The first episode of Kirstie Allsopp‘s eagerly-awaited new Channel 4 TV series, Kirstie’s Homemade Home, aired on Thursday. It’s received mixed reviews – writing for The Times, AA Gill called it ‘monstrously patronising’ – so I watched it to see what I thought. In this opening episode, Kirstie introduced us to her mission: to transform a dilapidated country cottage in Devon into the ultimate ‘homemade’ home, with everything either made in the UK, or made by her. Week one followed the transformation of the kitchen.
Kirstie started by visiting the National Trust’s Lanhydrock House for ideas, which has one of the finest Victorian kitchens in the country. So far, so good – she admired the enormous Welsh dresser at Lanhydrock and vowed to find a smaller, second-hand dresser for her own kitchen to recreate the look. Then she got designer Cath Kidston‘s advice on table settings, which was a strange part of the programme. I was looking forward to seeing the interior of Cath Kidston‘s home, but all we got was a fleeting shot of her home office and then filming took place in her modern, unexpectedly-clinical kitchen. Cath herself appeared for just a few moments, and the table she had styled was just a collection of colourful Cath Kidston products and very disappointing. Where was the vintage tablecloth? Why was there no vintage china mixed in with the brand new Cath Kidston pieces? I can’t help thinking this was pure product placement – there were no new ideas or vintage finds to be seen, and the chrome bowls of crisps looked suspiciously like emergency and inappropriate space-filling props!
The message of this section seemed hazy, too. One minute, Kirstie was explaining that the table might seem random, but it was carefully put together and followed certain rules; Cath picked four colours from the plates – pink, blue, green and red – and reflected them across the rest of the tableware in the glasses, place mats, flowers and cutlery. Then, the next minute, Kirstie said Cath taught us to ‘forget all the rules – if you think it’s pretty, just do it.’ So, do we follow colour rules or not?
The section in which Kirstie visited her parents’ palatial home ‘to reveal the inspiration that has shaped her take on interiors’ was bizarre and unnecessary – it was a cluttered stately home belonging to wealthy antique collectors, who had no need of thrift. Indeed, the only idea Kirstie could manage to take away with her was the notion of hanging decorative plates on walls – hardly ground-breaking, but at least her mother’s interior design business got a plug.
Finally, Kirstie had a go at making bespoke items – crafting a bowl on a potting wheel, turning a lump of glass into a beautiful tumbler, and sewing a very basic cushion using a sewing machine. These adventures were jolly, but seemed to be part of a different programme altogether really. There was a quick and quite random lesson in flower-arranging, then Kirstie finished the show by bagging some gems at knock-down prices when she bought antiques at her local market, and searched for freebies by ‘skip-diving’. Raving about the environmental benefits of re-using a mirror from a skip rather than buying a new one was all very well, but Kirstie was driving a huge gas-guzzling 4×4 Land Rover at the time, which rather undermined her eco message.
The end of the show was nothing short of a miracle. Suddenly the kitchen was transformed – an enormous AGA had appeared out of nowhere (there was no mention of a budget at any time!) as had several beautiful pieces of furniture which Kirstie briefly mentioned she ‘bought at auction’ and a few vintage armchairs she ‘had re-covered’. The kitchen looked OK, but there was no real sense of how it was created, or, more importantly, how much it all cost!
This show had some nice ideas floating around in it, but the programme makers tried to do too many things at once. The overall effect was a schizophrenic programme that flitted confusingly from one thing to another, without properly focussing on the original concept. It would have been much better to see Kirstie physically put together the room from scratch, instead of watching her blowing glass and visiting her parents’ house – we should have seen her bidding for the dresser, sewing the curtains (where did they appear from?!) and transforming second-hand pieces of furniture with paint and good old-fashioned elbow grease. – Ellie