Homes Magazine hears from queen of TV interiors Linda Barker about her top design tips for the season, her I’m a Celebrity stint, and what’s been keeping her busy now she’s not on our screens quite so frequently.

Linda Barker needs little introduction to fans of interior design. The star of trailblazing interiors show Changing Rooms spent six years at the BBC’s flagship from launch in 1996, co-hosted House Invaders a few years later, has been the face – and co-designer – of DFS sofas and launched her own line of wallpaper with decorating giant Crown in a career that has seen her, alongside Changing Rooms co-host Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, become one of the biggest names in British lifestyle TV.

The decorating bug started early for Barker – she says she recalls earning spending money as a child by decorating her grandma’s house. A fine art degree at what was then the Surrey Institute of Art and Design led to a stint as a stylist for fashion magazines, and it was from there that she was picked out to audition for the in-development Changing Rooms.

It may seem strange now, with entire TV channels dedicated entirely to home content, but back in the 90s the idea of a full show dedicated entirely to the inside of someone’s house was a huge novelty, with the genre more likely to show up as a brief segment on Good Morning With Anne and Nick or similar daytime shows.

“It was kind of the first, I think Homefront started around the same time too, and we knew it was pretty powerful,” Barker says. “I think the executives at the BBC did too because even before broadcast they wanted to do more, so we knew it was something innovative and exciting.”

Barker says she loved her time on the show, but at the height of its popularity she quit Changing Rooms. Establishing something of a precedent for starring in what would go onto be huge TV brands, her next TV gig saw her heading off for the jungle in the second series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

“I’d heard that they were thinking of changing Changing Rooms or that they might drop it. I was asked to go on ITV on [I’m a Celebrity], and I just thought it was kind of a wild card. The first series I’d enjoyed and I just thought ‘I’ll go for it.’”

Barker came third in the show, behind sporting greats Phil Tufnell and John Fashanu. She admits living rough in the jungle was quite a change from the opulent interiors of Changing Rooms, but says she wasn’t phased by the about turn: “I was brought up on a farm and am quite outdoorsy and not too squeamish,” she explains. “Nothing really bothers me like that. I didn’t mind sleeping outside. I don’t really mind spiders and mice, and I got to make some very good friends.”

Barker hasn’t been quite such a regular face on our screens of late, but she’s had plenty to keep her busy: “I’ve always been into property and developing, so my husband and I decided to buy a Georgian house up in Yorkshire and we’ve been renovating that top to bottom.”

The star is also keeping busy with the celebrity endorsements, hosting a designer range for curtain and bedding specialist Terrys Fabrics and another for Edinburgh-based bathroom panelling maker Multipanel.

She also still keeps her hand in as a designer for hire so yes, she assures me, if you want to get the former Changing Rooms host round to spruce up your lounge it can be arranged.

Intrigued, I ask the celebrity designer what on-trend touches she would be bringing round to my flat this spring season if I invited her to decorate:  “It’s always nice to kind of see what’s going on at the beginning of the year, and I think there’s a lot of interior design now which is about pattern and colour which is really rather nice,” she says. “For me colour is a great way of changing your room and we’re seeing colour much much more, slightly going away from the greys and monotones and introducing softer colours into our lives, which is, I think, really wonderful.”

Not only is colour wonderful, of course, but it’s also one of the most straightforward ways to give a room a reboot: “Paint is the easiest way of changing a room, and I’m currently liking the lovely kind of cinnamony colours, quite a few browns and greens, quite natural. It’s a lot about bringing the outdoors in, and by default that’s very spring-like. Wall coverings which have got big leaves on, florals and botanicals are fantastic. I’d say the same for fabrics that we’re starting to see, certainly with my collection and other people that Terrys represent there’s a lot more pattern. Nature is my inspiration so leaves and botanicals, just a lovely way of introducing pattern into your home. I would say that’s the direction that interior design is going, certainly for me.” 

For home movers, of course, and particularly first-time buyers, the budget isn’t always there to embark on an interior design marathon once the keys are in hand, so does Barker have any tips for aspiring designers on a budget?

“I’ve always thought you should invest in pieces that you can always take with you, and they don’t have to be expensive investments,” she advises. “I’ve bought great furniture from charity shops, recycling places, salvage yards. When you see something that you absolutely love, and if you can transform it, that’s even better – give it a lick of paint or whatever it is and imagine that you will always take that piece of furniture with you. The key really is to buy pieces that you know will have longevity. 

“If you see a pair of curtains, you can always take those with you. A bedspread, you can always take that with you. Small pieces of furniture, you know? You will always need bedside tables whether you’re in your first flat or your second mortgage. You will always need key pieces of furniture and I have furniture that I’ve had a very long time that moves from house to house to house.”

Barker has already started spreading the bargain design bug among her family too: “I always encourage my nieces and nephews to buy really good furniture. Like a charity shop, paint it and they’ll love it and they’ll always have it, you know? Pieces that reflect you, that you can put your mark on. I think it’s a really good investment, and when I say investment these things don’t even have to cost a lot of money. I think to curate your own look for an interior is important, whether you’re 18 or 20 until you’re 50 or 60 or whatever. It’s all about your personal creation and creativity.”

As for whether we can expect to see Barker back on our screens any time soon, she doesn’t write the idea off, but she seems very happy with the quieter life for now: “I used to be incredibly busy on that side, but right now I’m more into private work and working very much in a more, I suppose gentle way. I’m really enjoying it, working for commission and other people and I find that really rewarding now because I can give it so much more time.

“I’m always kind of planning though. I’d like to do a book and I’m still very much active in the design world and I love it. It’s still a huge passion.”