Colin McCallister and Justin Ryan spill the celeb goss at Fashion Hits Home, Yas Mall...
The kick-off of the Fashion Hits Home event at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall drew in the crowds yesterday, as the world-renowned, style-savvy Scots Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan shared their well-honed interiors advice and revamped two rooms in less than 30 minutes (harking back to the days when they were resident designers on the UK’s popular daytime TV show, 60 Minute Makeover).
From the rustic cottages of Scotland to urban apartments in Canada (where they currently reside), the pair have crossed the Atlantic to share their love of great design with stylish homeowners. They’ve even hosted their own TV shows, broadcast across the world, including Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure, Game of Homes and Colin and Justin’s Home Heist. This dynamic duo also regularly rub shoulders with the rich and famous, interviewing A-list celebs, such as Hugh Jackman, Ryan Gosling and Madonna, on the red carpet. Oh, and written three bestselling books.
This week, they’re in Abu Dhabi hosting their Battle of the Rooms all week, using products from leading home stores – including Home Centre, west elm, Pottery Barn, THE One, Debenhams, Muji and ACE Hardware – while revamping an entire villa on Yas Island. Yet, amid the madness, they took a much-deserved break to talk upcycling, bad taste and how Jennifer Anniston is a “dry fish”.
So, tell us, how do you style the perfect room?
JR: It’s all about planning. Our biggest motto is to fail to plan is to plan to fail. We see so many people who buy a home, or decide to redesign a room, and they don’t have a strategy, so they run out of gung-ho and it never really works. If you applied that same sensibility to sartorial matters you’d be walking around in a ra-ra skirt, flip flops, a cowboy hat and a scarf from India. All those things look great in the right place when merged properly. Get your colour scheme right, get your big items next and then gradually layer.
How do you make it work on a budget?
CM: Spend your money wisely. Never skimp on comfort. You actually want to buy the best bed you can buy, the best sofa as well, because you actually can create the look for a lower cost with accessories, and other items. We’re really into upcycling. I think stuff like that is a really good way of adding a sense of heritage to a scheme – it stops everything from looking so brand-new as well. It’s great to bring in some older pieces, but [upcycling] also gives you a chance to be a total individual. Here in the mall you can shop around – we were in THE One today, putting together some ideas, we went upstairs and there’s a little sneaky bit at the back where you can buy last season’s stuff and things that are a bit dented for less money.
Have you got any nifty upcycling tips for us?
JR: Sure. Upcycling is a great response to people wanting to have really nice stuff without overspending. So people are going to markets, online auctions, secondhand stores; they’re buying stuff from friends and repurposing things. Obviously make sure the piece you’re buying is complete bones and then you can do anything with it; if it’s riddled with woodworm and it’s all rickety, and you can’t put it back together again without good carpentry skills, then you’ve got the wrong thing.
Paint is your best friend, the most affordable medium with which to affect considerable change. Colin and I have a line of paint called Chalky Patina, and it’s designed specifically for people who want to find that old chair and then strip off the varnish for that lovely time-worn look.
Upholstery doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You can do it yourself to a certain extent. If you’re just doing a chair pad on a wooden chair, then that’s really easy peasy. Cut it from underneath, pick off the fabric taking the staples away, cut out a replacement piece of fabric, you put it on in the same way and staple gun it back together, then pop it back in. So you can take an old wooden chair, paint it a really funky colour, find a great piece of pastel coloured fabric and completely change the identity of it.
CM: The good news is, if you don’t know how to do that, then YouTube does! The internet knows everything, it’s amazing what you can find out there. Use other peoples’ knowledge. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
What advice do you have for someone who is unsure of their own sense of style?
CM: Find out who you are. It’s really, really simple. Ask yourself what you like – where did you feel really happy? Where have you felt that actually the interiors made a difference? Maybe it was a holiday destination; maybe it was your honeymoon, where you had an amazing room and it was the best day of your life. Why wouldn’t you want to capture some of that and bring into your home on a daily basis? Perhaps you’re being practical – maybe you just like the style of the bed in the room, or the timber finishes on the wall, the colour of the tile in the bathroom. Stuff like that adds up to something that matters.
Sometimes there are people out there who have bad taste, but at least they’ve tried. Because bad taste is better than no taste, where you just exist in a space and there’s nothing to react to. Your home should be exciting. We all work really hard, we put in the hours, we’re all in long commutes in traffic, so you’ve got to get in there and your home has to deliver – it’s not just a place to sit and look at the walls. It’s got to deliver a sense of tranquility, reward, peace, prosperity and personality.
Enough about interiors! You’ve also met loads of A-listers. Got any gossip for us?
JR: Don’t listen to anyone who would tell you otherwise – Madonna is the most courteous, friendly and easy-going people you’ll ever meet. We interviewed her after her W.E. movie, which had just been to the Venice Film Festival and it was savaged. I think she came to Toronto [International Film Festival] on a charm offensive; she was incredibly friendly to all of us.
I said to her: “Madonna, what does it feel like to wake up to all these shocking headlines?” We had been talking about the film and how badly received it had been. She said: “I’m Madonna Ciccone, I don’t need to read the headlines because after all I make them”. I loved that response.
What was really lovely to see – she was so fantastic with everybody and she went into her movie, and before it started she asked for a round of an applause for all the volunteers, because that festival happens with a lot of volunteers and it couldn’t exist without them.
CM: We’ve been lucky, we’ve met some really, really good people. Hugh Jackman is one of my favourites. We’ve got to meet Jake [Gyllenhaal] on three occasions – he’s such a great actor and such a great guy as well. On the third time, he was familiar with us. And one of our colleagues interviewed him a year later and he looked at the identifier on the microphone and he was like “Where are Colin and Justin?”
Anyone you’ve met who wasn’t very friendly?
JR: Jennifer Anniston is a bit of a dry fish.
CM: Yeah, she was quite icy.
JR: Bit of an ice maiden. She was like this [does an impression of her, crossing her arms and looking unimpressed.]
CM: Maybe she just didn’t like us, or maybe she could have been having a bad day. It’s different strokes for different folks. Like, we interviewed Chris Evans and he was incredible; we were laughing and we were getting him to do the human torch thing. Then he goes down the carpet and gets interviewed by other people. Then the carpets closed and so you’re chatting with your colleagues. I was like “Chris Evans – the most amazing” and they said he was like “yes, no, yes, no, wouldn’t answer any of my questions”!
Yikes! Anyone else?
JR: We interviewed Richard Gere, and I said to him: “You’ve had such a fantastically illuminating career, you’ve done absolutely so many fantastic films – what’s your favourite role?” And he went: “Like I’ve never been asked that question before.” And I thought, what a shame to be so rude to the interviewer, because then I lost interest.
INFO: See Colin and Justin at Yas Mall’s Fashion Hits Home event every day until Saturday October 7, from 6.30pm to 7pm and again at 8.30pm to 9pm, as they revamp two different rooms, answer your questions and offer great style advice. For more information, visit home.yasmall.ae.