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!
Making your first home purchase really yours takes a bit of work and practice. The first few years are spent just trying to ensure the mortgage is paid and all the legals too. There usually isn’t a lot of funding left for trendy things like interior design concepts. However, it is possible to take a good look at each room in turn. Starting in the doorway, take a long careful look from the farthest left hand corner, right round to the farthest right hand. By really looking at all the features, the furniture and soft furnishings, it is possible to get an idea of how to improve the current model without spending too much. Charity shops often have larger furniture departments and you would be astounded at how you can get hold of decent pieces to replace the old stuff you were given when you moved in. Or if the thought of more second hand doesn’t cut it for you, how about visiting the massive scandinavian outlets updating your existing scheme by changing the colours of all the soft furnishings and window dressings. Amazing how effective this simple idea can be.
I have the unfortunate reputation for being slightly clumsy. I admit that I do have a tendency to trip over matchsticks or fall wobble sideways when my legs and brain are too tired to keep me on the pavement. These are co-ordination issues that are easily sorted with a sit down and decent cup of tea. Things that are not so easily fixed however are the domestic ones where you suddenly realise that the lounge furniture is drab and dated and you don’t have the funds or wherewithall to get it all replaced. Designing the interior of a house is not always the easiest thing to look at. You end up with masses of confusing ideas and usually, like me, decide to shelve it and have another look next year! This year however it’s different and I have taken the bull by the horns. I engaged the services of a wonderful young team of designers who came and suggested two schemes to breathe life into my existing household effects by way of a fresh coat of paint and some very different but co-ordinating accessories. It looks so different was worth every penny of their fee.
Flowers are a wonderful addition to the designers palette. I have never been very arty and I struggle to make my home look more than just acceptably modern and tidy. By magazine standards, the interior is rather basic, not a lot has been done to update the decor – one new lick of paint all round in March five years ago and that was the first from moving in 8 years before that! So I’m not known for being overly creative. However, I have discovered the joy of buying flowers at my local market and arranging them in large colourful displays. I ave been much inspire in my design from helping out at a local heritage house. They’re well known for their English country garden setting and every duty day is improved greatly upon seeing the fantastic bouquets on display in the great hall. Whenever they host weddings at the Hall, the flowers are part of the service supplied in the hire fee. Each bride has several colourways to choose from and I have learned much from hovering near the massive vases . .. . Easily an aid to the iterior design of our houses and this is one way to bring life to a room without vast expense.
I have been getting into watching a particular north american property programme – over here it’s just called buying and selling but over there it refers to the two host as they are twin brothers. Like so many of their very successful series, this one does rely very heavily on a standard formula and it never varies. The hapless families needing the home refurbishment or ‘reno’ are different every show, but the ideas are exactly the same and you can set your watch on various segments of the hour long show. However, it does show us some really good ideas for updating houses and making a worn and tired out family home come alive with just a few changes – ripping out the old fashioned cooker and replacing with a shiny range with classy looking splash back behind that and the sink – if there’s room, putting a well designed island unit in the kitchen and replacing the counter tops and cabinet doors and drawers seems to do the trick. It makes me feel uncomfortable now watching the funny little property shows we have over here. Guess it reflects the funny little properties we live in!
I often wonder how folk com eto the decisions they do when it comes to home decor and general style. I was in a house recently that screams 1970s – it had seriously retro sofa and sideboard. I was almost excited at first, thinking my otherwise staid and genuinely frumpy old buddy had been hiding some amazing style talents. But when I actually had a chance to look round her home, I realised these were simply things to sit on and dump stuff on. There wasn’t really any connection or emotion between the user and the item. If I was lucky enough to have an ercol table and chairs set from the middle of the 1960s, I would be caring for it with appropriate covers and making sure the rest of the decor around it all didn’t jar or detract from these as a central point. I nearly offered my chum the 1960s table cloths and other accessories I inherited from a grandmother, but I could see thees would probably get trashed like the other stuff!
I never really gave interior design a lot of thought before now – I’ve only ever accepted the dimensions of any given room as what dictated the sort of furniture I could have in it and been pretty satisfied with my lot. The change for me was a few years ago when sat in a traffic queue, just minding my own business, I took note of an eye catching bathroom setting in a very stylish bathroom and kitchen showroom. The showroom had been there years and I’d driven past daily, also for years but for that 2 or 3 minutes, I was transfixed and at the first opportunity, I raced back on foot to see the showroom itself. That was the start of my journey to having cleaner, more modern lines as a design theme. Starting funnily enough with my bathrooms and ensuite. It was a life changing decision – I called a couple of designers and chose the one who seemed drew a schematic totally encapuslating the vague ideas in my head and put them into a reall design. He was fantastic and his work still thrills me every day.
In this country we’re not usually known for shriekingly loud wall paper designs or flambouyant soft furnishings. As our houses tend to be much smaller than in some countries, we have let past generations influence us with their reserved colourways and lack of inspiration when it comes to ‘doing up the front room’. It’s quite refreshing to be able to watch the many home style daytime tv programmes – I particularly like make-overs where a team of ‘experts’ get to work on somewhere small and tediously ghastly. I have to say that some of the results at the end of the programme are equally ghastly, but it would be a boring show otherwise! However the point of the programme is to encourage people to take chances, make a splash and get out there and decorate – Doing up one room at a time, from ceiling to floor can be utterly exhausting and it takes practice to get each task done but it will be worth it.