An Interview with Linda Barker
Not only did the The Big Home Improvement Show give visitors the opportunity to meet the area’s experts in the trade, Linda Barker came down to open the show and give a presentation.
OX spoke to Linda about her past career, passion for design and plans for the future.
First of all, the reason for our interview is your work with the National Self-build and Renovation Centre, could you tell us about your work with them?
I’m an ambassador for Checkatrade, and I was appearing at the National Self-build show last weekend. I like what they’re doing very much.
It seems like the self-build industry is on the rise. Why do you think there’s more interest in doing this sort of thing for yourself nowadays?
Well I think it’s everybody’s dream to be able to build a house for themselves. I think a lot of people are inspired by programs like Grand Designs and I think we spend so much time in our houses in the UK because of the climate so we’re obsessed by our homes. We’re continually frustrated by houses that don’t work how they should, so I think a lot of people’s dream is to just do it themselves.
Obviously Changing Rooms was a massive part of your career. How did your move from set designer to presenter come about?
I was approached by the producer of that show to be interviewed and screen-tested when I was working as a designer. They got hold of my contact details, gave me a call and said “Come along!” so that’s exactly what I did. I got the show, and it was a tremendous success, so it was lovely to be a part of that.
Do you think Changing Rooms was an influence in the development of the self-build industry?
It was a massive influence in all sorts of areas! Interior design hadn’t really been seen on television before, and what we were doing was really innovative. People just loved that, and it’s like it gave them the power to experiment with decoration in their own homes. It was phenomenal, it really hit the ground running and it’s wonderful to have been a part of that.
Do you think it changed people’s perceptions of interior design from being associated with “work” to being associated with art?
Yeah, it kind of empowered people to have a go themselves. The DIY industry became much more important, and offered much more to the public. I definitely think it changed people’s perceptions.
How does the creative challenge differ between pure interior design and designing whilst presenting a TV program at the same time?
Well, we were there primarily to do a job, and I suppose in the early days the thought of being on television was pretty nerve-wracking, but we were there as specialists in our own right so we weren’t pretending to be anyone other than who we were. We were there to offer new design, so it was a very comfortable place for me to be because we were doing what we were good at. The television aspect was thrilling and exciting, and it was all very new, but it was a comfortable place because I was doing what I wanted to do. We were doing interiors incredibly quickly, over 2 days, so it was quite a thrill to work like that.
Nowadays do you prefer being in the limelight on TV shows or do you prefer your more private pursuits like writing?
I’ll always do television; it’s still really exciting to do interior shows like 60 Minute Makeover, and my work on GMTV and shows like that. I’m actually filming tomorrow for ITV. On the other hand, I’ve always had a career outside of television as well, so I’m busy all the time working on various projects like my kitchen design with Wren Kitchens, which I’m working hard on at the moment, and personal projects for interior design clients. Television’s still very much there but the other stuff always has been as well.
On top of everything else that you do, you’re also an icon for fitness and for looking fantastic. How do you find the time?
Well, if you want to do it you’ll make time for it! I like being healthy and I always have done, so I’ll always make that time. I feel good when I exercise and I feel rubbish when I don’t! I’ll swim after work or before I start work in the morning, and it’s just part of what I do. It makes me feel like me, and if I’m not exercising I just feel horrible, so that’s an incentive to do more.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, Wren Kitchens are a very big part of what I’m doing, so kitchen design is very important at the moment for my business. I’m involved in the training of their new recruits as well, so that’s always ongoing. They’ve got huge expansion plans across the whole of the UK so I’m very much dedicated to that. I’m also doing bits of filming, and I’m hoping to rejuvenate my online business as well. I love being busy, so there’s lots of stuff going on and there’s no signs of anything slowing down!
Image - Cretit: Featureflash /Shutterstock.com
Related Articles: Bespoke Design and Build at NSBRC