Gill Sherry

Scotland’s Home of the Year has returned to our screens for a sixth season, this time featuring new regular judge, Danny Campbell, who appraises each property from an architectural point of view.

What he’s looking for in a home is an inventive use of space with a deep connection to its site, connected with such originality that he can’t help but feel inspired.

“When I was judging the homes, I definitely wore my architect hard hat quite carefully. Where’s the light? Where’s the orientation to the external environment? What have they done to create different spatial volumes? And how can the materials that have been chosen affect that?”

He admits to learning a lot from fellow judges, Anna Campbell-Jones and Banjo Beale, particularly relating to cost saving solutions and says he enjoys working with the two interior designers.

“It’s so much fun. They could make a show on the stuff we get up to off camera! We have a really good time and we catch up a lot when we’re not filming as well. People that go through really intense things together… it brings you closer, so we’ve definitely got a lot of solidarity. I look up to them both. I think their careers are fantastic and the stuff that they’re trying to do is wonderful. It’s just great to be associated with such incredible people. The fact that we can banter as well is the cherry on top!”

From a viewer’s point of view, the relationship between the trio works really well. So well, in fact, it’s hard to believe that Danny is still relatively new to the show. I ask how it feels to be the newbie.

“It’s fantastic, it’s been such an amazing experience. When I went to the casting day I thought… should I feel nervous? But then I realised that turning up at a home, walking in and giving my opinion of it, is what I’ve been doing for the past five years. It’s my comfort zone. Homes and design of homes is my safe space. So being able to tour the country with an amazing crew and two really charismatic and inspiring individuals is like a dream. It feels like a holiday.”

Danny grew up in Rhu, near Helensburgh and recalls having a knack for graphic design during school but being unsure of his career path.

“My mum suggested architecture which sounded like a legitimate ambition, so that set me on a course. But really, my calling was entrepreneurship. I’d always had side hustles, even through primary school, and at university I was doing odd-jobs. So when I eventually finished my masters, I was five years into my architectural training, and I set up HOKO.”

HOKO Design is Danny’s architectural business, specialising in home design. HOKO is a Māori word (one of his best friends is Māori) which he thought looked a little like ‘home’ but was different and memorable.

Shoty 6 Photos Kirsty Anderson 24/07/23

So how did he go from designing people’s homes to judging them?

“My mum is a huge SHOTY fan. She’d been saying to me ‘you’d be great on that show, it’s just your thing’ and the next thing I know I was getting a call from the producer asking me for an interview. One of our ex-architects had joined the production company and had suggested that I’d be a good fit. I was thinking my mum had phoned them up!”

Danny obviously impressed them on casting day, not just with his architectural experience and amiable personality, but also with his sense of what a home should be.

“Over the years, the importance of home has really grown on me, especially with having a young family, and my younger brother becoming terminally ill. Home is deeply ingrained in my soul. Being able to create a home for other people is something I take really seriously. I think that’s where I found my mission in life. My north star was to create a home for other people and make it as amazing as it can be.”

He refers to the SHOTY opportunity as “good luck” but I suspect there was a lot more to it than luck.

“It was one of those good luck moments,” he insists, “that comes after plenty of bad luck and mistakes. But I felt like I had a voice that I wanted to get out there to express what’s important about what makes an amazing home.”

That voice comes across loud and clear. For instance, he refers to one home as a “pocket rocket” where “Einstein meets Warhol with haggis bon bons!”

This wonderful description followed a visit to Quiney Cottage, winner of the North East and Northern Isles category in episode one.

“It was so eclectic but spatially perfect,” he recalls, “and so Scottish as well. I couldn’t think of another way to describe it.”

Other properties may not be so easy to depict or, indeed, to impress.

“Sometimes you have to look quite hard to find something special. The really easy ones to judge are the ones that are really different. We don’t get to see anything about the homes at all before we actually walk through the door, so it’s a really intense experience. You’ve got to take it all in and formulate an opinion that’s entertaining and educational. Some of the ones that are less architecturally relevant I find more challenging, but all the homes that are on the show… they’ve all put a huge amount of effort in. The energy that people apply to their homes is a glorious thing.”

One thing that Danny is aware of, both on SHOTY and in his architectural practice, is the need for that working-from-home space.

“It’s definitely a part of a lot of people’s brief. Generally, the way they like to approach it is to have a pre-set area to have it, like a dining room or a small bedroom, but we find that by prioritising the main public spaces we manage to uncover a forgotten or hidden space within the home that we end up using. Loads of people want that area because working from a kitchen island is really bad!”

Unsurprisingly, like the rest of us, Danny takes inspiration from the homes that are featured on SHOTY. Does he think that’s why the series is so successful?

“Some of the homes are absolutely incredible. And people are curious about what people are willing to invest, clever things they can do to make it special, and taking ideas away for themselves. But I think it must be that neighbourly curiosity… alongside our innate need to improve our homes.”

On that subject, Danny is hopeful that the new series will inspire people to improve their existing home, rather than move to a new one.

“I’m just hoping everyone’s going to enjoy it. But I hope it’s going to inspire a lot of people to want to improve their homes. I think that’s a really important way that we can support the economy and also have a more sustainable housing stock. The thing that often gets said at the end of a project is ‘I wish I’d done it sooner’ so I think that’s the incredibly inspiring thing about the show… seeing what other people have done.”

I wish Danny the best of luck with his new TV role and he ends our conversation with this statement:

“It’s one of those really privileged positions… when we get to step beyond the threshold into someone’s personal space. Loads of inspiration has been taken from the places we saw and the things that we got to experience.”

You can watch Scotland’s Home of the Year on Monday evenings on BBC One Scotland and BBC iPlayer.