idea suddenly looked quite fresh again.

 Oliver at work during the show.

Oliver at work during the show.

Oliver, what are your favourite two pieces in your own home?

My two favourite pieces in my home are probably my gorgeous purple velvet Chesterfield.  I bought it a few years ago - it was definitely an investment piece!  Interestingly, I've redecorated several times (navy blue, then off black, then floral wallpaper - now nude - go figure!) and even though it's a deep shade of purple, it's still worked in all the schemes.  My second piece is probably the gold over mantle mirror, it's huge and really creates that feeling of grandeur.  I made it myself out of a large cheap mirror.  I built out the frame and added different mouldings and a plaster pediment on top, sprayed it all gold and, boom!  Instant drama!  We likey a lot.

 How beautiful is this Chesterfield?  Sofa goals.

How beautiful is this Chesterfield?  Sofa goals.

We need your expertise.  Tell us your top interior design tip, please?

Design tips?  Where should I start -  there are so many!  I guess the first one that springs to mind, would be to not always paint skirting boards or woodwork brilliant white.  It seems like it's an in built default setting sometimes,.  It's far chicer to use maybe an off white or a pale gray, or maybe pick out a colour from your wall covering or even better (and my personal fave) continue the wall colour all the way down to the floor and door trim, etc.  Oh, and another - swap out your white lampshades for black ones, for that uber chic, sophisticated look.  I think that's enough to be getting on with!

 The Art Deco Gentleman's Club room that brought the home owners to tears of happiness.

The Art Deco Gentleman's Club room that brought the home owners to tears of happiness.

So what's next for Oliver Thomas?  And where would you like to be in five years time?

So what's next?  Well, the response from being on the show has been incredible to say the least.   I mean, I hoped for some interest, but I never expected quite that much!  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining!  So with a view to looking forward, I just want to continue creating beautiful timeless spaces (with a little edge) for people to enjoy living in.  I'd love to dabble in product design too, my own range of wallpapers and fabrics, maybe a book or two - who knows?  The sky's the limit, it's important to dream big, right?

 Luxe fabrics and tones of blue make this space rock.

Luxe fabrics and tones of blue make this space rock.

Finally, tell me about your dream day, location and money no object :)

My dream day and money no object?  Wow, let's see.  Probably something like spending the day with Miles Redd, he's such an amazing designer, in his NYC townhouse, which is also amazing.  We could talk interiors and design all day long.

  Miles Redd  in the living room of his townhouse in Manhattan's West Village.  Photograph courtesy of Lonny.com

Miles Redd in the living room of his townhouse in Manhattan's West Village.  Photograph courtesy of Lonny.com

With lots of love and thanks to the fabulous Oliver Thomas for taking the time to answer my questions.  Photographs courtesy of Oliver's Instagram feed.

You can follow Oliver and check out what he's up to next on the following links.

Oliver's Website

Oliver's Instagram

Oliver's Twitter