We asked the local legend to name his 10 favourite things about the Cotswolds, and sent Katie Jarvis along to interpret...
Ten years ago, the Cotswolds awoke to the surprising news that Laurence Llewelynbowen – a designer famous for startling TV makeovers – had moved in. From then on, Cotswold residents refused to close their eyes for a single second for fear that, on opening them, they should discover Bourton-onthe-water draped in spangly purple fauxfur; or Blenheim Palace clad in fetching animal-print MDF.
But, soft! For gradually, over the ensuing years, each seems to have worked its magic on the other. No one is saying the graziers of Minchinhampton Common have all laid chichi chequerboard mock flagstone-effect floors. Nor that Laurence is retiring to run a glutenfree teashop.
Yet mutual love and respect have grown. And grown. So… We know what we value about Laurence and family: the tireless charity work; the community involvement; the wit and verve; the super-glue loyalty to the area they now call home.
But what does Laurence value about the Cotswolds?
“I know!” I tell him. “Do a ‘Top 10 Things I Love About the Cotswolds’ list! Sheep, cheese, stone, hills – that sort of thing - in honour of your first decade here.”
“Consider it done,” he says. “Call round Tuesday and I’ll tell you what they are.”
“This list…” Laurence says on Tuesday, as we sit in his Siddington home. “It’s a bit of a work-in-progress.”
“What do you mean, a ‘work-inprogress?’” I ask guardedly.
“I’ve definitely got Number One,” he says, quickly.
OK, so I know he’s busy. Super busy. Viz:
“I’m about to start filming The Apartment [in which a glam team of pros decorate luxury homes in the hope of winning his approval], season five, in Johor Bahru.” Where? “It now has 150m viewers all over the world. Mostly Asia. But Middle East; just launched in Japan and India. Has been available in Latin America. Weirdly, it’s very popular in Venice.”
He’s doing a bit of Showhouse Showdown in Ireland; and more of his Laurence of Suburbia series; (I’m imagining Seven cardboard-and-ducttape Pillars of Wisdom). And there are other series in Australia, America, and – you know - more DIY SOS. And stuff.
“But that’s not my day job. The business is the big thing and that’s taken off – in the House of Fraser, China [with his House of Laurence range]. [So the Cultural Revolution wasn’t in vain.]
“We’re in Courts in Singapore and Malaysia; we’re launching in the Philippines; we’re looking at Thailand and Indonesia as well. And there’s the final push for negotiations in Australia and NZ”.
“OK,” I say, defeated. “So let’s have it. What’s the one thing you love about the Cotswolds, then?”