Interior Design Masters’ Francesca Kletz wants to be the ‘Joan Rivers of decorating’

The Jewish star of BBC One’s Interior Design Masters opens up to the JC about her identity, living in Israel, and singing Fiddler on the Roof


Interior designer, Francesca Kletz, is one of the few faces on TV who is an out and proud Jew. A Star of David and Hebrew name necklace bounces over her homemade dress as she speaks to the JC from her bubblegum pink kitchen. On display behind her sits a stylish Seder plate from Jaffa market and a pair of funky Shabbat candles.

Kletz is one of ten novice designers on the fifth season of the BBC’s latest reality TV show. The contestants compete over eight weeks to win a commercial contract for a homeware line collaboration. Thus far, Kletz, 36, has stamped her colourful designs onto spaces ranging from Chester Zoo to Ascot Racecourse.

Born and raised in Finchley and bat mitzvah at Finchley Reform Synagogue, Kletz got a sewing machine for Chanukah when she was 16 and hasn’t looked back; she even lugged it to Israel in her twenties.

“I always think about it in terms of the schmatte trade; Jews always work in textiles,” Kletz says, and it was the tailor Motel she was drawn to in Fiddler on the Roof, “I always fancied him.”

Fiddler is a recurring theme for the self-described “Yiddishe Mama”, who drove between locations with co-star Ben Irurzun and a van full of wallpaper singing Tevye’s songs, as well as Yentl. The pair dubbed themselves “Super L’Chaim” and Ben has since been over for Shabbat.

Kletz tried to get as much Jewishness into Interior Design Masters as possible. She remembers sitting on the sofa during filming, “chatting about the Talmud, I don’t think anyone knew what I was talking about!”

With a background in standup comedy and teaching, Kletz says, “I want to be the Joan Rivers of interior design. I want to show up to a client's house and make them laugh and do a great job.”

Conscious of her position as Jewish on TV, Kletz says that when October 7 happened and the subsequent rise in antisemitism in the UK, she wasn’t sure how she would be received: “I knew this show would be coming out and I was very Jewish on it.”

“Thankfully it’s been fine,” Kletz notes.

Her family teased her that she wears a larger Magen David in each episode, but she hasn’t always been so confident: “It’s taken me 30 years to say I’m Jewish and proud.”

But she has faced her share of antisemitism. In secondary school, her classmates would make comments about money and Jews. When Kletz later worked as a special educational needs teacher, a colleague asked her if Jews celebrated Chanukah by dropping bombs.

"I never realised it was antisemitism. I felt different and now I know what that was – I felt different because I am Jewish.”

But after making aliyah in 2019, Kletz’s approach to her identity changed: “Since living in Israel, now I stand up for myself. I’ve learned how to stand my ground.”

Living in Israel for a year changed her approach to Jewishness and design.

“The diaspora is so small, you grow up with a certain idea of what it is to be Jewish,” Kletz says, “To suddenly be in Israel and see how easy it would be for my family just to exist; I never realised how hidden everything Jewish was until I was there.”

For the art history graduate, the range of global design in Israel was "inspiring.”

“Tel Aviv is an amazing amalgamation of European, African, and Middle Eastern [design] all combined. Every gallery, house, or restaurant has an interesting take that you just don’t get in the UK. And all the Bauhaus stuff is incredible.”

Kletz’s colourful style is also a reaction, she says, to the white walls of her 1990s childhood. Her grandparents' silver candlesticks and family photos of old Russia and Ukraine, plus her love of chick flicks were where she saw colour growing up. Now, her designs mix pink and neon with vintage finds.

When Kletz left Israel, she started a craft workshop and weaving business called London Loom but decided to close shop when the pandemic hit, "it was Hashem telling me it was time”.

During lockdown, she started renovating her Hackney flat and before long was getting requests for it to be used for photoshoots.

Two years ago, her son, Feivel, was born. His Yiddish name was taken from the animated Jewish film, An American Tail, which tells the story of a Russian immigrant mouse, named Fievel Mousekewitz making it in the new world. Her real-life Feivel delights in the bright walls of their home, which are admired by a mass of fans on social media.

Migrating from Finchley to Hackney via Tel Aviv, Kletz feels at home among the Jewish history of east London, “it’s like coming home,” she notes. She misses Carmellis, but in Hackney, she’s in the heart of the city’s creative scene and still manages to sit down with family for Shabbat every Friday. 

Getting onto the BBC show was “like coming out of a long maternity leave” and is part of Kletz’s grand plan for a dream design career, which includes creating the interiors for a London shul: “It’s not in the Torah that these spaces have to all be maroon, gold and navy blue.” She also wants to create a collection of bespoke clown jumpsuits.

And the real goal – perhaps one she will see through if she wins the lucrative homeware deal – would be to release a range of kitsch Judaica.

“In Israel, I can find a midcentury seder plate at the market,” and while she loves her Jonathan Adler dachshund menorah, “you cannot find cool Judaica in this country.” 

In the meantime, she’ll be checking the Interior Design Masters WhatsApp group, which she says is absolutely “popping off,” and keeping her fingers crossed for each episode.

Interior Design Masters with Alan Carr is on BBC 1 on Tuesday at 8 pm.

Kletz’s website where she puts the oy into joyful design:

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