Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s favourite room in London

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is known as a brash and brilliant designer who, over the course of a 25-year TV career, has made Britain (literally) a brighter place. When it comes to the history of design and decoration, the ‘Changing Rooms’ star genuinely knows his stuff too, as evinced by his love for the Painted Hall in Greenwich Park.

‘This is probably one of the only ‘Oh my God’, swirling, baroque, take-your-breath away spaces that we’ve got in this country,’ he says on this week’s episode of Time Out’s podcast. ‘It’s a great barn of a space which is completely covered in cavorting, undulating gods and goddesses. There’s a rather steamy scant bit of architecture trying to hold it all together and all the walls are painted in troupe-l’œil. So it’s a nice cheap “Changing Rooms” job, basically. It’s the architect’s MDF of the 1680s. None of it was properly carved.’

The Painted Hall, part of Greenwich’s Old Royal Navy College, was finished in 1726 and is sometimes referred to as ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’. It was designed and executed by the artist Sir James Thornhill.

‘It was literally a canteen. For sailors,’ he continues. ‘At the time the country was unbelievably excited by its navy. It wasn’t just rich people. It was the middle classes and the lower middle classes. And this room was an expression of this bounty. So you had all these elderly sailors missing bits, sitting under these absolute paragons of nubile incarnation. And if you’re being donnish, it’s a great cross section through British history, as it starts with Charles II, through to James and then you start getting the Georges down the end there. They were the ones who were around when it finished, so they got the applause.’

Want to hear Laurence chat about his love of Greenwich while giving Time Out a guided tour of his favourite spots? Have a listen to this week’s episode of ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’.

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Each week on ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’, someone interesting gives Joe a personal tour around a neighbourhood that means a lot to them. Four locations, with a bit of chitchat en route to each one, always finishing up in a pub. Interested in what Bimini makes of Bankside? Need Derren Brown to justify his abiding love of Hoxton? Fascinated by the prospect of Joe and Doc Brown drinking four pints of Guinness on the Kilburn High Road? This is very much the pod for you.

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