One part beautiful houses, another part tongue-in-cheek host, and a final part of history-meets-modern-world are the basic units of BBC One’s 2010 Hidden Houses of Wales. Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen hosts the show with an over-flowing friendliness, but makes his reverence for the character of a home clear. He travels throughout Wales taking looks at places such as the ancestral home of the Tudors, Penymydd, and the home of tiler J.C. Edwards, assessing what they were and what they are now.
How can modern tastes add to the integrity of a house without forgetting its past? Llewellyn-Bowen is definitely not a purist, but he undoubtedly knows the timelessness of great architecture and artistry when he sees it, whatever the time period. From retirement projects and business ventures to passing down the family “pile” (as Laurence always says), each modern take on these million-pound homes only add to the history. He asks about the emotional attachment, the continuation of the project to include the parklands, and the business aspects for most, because each factor determines another facet of the house.
The series has its fair share of before-and-after montages and original pieces of the homes that some swear will never be touched, but the next inhabitant may have their own opinion as well. Laurence brings in architects, archaeologists, and historians to update the modern audience on trends, scandals, politics, and traditions that changed and formed the story of the home and its land. Most venues and homesteads featured are Georgian, but it really acts as a stabilizing point in the show. Great white threshold columns and sharp symmetry abounds, but personality and quirks of the houses ranges from “Hogwartsian” (another term of Laurence’s) to Victorian update.
Another characteristic of the show is its lightness in historical information; they blend it with the lives of the modern owners and tenants, making it seem less dense than the usual documentary-type shows. In that same vein, the host has a rather uninhibited dialogue and commentary throughout, which really leaves its mark; sometimes it seems too much, and other times it gives way to appreciation or a good laugh. The atmosphere of the show has a strange mix of unadulterated opinion and reaction, design and architectural knowledge, and Welsh and English history.
Available on Netflix
Time Commitment: 2 Seasons
Why It’s Worth the Binge: Light documentary, glimpse into history and great homes, a clash and meshing together of history and modernity, architectural and home design commentary, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen’s personality on the show
– Kelly Gatewood
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