60-Minute Makeover star John Amabile on how home and design has been his haven during lockdown

HE became a household name through hit TV series 60-minute Makeover when he brought families’ dreams come true with home transformations.

And as people spent more time at time at home during lockdown, interior designer John Amabile was able to give a little back to his followers and fans. He set up a facebook forum which has become an inspiring and supportive community for budding interior designers and a place to share tips, advice, laugh at disasters and help people try to avoid them.

“Going into lockdown I think, like many people, I wondered how we were going to get through this,” said Amabile. “I am lucky I had my garden and studio to retreat to rather than just stare at four walls. I wanted to do a project to keep me sane and I think people saw their house and home and wondered what they could do themselves. Changing things in their homes took on a therapeutic element and was a way of keeping busy and I ended up changing my kitchen.”

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For Amabile lockdown saw him consider his approach to design differently and went back to grass roots. His design firm, which has a Glasgow base, is associated with high end design. One of their recent projects was as interior design partner for the Ambassador Homes exclusive Park Quadrant development.

He added: “I have done a lot of work on TV shows with all the frills when you have been up against the clock and I just thought how fresh it would be to have some kind of forum where you could band ideas about and to help one another.

“I wanted to be able to really talk to the people who have watched the TV shows over the years. I have never had a shop, although I have a design service. People may have watched 60-minute Makeover and then go on the ITV website to find out more about what they can order or buy.

“However creating a forum was an opportunity for me to give back to people so our Sunday live sessions, which I call ‘virtual hugs from my snug’ were born on #Amabilehomehaven on facebook. It has been so enjoyable to do and it is great when all the questions come through. People put up pictures and I post projects and room ideas and I think everyone just likes a good nosy and I like to see what people are doing. People have been engaging which has been great and even answering their home questions. We have seen a lot of before and after pictures and people have been very proud of what they have achieved.

“It has been really heart-warming and it is nice to know we were all in the same boat in lockdown. It doesn’t matter if I have been dressing luxury show homes or designing for famous people, I think that design is for everyone.

“It is all about getting the look. Everyone might want a Chanel handbag, but can’t afford it, so it is about looking at what you can do with a budget and adding the little zingy things to make a difference. I used to come home from school and my mum would have rearranged the house again. The living room would be a bedroom and I think that is where I got my start as well as I would be rearranging my brother and I’s bunk beds.

“I don’t think design is about keeping up with the Jones’ anymore, I think people just want to make the best of what they have.”

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One guest designer who has posted on his page is Scots comedian Janey Godley. She posted her ideas of how to transform net curtains into stunning covers for home items.

Amabile added: “Let’s just say it was very 1970s and I don’t think it is something I will be doing. Sadly for Janey I don’t think I’ll be needing an apprentice any time soon.”

While most lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, Amabile wants to keep the forum going in some way while looking to develop his business in unprecedented times. He is hoping to develop online consultations and develop his successful room in a box idea.

He added: “I am looking at ways of doing things differently. One is a simple way of helping people with a room in a box. You set your budget from a bronze, silver or gold box and I have chosen items to go in it with the running about all done for you.

“Another step would be to offer online design consultations through my website. It was something I had been thinking about before lockdown, and now seems like the appropriate time do to something like this.”

It is not the only ambition Amabile has to expand as he is looking to start what would initially be an online design school helping people to take on their own projects.

He added: “During the forums I have been taking notes on all the questions asked to see what people are interested in doing or trying and I would like to develop this into a design school. It seems to be he next stage and would help people get to the next step in design without any mystery or magic to help them have a good home.

“From the comfort of their home they could download kits from design theories to colour wheels to create their own style.”

And while many people are logging on to Amabile’s facebook forum on a Sunday morning, many fans can still get their 60-minute Makeover fix on TV reruns.

“I did loved doing the show and the most important thing for me was meeting the family and getting it right for them,” added Amabile. “I could have jumped about the UK and designed homes based on what I liked, but it was about getting it right for the person.”

For more information go to: www.youtube.com/johnamabiledesign, www.facebook.com/johnamabiledesign or www.facebook.com/groups/amabilehomehaven

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