He's the larger-than-life interior designer who has been touted as a cross between Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsay.
And despite counting them as close mates, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen says the two famously gruff celebrity judges are puppy dogs compared to him. ‘They’re very meek,’ he tells New Idea. ‘They are very straightforward, middle-aged fellows with families.’
Renowned around the world for his starring roles on shows such as Changing Rooms and The Apartment – alongside Aussie Jamie Durie – the outrageous, funny, flamboyant judge is bringing some serious scandal to the fifth season of House Rules.
‘I feel I know the contestants like family and they know me like their worst nightmare, like their scary uncle,’ he says, laughing.
Alongside original judge Wendy Moore and fellow newcomer, NSW architect Drew Heath, Laurence brings ‘a lot of tough love’.
‘My job is to make the contestants better at what they do,’ he explains.
‘It’s not just a matter of kicking them off for the sake of kicking them off, which does have its benefits...’
Yet despite being undoubtedly opinionated, while sitting down with Laurence in person, it’s clear his bark appears worse than his bite.
Describing himself as ‘very overt, very loud and very noisy’, Laurence says he wants ‘the rooms to speak to me, I want rooms to have sex’.
When asked about his co-stars, he quips: ‘Are there other judges? Hadn’t noticed!
‘No, we’re a great team. We’re like a travelling freak show,’ he adds. ‘I was teasing Wendy the other day, saying that she is Wendy Darling, Drew is Peter Pan and I’m Captain Hook.
‘As a judging panel, we’re very opinionated. We don’t really agree a lot of the time... There are gentlemanly fireworks.’
Speaking frankly, Laurence admits he had reservations about travelling halfway around the world to Australia to work on a show he didn’t know.
‘I had gritted teeth coming here, I didn’t know what it was going to be like,’ he reveals.
‘This was a bit of a punt for me. I’ve had very little exposure to Australia and I had no idea what it was going to be like.
‘But I’ve been blown away by how sophisticated and unique Australia is, and that translates to House Rules. The production levels... are second to none.’
Leaving behind Jackie, his wife of 27 years, and their two children – Cecile, 21, and Hermione, 18 – in England’s Cotswolds, Laurence has fallen so deeply in love with our country that he hopes to move his family here one day.
‘I keep asking my wife to come, and telling her how much I love it here,’ he says.
‘Now we’re terribly old and crumbly, we want to go somewhere warm, and I’m very seduced by Australia.’
By Holly Richards