Interior Design Masters Winner Monika Charchula: Interview

Interior Design Masters Winner Monika Charchula: Interview

Monika Charchula, a furniture artist from Nottingham, has won Interior Design Masters 2023.

The fourth series of the design competition has come to an end, with Monika taking the crown (and the contract to redesign a top cocktail bar in central London) from runner-up Jack Kinsey, a furniture shop owner from Norfolk.

Head judge Michelle Ogundehin praised Monika for accomplishing a tremendous journey to take the prize. For her final challenge, Monika was asked to take on The Fountain Head, a traditional open-plan pub with low ceilings, tasked with creating a multi-functional welcoming space with a focal point.

Michelle said that she had loved watching Monika grow, and admired her energy, enthusiasm, fearlessness and courage, as well as ‘a complete dedication to fulfillment of the brief, every time’.

Monika, 32, who has ADHD, has always told very honestly about how difficult she finds time management, and has often been in tears as time pressures have piled up – although host Alan Carr has done his best to cheer her up with his random pop culture quips.

We caught up with Monika about her momentous win, what she’s doing now, and why, whatever Michelle says, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of faux foliage.

Many congratulations Monika, how did you feel the moment Michelle told you that you had won?

Shock and disbelief, also straight after that, extreme pride. I did it.

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BBC/Banijay

Michelle – and rightly so – praised you for the journey you have taken throughout the series. How do you feel you’ve progressed, personally?

The milestones, the journey, was so extreme for me. In the first few episodes I was incredibly insecure and very shy. I did not believe in myself, the journey was to start believing in myself. And yes, my family in Poland are so proud. I had them all cheering me on.

You were constantly up against time pressures. How many hours is an IDM working day?

I want to say nine, but I don’t remember if that includes a lunch break. They are very strict though. They mark the hours when we start and when we finish. It was difficult being up against those time pressures.

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BBC/Banijay

You talk very openly about your ADHD – do you think other people with the condition will have taken inspiration from the way you have challenged this into such strong creativity?

I call it my butterfly brain. I fly about and jump from flower to flower, the problem is, I don’t get natural dopamine, so I’m always seeking that ‘hit’.

That was the case with the copper leafing on the bar, that’s all I wanted to do. I didn’t want to deal with anything else because that bar was giving me dopamine.

It’s something that’s very difficult to ‘fix’. I’m never going to be great at time management and managing a lot of people. I’ll never get to the point where I’m good at it and not get stressed at it.

And did you regret – halfway through – taking on that copper leafed bar?

I thought I got halfway through and the hours started to run away with me. I was there, still leafing with the foil, and I did think to myself, ‘why did I start it?’ But I was so pleased with the finished result, and so was the client. It really did create that Instagram centrepiece that she wanted.

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BBC/Banijay

I loved that floral wallpaper too. It was exactly what I wanted. It did look like House of Hackney, didn’t it? I wish I’d had the budget for that, but this was from Lust Home.

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BBC/Banijay

Were they plastic plants we spotted behind the bar?

No, they were all real this time! However, it did make me smile that Abigail Ahern was the guest judge. She’s the queen of fake foliage, so there’s obviously nothing wrong with it at all.

What was it about Tom that made you choose him for your partner? Was it when you bonded over the groom’s wedding lodge?

That’s literally it. I felt like we would complement each other in our abilities. For the final, I needed someone who was organized. I also picked Tom because he’s incredibly good at upholstery and he has this good energy. He gave me the calmness I needed.

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Tell us one thing that goes on behind the scenes that viewers don’t know…

I guess something I didn’t realize would happen would be repeating the same thing a million times for the camera. They want to get it from different angles. In the beginning, I would want to do it again and literally say the same thing. If I’d known that they needed a different version earlier, it would have saved me so much brain power. English is not my native tongue. At the time of filming, I’d only lived in England for five years.

And yes, Alan is so funny and he did tease me. He would make these cultural references – like when he put that lampshade on his head and said he was Tommy Cooper – and I’d have no idea what he was talking about.

What will you do next?

I’d like to offer interior design to other people – I can do a big e-shopping list, create moodboards and things like that. I know what my strengths are and how to play to my strengths. I can see myself working alongside other people who can take on the organizational side of things.

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BBC/Banijay

I was always quite honest about what I planned to do after the show. I don’t want to drop what I’m doing now. I’m still working on my furniture pieces and other things, such as cushions, through my own business 84 Square and with that I just want to add interior design services.

I’ve enjoyed working on the Interior Design Masters‘ prize, redesigning the cocktail bar in central London. We’ve been busy doing that. I have a great team of builders, and the management of the bar are helpful as well. I was super nervous – the show takes you somewhere and drops you in the middle of the ocean.

Catch up on Interior Design Masters on BBC iPlayer.

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Checkerboard Cushion
Checkerboard Cushion
Credit: John Lewis & Partners
Delaney Taper Candle Holders
Delaney Taper Candle Holders
Credit: Anthropologie
Cecily Woven Scalloped Yellow Wool & Cotton Rug
Cecily Woven Scalloped Yellow Wool & Cotton Rug
Credits: Oliver Bonas
Archie Armchair
Archie Armchair
Credits: Marks & Spencer
Textured Tray Top Orange Side Table
Textured Tray Top Orange Side Table
Credit: Rockett St George
Cabana Stripe Cushion Forest/Blue
Cabana Stripe Cushion Forest/Blue
Credit: Heal’s
Hand-painted Abstract Terracotta Jug
Hand-painted Abstract Terracotta Jug
Credit: Rose & Grey
Colette Textured Boucle Pouffe, Mustard
Colette Textured Boucle Pouffe, Mustard
Credit: Sazy
Headshot of Jayne Dowle

Freelance homes and property writer

Jayne specializes in advice stories for House Beautiful magazine and writes about a wide range of topics, from gardening and DIY to decluttering and mindfulness. Based in Yorkshire, she has recently renovated a 1920s house, where she lives with her family.

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