WE all love a good nosy around other people's homes and when they happen to be some of the most stylish in the country, that makes for excellent telly.

Scotland's Home of the Year returns this week, allowing us a glimpse through the keyhole at the stunning pads – from sprawling, architectural gems to quirky, rustic dwellings – that will be in the running to take this year's title.

Our guides for the BBC Scotland show are interior designer Anna Campbell-Jones, architect Michael Angus and lifestyle blogger Kate Spiers, who will once again serve as judges.

Over the next 10 weeks, they will showcase some of the most outstanding homes in Scotland, stretching from the Borders to the Hebrides, across the Highlands to Orkney and Shetland, as well as Lothian, Glasgow and the Clyde Valley.

Each episode will see the judges rank their favourites with the highest-scoring home from nine regional categories then going through to the grand finale at Glasgow's House for an Art Lover in June.

The winner of the debut series in 2019 was The White House, a sweeping, cylindrical structure hugging Kirkcudbright Bay, while last year it was a beautifully restored Victorian conversion in the west end of Glasgow that took top spot.

HeraldScotland: The White House overlooking Kirkcudbright Bay was the 2019 winner. Picture: Douglas Gibb/IWC Media/BBC ScotlandThe White House overlooking Kirkcudbright Bay was the 2019 winner. Picture: Douglas Gibb/IWC Media/BBC Scotland

Who will be crowned Scotland's Home of the Year in 2021? Here, Campbell-Jones talks us through the making of the show, what the judges are looking for and how her passion for interior design was first sparked, as well as tips for making a house a home.

HOW TO IMPRESS THE JUDGES

Campbell-Jones is keen to emphasise that the show's ethos – and remit – is all about finding the home of the year, rather than simply the swankiest house in Scotland.

"What makes a home?" she says. "A home is a universal concept and often seen as a sanctuary. Especially in this last year, that idea of sanctuary and the importance of home has become even more prevalent.

"We are looking for beautiful design and original, creative ideas, but underpinning that – for it to be successful in the competition – it needs to have that individuality.

"The people who live there need to show their personalities through the choices they have made, as opposed to doing something that looks great but is generic. Sincerity is a critical thing I am looking for."

MONEY DOESN'T ALWAYS TALK

Nor is being in the running for Scotland's Home of the Year simply about whoever has splashed the most cash to make a property look sleek and sophisticated.

"Absolutely," agrees Campbell-Jones. "I think it is one of the only programmes out there that would compare properties with such different characteristics because of the underlying theme being 'home' as opposed to 'fabulousness'.

HeraldScotland: Anna Campbell-Jones presents Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Thomas Skinner/IWC Media/BBC ScotlandAnna Campbell-Jones presents Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Thomas Skinner/IWC Media/BBC Scotland

"While in the series there are some absolutely spectacular, huge, lush and incredible homes, there are also smaller ones and those that have been done up with real ingenuity."

Viewers will see that throughout series three. "There is one particular property that is really old and a lot of the objects inside it have been accumulated over decades," she reveals. "Some of them might even have belonged to the previous incumbents.

"It is that sort of build-up of layers and the little micro-adjustments or adaptations that different generations have made in that home. I found it beautiful."

PUTTING A STAMP ON YOUR HOME

Something Campbell-Jones, 52, returns to throughout our conversation is how much it pains her to see perfectly good, preloved furniture chucked into skips or landfill.

"If you are doing something completely new from scratch and buying everything brand new it is, in a sense, more difficult to put your unique imprint onto it," she asserts.

"We have got some homes [in the new series] with really clever use of upcycling and vintage furniture. I am a big fan of vintage furniture because contemporary furniture isn't made to that same quality unless you are able to spend thousands of pounds."

READ MORE: Scotland's Home of the Year returns: A sneak peek at the contenders

It is possible, she notes, to buy a second-hand, teak sideboard ("a hand-built, solid timber piece of furniture that is going to last for generations") for much the same price as a brand-new melamine sideboard from a high street store.

Seeing love being poured into a home is something she relishes. "Joy too because it should be a place that makes you feel happy. Especially if you have got a difficult job or other challenging aspects in your life, your home needs to make you feel secure, warm and comfortable."

THE JOY OF VINTAGE

"I believe it is important to work with things you have got," she says. "Especially with the climate crisis I am becoming more and more interested in ways of avoiding sending things to landfill. For example, re-facing a kitchen rather than putting a whole new kitchen in.

"If you do need to buy something new, then buy something which will last and can be handed down to future generations. There are little ways in our homes where we can be kinder to the planet."

Campbell-Jones has accumulated many vintage and second-hand pieces for her own home, often from skips, charity shops and antique sellers, or items that friends and family have been throwing out.

"They all just sit next to each other in my home," she says. "There is no hierarchy of 'this is a good thing' and 'this is a bad thing', they are all just things that I love. Furniture, in particular, has such personality. You can anthropomorphise furniture quite easily."

HeraldScotland: Kate Spiers, Michael Angus and Anna Campbell-Jones present Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Thomas Skinner/IWC Media/BBC ScotlandKate Spiers, Michael Angus and Anna Campbell-Jones present Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Thomas Skinner/IWC Media/BBC Scotland

A PASSION FOR INTERIOR DESIGN

Campbell-Jones has garnered an impressive CV spanning 30 years. She spent much of her early career in London working for big-name clients such as IBM, Warner Music, River Island and the furniture chain Heal's.

A former student and interior design lecturer at Glasgow School of Art, the past 20 years have seen her based in Scotland. After almost a decade as director of Rehab Interiors, Campbell-Jones launched her firm Habitus Design in 2016.

Her roles on Scotland's Home of the Year and as a presenter of Channel 4's new show Hire My Home, where she helps transform tired holiday lets into coveted staycation properties, have made her a familiar face and voice on our screens.

Campbell-Jones says her love of interior design took root as a young child when she would accompany her architect father out on jobs.

"My dad used to take me on site with him sometimes," she recalls. "I must have been quite young because I remember everything being high up – the kitchen worktops were at my eye level. He must have had babysitting duty and needed to go to site, so I would tag along.

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"That was when I first got that sense of the excitement of being able to make such dramatic changes to a building. I still love the smell of brick dust. Clambering around building sites is one of my favourite pastimes.

"When you start to see something that you have had in your mind – perhaps for months or even years, because some projects take such a long time to come to fruition – begin to emerge from the dust and the dirt, it is such an exciting feeling."

HER GOLDEN RULES

Campbell-Jones is a straight talker when it comes to interior design dos and don'ts. "Don't follow fashion – follow your heart," she says. "If you really love something, then that is the most important thing.

"Be honest with yourself about why you like something. I find that when people make all the decisions in their home with that level of clarity, it ends up hanging together because the common denominator is that person's psyche, taste and personal palette.

"I have done projects with big budgets, but I am not particularly interested in spending lots of money to get a 'wow' result – I don't think that is necessary."

A common mistake, she adds, is someone plumping for a certain style or interior design trend based on what they think they should be doing, rather than what they truly desire.

"The other thing I would say – which goes with not following fashion and following your heart – is that people shouldn't worry about what other people think," says Campbell-Jones.

HeraldScotland: Anna Campbell-Jones, interior designer and presenter of Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Andrew Jackson @cursetheseeyesAnna Campbell-Jones, interior designer and presenter of Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Andrew Jackson @cursetheseeyes

"People shouldn't worry about whether the choices they make are something that some future owner or inhabitant of the property might like, because why would you design for some random future person when you don't know who they are going to be?

"Even if you painted everything pale grey, there is just as much chance that the next person living in that home wouldn't like it. So, if you want to paint your walls orange and have a bright green carpet? Do it."

MEMORABLE PROJECTS

Much like the contrasting entrants we see on Scotland's Home of the Year, Campbell-Jones works with a varying portfolio of clients in her interior design day job.

"At one end of the scale, among my favourite projects I have worked on, was renovating a mountaintop castle in Tuscany and collaborating with an Italian architect there," she says. "The clients were wonderful, good fun and brave.

"I had a total hoot doing that and was really pleased with the result. We went shopping for antiques in Italy but also incorporated family heirlooms from their home in Edinburgh. There was a good mixture of objects, patterns and textures that reflected who they are.

"In contrast, I did an absolutely tiny kitchen in the west end of Glasgow with a very small budget and a lot of things that the client wanted to fit in. It was like a three-dimensional puzzle to work it out. That was a completely different kind of challenge and very personal to the couple who lived there.

"I get messages from them from time to time. They still love their kitchen. It was very quirky and particular to them – a real puzzle-box kitchen."

DREAM CLIENTS

Campbell-Jones laughs heartily when asked to name her dream job. "It is probably always the project I am just about to start," she says. "I am working with clients who have a plot on Tiree and they are building a home.

"They have an incredible architect who has done a stunning design and I am collaborating with them and the architect to bring their personality to the interiors. Frequently with a new-build there is always a danger you end up with white walls, an oak floor and a white gloss kitchen.

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"Then the question is: 'Where is the human? Where is the person whose home this is?' My clients are fans of the show and that is why they got in touch.

"Working on that is an absolute joy. It is not a very big house but the location and the views … I am working out how to do the interiors so that it drinks in those views and connects with them. It is a wonderful project."

GETTING CREATIVE IN LOCKDOWN

"What I have been getting really into in lockdown is tapestry," says Campbell-Jones. "When I was a kid, I was constantly doing embroidery and tapestry or making clothes and furniture for my Sindy dolls in my dad's workshop. I was a very industrious child.

"I hadn't done tapestry since I was a kid. But I went online, bought some canvas and a random bundle of wool, a bag where you don't know what colours you are going to get when you buy it. I have become completely obsessed.

"It is a lovely way to pass the time and nice to have an outlet for my creativity because at the moment I am working flat out, but all of my stuff is on Zoom and my drawings are on the computer. There is nothing on site and I am not seeing anything in the flesh being made.

"I was really feeling this hole in my life and what is keeping me going is doing the tapestry. I am not doing other people's designs – I am just making up my own as I go along."

HeraldScotland: Anna Campbell-Jones presents Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Thomas Skinner/IWC Media/BBC ScotlandAnna Campbell-Jones presents Scotland's Home of the Year. Picture: Thomas Skinner/IWC Media/BBC Scotland

DISCOVERING HIDDEN GEMS

With this being the third series of the show, viewers might think it could be tough to trump the homes featured in previous years. Yet, Campbell-Jones promises the latest instalment is packed with jaw-dropping delights and a few surprises too.

"We are absolutely amazed because year-on-year the quality of the homes has been going up," she says. "This series we have incredible variety again – sizes, budgets, styles and approaches – and some absolutely beautiful homes."

Anyone who has ever spent an evening idly browsing property websites – hello, s1homes – to gawp at dream pads will feel quite envious of Campbell-Jones and her fellow judges.

"We get a real buzz when we are coming up to the next property and are about to go inside," she admits. "There is a real excitement about what we are going to find. Sometimes you can tell and sometimes it can be a total surprise.

READ MORE: Scotland's Home of the Year returns: A sneak peek at the contenders

"It is an incredible privilege to be allowed into people's homes to explore and enjoy them. What we try to do, as we move around the homes and talk to each other, is to bring the viewer as close as possible to the brilliant experience we are having and the adventure of exploring it."

Scotland's Home of the Year returns to BBC Scotland, Wednesday, 8pm. The weekly episodes will be repeated on BBC One Scotland, Mondays, at 7.30pm