Home / Industry News / Stuart Yates wins Dulux Academy’s ultimate wallpapering challenge
Dulux Academy Design and Decorator Centre Challenge finalists with their designs

Stuart Yates wins Dulux Academy’s ultimate wallpapering challenge

The Dulux Academy has proudly crowned Stuart Yates of Stuart Yates Decor from Chesterfield the winner of the second annual Dulux Academy Design and Decorate Challenge.

Winner -Stuart Yates with his design

Acclaimed by the judges for his unique craftsmanship – his eye for design plus expert wallpapering skills – Stuart will now receive the money-can’t-buy prestige of seeing his wallpaper design made into bespoke rolls of wallpaper by Graham and Brown.

His prize includes the unique chance to see his paper being made at the Graham and Brown factory in Blackburn; further complemented with a factory tour and a luxury stay the Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa with meal for two, plus a Dulux Academy goody bag. Not to mention, the kudos of being crowned UK champion.

Stuart has been named the challenge champion after successfully beating off exceptional competition from experienced decorators across the UK. The stellar judging panel – consisting of head judge Neil Ogilvie, Chief Executive Officer at the Painting and Decorating Association; Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director of Dulux; Mark Rigby, Skills Development Consultant at Dulux Academy; Louise Stevenson, National Account Manager at Graham & Brown; and Rebecca Ireland, Product Manager, at Graham & Brown – praised Stuart for being “a credit to our sector”.

Mark Rigby continues: “The voting could not have been tighter. Scoring was out of a potential 300 points and the difference between second and first place was a mere three points. The voting included the public vote which accounted for 25 per cent and we placed huge emphasis on ensuring all the judges worked independently to each other, for a completely impartial result. Stuart stole the crown because, across our diverse judging criteria, he exhibited the best skills across the board.”

Vickie Mather, Dulux Academy Manager, added: “We created this competition with the sole purpose of celebrating the amazing talents of the skilled and accomplished professionals who make it their daily mission to raise the standards of our industry. All of our finalists showed the craftsmanship that make our industry great, and we are proud to honour Stuart Yates as the best of the best. He is a role model for the next generation of tradespeople to aspire to.”

LR Rebecca Ireland and Louise Stevenson from Graham and Brown, winner Stuart Yates, Chief Executive of the Painting & Decorating Association Neil Ogilvie and Skills Development Consultant at the Dulux Academy Mark Rigby

“With a real mixture of experiences and inspirations any one of our finalists would have made a great choice but Stuart tipped it by showing great skill both practically and in creative vision.”

The Dulux Academy Design and Decorate Challenge has been created to celebrate this year’s International Wallpaper Week.

To take part, entrants were asked to design their very own wallpaper and submit – complete with a short description explaining the inspiration, and functionality, behind their concept. The finalists’ designs were then shared for public vote on www.duluxacademy.online, in a brand new element of this year’s competition.

Stuart then joined four other finalists – Nick Adonis, Karen Julien, Andrew Bigwood and Miles Newby – at the flagship Dulux Academy in Slough on 4th October 2018 for the second part of the challenge, where their wallpapering skills were put to the test. The day-long, three-wall hanging challenge was designed to test their cutting, specification, product application and matching skills.

All of the runners up took home Dulux Academy goody bags, packed full of Dulux Academy and partner merchandise.

Stuart sees this announcement as a real springboard for his business. He explained: “This award is important to me because it’s important to my customers. They want to work with the best in the business and this award carries huge recognition. For my own business point of view, it gives me huge competitive edge. If a customer receives three quotes at a similar price, they will opt for the quote from a national award winner.”

Launched in March 2016, Dulux Academy is the UK’s first dedicated academy for professionals in the domestic and commercial decoration industry. It offers a range of courses designed to help decorators and apprentices upskill, build their business and hone their design knowledge. To date, more than 4,500 individuals have trained with the Dulux Academy across their numerous UK locations.

This year, the Dulux Academy offered painters and decorators across the UK a 50 per cent discount on all six of its wallpapering courses to attend at any time, if booked during International Wallpaper Week. Hundreds flocked to the site to sign up and access its expert advice and training.


The finalists on their designs and the rise of wallpapering

Stuart Yates –  “I’ve been doing this job a long time and it’s good to have a presence at a competition like this.

“When it comes to wallpaper, outlandish, bold and bright patterns are all the rage – with people using them to make to make a statement and show their personality.

“I chose birds because I noticed that birds are really on trend at the moment and are appearing everywhere, while the diagonal stripes were something a bit different to the standard horizontal stripe. As for the colours, I chose shades that matched with Dulux’s Colour of the Year.

“Trends are changing all the time, but I think wallpaper is becoming more popular again as it is now being used to add a bit of oomph to the room.”


Karen Julien – “The inspiration came from a design I did for a play gym in Huddersfield. They had a small curved wall and the people who worked there were asking for ideas, so I painted free hand on the wall.

“That got me thinking ‘why wouldn’t it work as a wallpaper on a bigger wall?’ It provides a lot of colour and most importantly it’s simple so that it can be hung vertically and horizontally making it easy to hang.

“I love the challenge of hanging wallpaper as it gives people the chance to think outside the box. Some of my clients have said they don’t know what wallpaper to pick so I go shopping with them. But it’s not something all decorators know how to do well as it takes a lot of practice.”


Miles Newby – “I started originally with a design based on snakes and ladders but I needed to do something simpler that people would really use in their homes – so I ended up with the 3D cube design.

“When it comes to wallpaper trends, it’s currently very much about bold feature walls accompanied with a colour picked out from the design, rather than using wallpaper on all the walls. But it does go in cycles.”


Nick Adonis –  “I started my working life aged 18 in Chelsea, Belgravia, Kensington – home of the great wallpaper houses – and I’ve loved wallpaper ever since.

“I take a real pride in everything I do. I play a game with my clients after I’ve completed a wallpapering job where I ask them to spot the join. Very few can!

“The art of putting paper together on the wall and not being able to see the join is on the decline. There aren’t that many people out there doing it well. Decorating has changed a lot.

“I take such a pride in working in people’s homes and creating beautiful results. It’s why I enjoy going to work every day.”


Andrew Bigwood –  “I’m a photographer as well as a decorator and I especially love photographing classic American cars.

“That’s how my wallpaper design with a Thunderbird car came about. It was the shot the looked best on a wall, the perspective was just right.

“I’ve been decorating since 1986 and I’ve noticed that wallpaper is becoming more popular again. It is a feature wall, a statement that people want to make.”


The judges’ opinion on The Challenge, the finalists and wallpapering trends

Head judge Neil Ogilvie, Chief Executive Officer at the Painting and Decorating Association –

Why this Challenge is important for the industry

“In my opinion, painting and decorating is the only trade that can be really classed as a “finished trade”. By that, I mean it’s the one trade that has the power to transform a room and give it that real wow factor. The Dulux Academy Design and Decorate Challenge is a chance to showcase the talents of our community in producing the exceptional results customers want.”

“Events like today are crucial in highlighting the professionalism of our industry, in inspiring decorators to upskill in new techniques and in showing the new generation the skill of the job.”

What were you looking for?

“I was looking for quality workmanship, everything being completed in the allotted timescales, if the finalists could specify the right amount of wallpaper for the job and most importantly the pride they take in visual appearance – do they apply the “stand back and look” that a client would take, to ensure a perfect finish.”


Mark Rigby, Skills Development Consultant at Dulux Academy –

The challenge itself

“Being a decorator myself I wanted to create an event that I knew I would want to enter. After all the entrants are all self-employed and we needed to give them reason to give up a day on the job to take part. So I thought about the pain points for decorators. Something we all go through is the challenge of having to hang a wallpaper design the customer picks, no matter how complicated. A design competition is the perfect opportunity for painters and decorators to design a wallpaper they’d like to work with.

“In terms of the practical challenge, our three-wall hanging challenge is designed to test a number of elements. Firstly can they correctly specify the right amount of wallpaper for a designated space? Secondly, how do they navigate common obstacles like newel posts, banister rails and plug sockets? Thirdly, can they work with a wallpaper design that has a straight match but is off-centre, and therefore requires time and patience at set up to ensure a balanced effect? Fourthly have they applied the wallpaper with minimum defects? Finally how they maintain their professionalism throughout a day-long test in terms of their approach to cleanliness and safety.”

Biggest challenges facing the industry

“The biggest pressure is from the cost of materials. Products are becoming more and more expensive. Customers now think nothing of spending £60, £80, £100 on a roll of wallpaper. If you mess it up, the cost falls back on you. You have to do a great job and you have to do it first time.”

Emerging trends

“Decoration is a fashion trend.  Trends are always going round in never ending circles. In the 80s it was all about full room wallpapering. In the 90s it was all about stripping that off and painting walls. In the noughties it was feature walls and today we are back to full room wallpapering.”


Louise Stevenson, National Account Manager at Graham & Brown –

Why this Challenge is important for the industry

“The Challenge is a brilliant mix of the technical element – the skill of application that makes a great decorator – and a design element that gets decorators to design a roll of wallpaper; something they wouldn’t necessarily do.”

What were you looking for?

“I was looking for someone who listened to the brief and had really taken into consideration the design element: what designs are on trend, what would sell commercially and what would work in a pattern repeat.”

Why we need the Academy

“The Dulux Academy is a unique offering, providing painters and decorators with the courses that increase their confidence, enabling them to explore different techniques and methods of application and ultimately grow their business through the skills they offer.”

Emerging trends

“Symmetrial is very important as are tropical themes. We are also seeing a rise in darker wallpapers with moodier colours, plus tartans and textures.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *