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Johnny China's got a design for strife; Nathan Bevan Thinking inside the box.

Byline: Nathan Bevan

LOOK into my eyes.

Yes, I appreciate they're so small, blood-shot and landlocked by pallid, puffy bags as to resemble red dots drawn on a pair of meringue nests, but at least try.

Because, if you gaze hard enough, you'll notice a kind of dark chasmic sadness behind those glazed retinas, an almost infiinte malaise at the heart of which flickers the dying embers of what was once hope.

It's something you'll probably recognise if you ever done any DIY yourselves.

And no, I'm not talking about putting up the occasional shelf or some other kind of glorified cushion-plumping that passes for interior design these days, I mean proper knocking down walls, tearing up floorboards, "Couldn't we have just carried on living with our parents?"-type graft.

Because for the past year me and my other half have been renovating our tumbledown house - that's 12 months of living amongst sheeted furniture which, in the half light of evening, tends to make the place look like some sort of after-life YMCA for ghosts.

Even worse than that is the thin layer of black brick dust that's settled on everything and made the living room look like the last days of Pompeii as reimagined by Ikea.

So it was through charcoal tears (I must have some of that black mortar lodged in my eye ducts) that I watched The Great Interior Design Challenge on BBC Two.

Presented by archetectural expert Tom Dyckhoff - a bespectacled John Simm look-alike who actually does his best to make buildings fun - it takes three budding designers, gives them PS1,000, three days and a mandate to completely overhaul one volunteer's room of choice.

Which was when we were introduced to the TV rolled gold that is Johnny China - which, conveniently, rhymes with "interior designah" - a 'cor blimey' painter and decorator from London who favours silk neckercheifs, rolled-up fags and fancies himself something chronic.

Oh, and he's currently "between houses" and lives out of his van.

That's right, his van. Not that there's anything partuclarly wrong with that, it's just - rather like going to a hairdresser who's bald - I'd be very wary about asking someone who doesn't have a home (or at least one that isn't parked on the hard shoulder of the A423 most nights) to come and decorate my own pad.

What is more, you knew his victim - sorry, 'client' - was in trouble the minute he said that he'd taken a two-year interior design course, but "didn't really learn anything I didn't already know".

Cue utter chaos as, in an attempt to create a "clean fresh space", he turned one poor unfortunate's lounge in Surbiton into a building site - a situation not helped by the fact that he kept disappearing outside for a fag and a chat every 10 minutes.

Hilariously, if you look at the picture of Johnny on his Twitter profile you'll see it shows him standing outside someone's house smoking a rollie.

Clearly starting as you mean to go on, eh me old China?


Bespectacled John Simm look-a-like Tom Dyckhoff who presents The Great Interior Design Challenge. We would have a picture of Johnny China but he's outside smoking a rollie
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 2, 2014
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