Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s Changing Rooms vs Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs. Which is better?

Both programmes have their strengths. Some closer analysis is needed to determine a winner

Changing Rooms is back on air tonight after 17 years. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Anna Ryder Richardson have survived from the original line-up, but otherwise it’s had its own makeover. Anna Richardson, who also hosts Naked Attraction, is the new Carol Smillie, Tibby Singh is the new Handy Andy, and Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead are the new design talent.

The programme has also moved from the BBC to Channel 4, home of Kevin “I was sceptical” McCloud. So, naturally, I’m wondering which programme would win in a fight, Changing Rooms or McCloud’s Grand Designs.

As Grand Designers walk Kevin McCloud through their windowless grain silos, they'll point out the floorboards reclaimed from an old school gym. Couples love when their floorboards are from old school gyms

If you’ve just banged the table and cried, “But you can’t compare the two. One’s DC Comics and the other is Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’d never battle,” to you I say, ‘Hold my drink.”

Grand Designs and Changing Rooms are certainly different beasts. Grand Designs is all about self-builds, but we’re always dying to see how the participants decorate their misery palaces at the end of each programme. As they walk McCloud through their windowless grain silos, they’ll point out the floorboards reclaimed from an old school gym. Couples love when their floorboards are from old school gyms.


On the other hand, Changing Rooms is strictly interiors. Designers don’t care about the provenance of the MDF, they just want it cut into a three-storey couch, stat. Both programmes have their strengths. Some closer analysis is therefore required to determine a winner.

Use of MDF

In Changing Rooms, MDF walked so that plywood could later run in Grand Designs. Handy Andy made couches, shelves and more. Once, a four-poster bed held up semi-naked MDF figures. In one episode of Grand Designs, however, a couple built an entire house out of a plywood flatpack.

Winner We loved Andy Kane, but building an entire house out of plywood wins.

Use of tears

If there's a disaster in Changing Rooms, the tears usually come only at the very end, when it's revealed that one couple's bedroom is now clad in stainless steel and has a chandelier made of knives hanging over the bed. In Grand Designs the bleak sadness is more of a slow burn. We see the couple's hope and resolve ground down over months and even years.

Winner It's a draw.

Use of last-minute injections of wealthy relatives’ money

Production budgets are immovable on Changing Rooms, no matter how much the designers beg for extra staple guns. On Grand Designs there are exceptions, but we secretly know that everyone involved is loaded and just pretends they're not. They tell McCloud they've remortgaged everything and sold their spare London flat, like normal workaday rich folk. Then they insist they cannot go a penny over their £3.2 million budget. Ten days later, when they've already spent 80 per cent of their funds, they reveal that in fact their father is the earl of Filthyrichshire and they've agreed to sell off a family tiara to help complete the build.

Winner McCloud has it.

Respect for deadlines

When it comes to deadlines, Changing Rooms cannot be beaten. Designers' visions aren't always fully realised, but their hit rate is pretty high. Grand Designs is another story. One couple who started to build a hilltop megamansion in Devon in 2011 amassed £6 million in debt and saw their marriage collapse. The house remains unfinished.

Winner You might not like your new black kitchen and blood-red sink, but at least you have a floor. Changing Rooms wins.

What can we conclude? If Grand Designs is homemade nettle pesto, Changing Rooms is oven chips with Romantica for afters. Both are very different meals but delicious in their own way. Let's call it a draw.

Changing Rooms is on Channel 4 at 8pm today