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As part of our interview series, My Happy Home, we talk to Banjo Beale about his worst decor trend, life on the Isle of Mull and why his yellow kitchen is his ‘little bit of sunshine’.
Banjo is the winner of BBC’s Interior Design Masters 2022, host of Scotland’s Home Of The Year and author of a forthcoming book which will be released in October 2023. Based in the Scottish Hebrides, the interior designer is also the star of a brand new TV series, Designing The Hebrides.
Combining unique finds with clever design, Banjo is known for creating sustainable, characterful and collected spaces for his interior design clients.
Originally from Australia, he now resides on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, where he lives with his partner and dog.
What makes you happiest at home?
BB: Well, my dog, for starters. And then my yellow kitchen. I’ve just moved into a newer place, so I’m trying to add lots more character to it. And it’s so gloomy here outside that I wanted to paint a little bit of sunshine inside. It was actually like a kit home, so it came with lots of standard things. I’m wanting to just add a bit of personality to it.
Tell us about your childhood home
BB: I used to live in the bush in Australia so I was in the middle of nowhere – quite like I am here in my home in Scotland. My parents weren’t really interested in design; it was really quite plain. But every Sunday my mum used to let me rearrange furniture in the house. However, at the end of the day I’d have to move it back to where it was. Yet every week I’d still do it. So I was just always playing with interiors from a really young age.
When you get home, what is the first thing you like to do?
BB: Well, usually I like to kick off my wellies and take off all my coats and layers. So a mud room is really the most important room when I get home, just to kind of wash away all of that, and then I love just putting the fire on and kind of cosying in and looking outside.
Which room do you spend most of your time in? How did you decorate this space?
BB: I spend most of my time in my kitchen/diner but I have made it into a library and kind of sitting area too. That’s where I like to sit and watch my husband cook dinner. I like little nooks, so it’s been about creating cosy spaces that you can kind of nestle into.
Describe the view outside your bedroom window
BB: I live on the Isle of Mull. My view is out over the sand of Mull, but before you get to the water, I’m looking at a little pond and my ducks – and the dog probably chasing those ducks. Sometimes, I’ll even spot lovely stags trampling across my garden.
What is the best decorating advice you have ever received?
BB: I think that would be when I was on Interior Design Masters. Michelle Ogundehin told me that I just have to trust my gut and you know what you like and you know what works. Sometimes you’ve just got to go with that feeling.
What is the best home bargain you’ve ever snapped up?
BB: When we were filming my television show, Designing The Hebrides, we didn’t have any money whatsoever really to do these spaces. It was about what we could find for free and how resourceful we could be. So, I think the best price is free.
I essentially got a whole church for free. Basically everything inside the church – so the pews and panelling, all sorts of things, that I was then able to use across a range of different spaces and projects on the show.
I used the panelling in a gin bar that I did up on the show. I actually used the church pews for shelves in a fish shop. So, it turned out that there were quite a lot of uses for church pews.
What is your most treasured possession at home? Why is it so special?
BB: My most treasured possessions are some chai cups that I got in India – and Calcutta specifically. They have these things called bhars, which are like the original disposable cup. They’re these clay vessels that usually you have your chai in and then you smash them on the ground and it dissolves back into the earth. They’re really beautiful but I always collect mine and bring them back home with me. Now I have like 100 of them. Not all of them do make it home though.
I love India. Every time I visit, I collect more [bhars]. I love seeing my collection in my home because I know that I’ve had chai on a street in India out of every one of those cups.
What would we find in your bedside table?
BB: I just have a pile of books. I don’t even have a bedside lamp. My bedroom is probably not the most interior-designed space, but I think bedrooms should be relaxing. You’re not doing it for anyone else but yourself when it comes to the way that you design that room. I love books and I love reading.
What would top your list for the worst decor trend?
BB: I’m kind of over bobbles and bubbles. So, bubble shelves, bubble lamps. Anything bubbly or bobbly isn’t for me.
Are you green-fingered?
BB: Oh, yes I am. I absolutely love plants – I have far too many. And then I continue to buy too many. But plants are like friends, you can never have too many. Did I just say that? Ha ha.
It’s much harder to keep plants outside here in Scotland, particularly in winter. So I have lots of indoor plants. Coming from Australia and a subtropical climate, I’ve still never let go of palm trees and I love lots of potted herbs inside. You can really never have too many plants. I’m learning not to kill them but that’s a constant thing. However, my partner is really good at keeping plants alive.
If you could have a snoop around anyone’s house, whose would it be and why?
BB: That’s a good question. I really love Tilda Swinton, so I’d love to snoop around her house. I feel like it could either be totally minimal and she doesn’t have anything, or it would be really eccentric and full of art and all of her clothes. I really do love her.
Also, maybe Wes Anderson, actually too. If his movies look like that, I mean, imagine what his home looks like.
Watch Banjo Beale’s Designing The Hebrides on BBC Two or catch up on BBC iPlayer.