Sunday 14 November 2010

Middle Class Houses

“Nine out of ten homebuyers, it seems, will always be drawn to a Georgian rectory in its own grounds.” Times, May 22, 2009 The article goes on to say that everybody wants land so that their children can have ponies. The Times is living in a world of its own, but why should we be surprised?

Samantha Upward can’t live in a gated community. Or in a new-build in commuting distance of work. Or any development with a show home. She can’t buy anything “off plan”. And she can't live in a 30s house. Upward houses used to be Georgian only, but approval was extended to Victorian houses, and then Edwardian. Late Victorian style was once abominated by Upwards. She never calls their house their "home".

Sam can’t live in an Arts and Crafts house either – much too Weybridge, golf courses and pines. And no half-timbering unless the house is genuinely Tudor - definitely not Bypass Variegated. A friend bought a 30s house and her circle were mortified. They made it into a big joke and called the place “Gnome Cottage”, even presenting her with a wooden plaque with the name carved on. Upwards are terribly unforgiving, and rigidly conformist while selling themselves as free spirits.

Gideon and Samantha don’t have a swimming pool, they use next door’s, though Sam would like a swimming pond. Howard and Eileen’s is kidney shaped. The N-Rs’ has a wave machine.

Tarmac drives are common – the upper classes have gravel. The Middletons (parents of Kate) have a tarmac drive at their large house in Berkshire. (And what’s wrong with that? Too like a road? Not eco-friendly? Upwards love to get together and complain about people who “concrete over their front gardens”.) Upwards and Weybridges who can afford it like a big house at the end of a long, long drive so that you’re cut off from other people – they call this “tranquillity”.

Most Upwards live in Victorian and Edwardian houses with as many "original features" as they can cram in. They strip all the wood "back", including the floorboards, and fill the place with collections of not-very-valuable objets d'art. There’s a tiny subset who buy an amusing 50s ranch style house and fill it with G plan furniture, Poole "Delphos" pottery and Whitefriars glass - to the bafflement of their friends and family.

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