Some of the loveliest days out for me have been to heritage and historic houses. Those lofty interiors with furniture of the day, the silk wall coverings and bed hangings. I like the hought that so many families have passed through those corridors and slept in those rooms. I wallow in the age of the kitchens, overlooking completely the lack of workspace, or hygiene for that matter. It’s only after you take in several such buildings, of any age, they do become much of a muchness with perhaps the same regency wall paper, Chippendale furiture, massive velvet window drapes and hand made carpets, that you realise that’s exactly how we live in this day and age. All the lovely new housing developments springing up about us will h ave the same sized kitchens with the same design of cabinets, give or take the odd colour choice. But we can engage the services of design and interior experts and have the chane to strike a note of individualism !
When we discuss design, it’s rather like asking a group of people ‘what’s your favourite meal’ . . . it’s so open ended and has no right or wrong answers. Design of a house obviously depends rather on the land available and the amount of money the owner and builder have to produce it. Design of an interior, well that’s entirely a new kettle of fish. I often look over the online presentaitons of houses for sale near me. Some of the design and decor leaves me almost staggering with disbelief – mostly ghastly to my taste of course. A few years ago one of the local houses went on the market with a great blaze of publicity. They’re a loud family anyway and their presence in the road since moving in has not gone unnoticed. To say their decor and style matched this over exhuberance is the greatest understaement ever! Black and grey, black grey & silver, black, grey, silver and red throughout the entire house with bold paisley patterns.
One of the more rewarding aspects of spending an afternoon looking through property and lifestyle magazines is finding out what the latest colour trends are going to be for the next year or so. For a few years we wer blighted with the most ghastly phase of grey, grey & black, grey, red & black, oh and with large chunks of chrome for good measure. Pictures of houses with this style of decor were generally ridiculed by ‘those in the know’ but somehow it didn’t stop them from promoting the same whenever houses needed dressing for an article or editorial. There’s a large house up the road from mine. They are still in the grey & chrome time wharp. Every year the famuly put this house on the market – we see it advertised online and in the agent window but no for sale sign ever outside. After a few fruitless months, they take it off again. The decor hasn’t been changed or 4 years and it looks dated. Let’s hope the agent persuades them to make changes before next year’s effort!
With the sad death recently of a most favourite actress, I have taken the opportunity to step up watching two series of a tv show she came to prominence in during the ’60s. Looking at the fashions is exciting – we were very much in the top end of the swinging sixties for that show and the actress was dressed in ludicrously trendy ‘gear’. The properties featured in this spoof spy/good cop caper also reflect the fashion of the time. Kitchens have the ‘latest’ gadgets which are just slipped into the action – streamlined kitchen design with very modern furniure is to show that the main characters are at the top of their game, they can afford a fantastic London pad and by golly they’ve got the cash to dress it up. Actually the staged sets are desperately flimsy and the continuity editor doesn’t seem to have had time to check that the flapping doors that don’t shut and the door bell rings instread of a door knocker going when the eligible male strolls in.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to have the services of a professional decorator to paint through my house. He was coming over to work on a regular heritage commission but this had been postponed at last minute so he was at a costly loose end for exactly 2 weeks. When my chum told me this, I laughingly said ‘oh send him over here, my place needs a makeover’. Well, she did just that – one skype walkaround showing him my house and suddenly he was here to do the work! To watch a true professional at work was such an eye opener. The meticulous attention to detail, organised route round the jobs and so tidy at the end of each working day. To save us both time and money, he stayed over in my guest room and it worked out very well. Not everyone can be this lucky – getting an interior decorator at any time can be challenging but to get a real craftsman, staying on the spot is a miracle I’ve appreciated every single day since.
There’s nothing lovelier for the young newly house owning couple, than to be needing to utilise a bedroom for nursery purposes – this is such a special and exciting time. Apart from the colour scheme, thoughts should be put to the sort of furnishings and linens. As many modern families realise, buying lots of everything up front can be a bit of a waste – so many gifts come from the now essential baby shower. They won’t be matching the chosen colour scheme anyway so for the first few months, just concentrating on being warm, clean and ultra safe will be the order of the day. Curtains that can be easily washed will soften the rather hard look of a roller blind – shutters and venetions are all very good but you can’t clean and dust them as quickly and easily and you cannot attach blackout backings as you can with curtains & rollers. The right choice of chests are important too – one that can accommodate a full baby changing mat on top, is excellent. Not every helper will welcome kneeling on the floor to change nappy no. 12 of the day.
Sometimes when we’re facing some very dark days, such as the pandemic affecting every country in the world for example, it can be very easy to get carried away in a mist of doom and gloom. The newspapers and tv reports are whipping up a fear of movement and generally causing mayhem. It’s in difficult ties like this that we need to brighten up our lives. If we have self isolation imposed on us in a big way, we can perhaps start the cheering up process by redesigning the layout of our furniture and furnishings – our interior design can e altered by a simple move about of the big stuff – maybe moving cabinets into a different position and whilst delivery from online suppliers is still viable, maybe there’s an opportunity to get new acessories and a change of colour palette. Changing curtains, window blinds and soft furnishing designs and colours for our interiors never fails to bring a real sense of achievement. As they say, a change is as good as a rest!
I do love watching old spy and family comedy programmes on my streaming subscription. The programmes I’ve bought were first broadcast in 1964 and 1965 and it is fascinating, from a an interior design and decorating point of view, how advanced the Americans were back then. I hadn’t intended to carry out a comparison between the two but in the US show, the hostess lives in a brand new detached house and has such modern things in her kitchen – a dishwasher for starters! We didn’t get them over here for another 20 years. All the units are bulky, as is her massive electric range style cooker with top oven and separate rotisserie . . . The rest of the set was designed to include the latest trend in garish wallpaper and toning drapes at the windows. The sofa is a long sleek number that actually looks incredibly uncomfortable. In the UK programmes, the two ‘stars’ live in what we’re supposed to assume are top of the range apartments in London. They are so rediculously old fashioned yet the producers had them kitted out with the ‘latest thing’. We are much on a par with the States now and much of the modern home is designed here, not there.
Keeping the house warm and safe is one of the main responsibilities of a house dweller, be they a tenant or owner. It’s all very fine having the latest design of sofa or dining suite or a wonderful outlook over a fancy garden if somewhere else in the house, there’s a misuse of something else that causes a threat to other occupants. Take electricity safety for example. It is very tempting to try plugging in lots of different gadgets into one power socket – I’ve seen it lots of times where the tv, video player, phone chargers, gaming consoles etc. are all being run at the same time from one electrical socket via an extension lead. Lots of youngsters do this in their bedrooms too and in one tragic incident in the west midlands last year, there was a case of a seriously overloaded light socket. Yes, you read correctly, the young father wanted to impress his wife’s ‘school gate’ pals and not having enough wall sockets, he adapted the cable down from the ceiling and used that to power a plug in fire. Obviously it was dangerous – it overloaded, wasn’t fused and so the whole lot caught fire with devastating results. This was all so that the family could boast they’d got this latest gadget and that. I see some horrors in the home refurbishment programme on tv – the one where folk buy seriously run down dumps at auction and try to turn them into rentable spaces without actually doing a lot to them. It is eye opening how dense some of these ‘property developers’ are!
I was out in a village on a group walk recently and after a couple of hard hours tramping up hill and down dale, we visited the most wonderful tea rooms. These were situated in a very old barn on the edge of a mill complex. The building itself was tall and being near the mill, the sounds of the water wheel were quite atmospheric. The design inside the barn was fantastic with a hayloft all lit up with a firm stair case up. It had a display of old farm and mill equipment together with a display of historical costumes. Downstairs the interior design had been very carefully thought out. There were patterned tiles hanging in displays over the cold stone walls – just a few brightly coloured motifs. Amongst these were photos and racks of cards for purchase. The cooking area itself was very mod con behind a big glass counter and display unit. A great deal of thought had gone ito how to set the chairs and tables. These were all pretty sturdy – just right when hoardes of muddy walkers descend on the place and all need to fit around the tables with their gear still in situ!