Tuesday, 15 October 2013

World of Interiors Revisited

Dough-craft wall plaque

The most recent house a middle-class Upward can live in is Edwardian – they haven’t reached 30s Arts and Crafts yet. Chinese millionaires love Tudoresque houses – they think it’s the most upmarket style. For Upwards, this is just another reason for loathing all things Jacobethan. Upwards hate half-timbering because it is just stuck on, not "honest" – though they don't mind classical fireplaces modelled on Greek temples.

In a BBC poll (Sept 2013), “period properties” were ranked:
Georgian
Victorian
Edwardian
Inter-war
Post-war

Upwards, with their Edwardian terrace houses and genuine enamel colanders, like to live in the past (with central heating, broadband, digital TV and Macbooks, of course). The 20s and 30s are too recent for them. Hipster Rowena Upward is always trying to revive a moment that all her relatives will loathe. She’s buying up 80s jewellery, hoping for a boom. She's always ahead – back in the 80s she arranged broken bits of blue-and-white china on an old tin tray and hung a single chandelier luster in her window to reflect the light. When Samantha tried to copy her, it never really worked – the sherds and crystals got lost in the clutter of postcards, nicknacks, books and coffee mugs. However hard she dug, she couldn’t find enough blue-and-white fragments in the garden. She suspected Rowena of breaking plates on purpose.

An old-style millionaire built a many-gabled mansion in the 80s. “He added a 20-foot waterfall to the back of the house and installed an indoor shark tank and private burro zoo….” But ostentation is out. [Now] interiors are ripped out, to turn elegant collections of rooms into enormous voids.” (New York Times)

Upwards always call an eat-in kitchen a “kitchen/breakfast room” because they don’t want to imply that they’d eat dinner in their kitchen, even if they don’t have a separate dining room. And “diner” is American. Nor can they talk about “banquettes” or “breakfast nooks”.

The ever-wonderful Middle Class Handbook notes the way poshos mix old paperbacks, Cornishware mugs and Duralex glasses with expensive wine and looseleaf tea. “Their TVs are old and small.” This is real upper-class shabby chic. You have lived in the same house for decades (extra points if you’ve had the same holiday cottage for decades – preferably since the 20s). If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. You just add things, and the result is what “eclectic” café style is aiming at. You do the same with your clothes (and jewellery). And the holiday cottage is full of kilims and durries that have faded almost to extinction with age, also hardbacks with tattered dust jackets spotted with damp and mould.

Lower middle Jen Teale has spotless beige fitted carpets – she has them professionally steam cleaned. According to the Middle Class Handbook Brits buy 25% fewer carpets now than they did in 2006. Jen hangs a reproduction Renoir over the fireplace. Only Teales and working-class Definitelies have “wall plaques” (the Sun, the Green Man, the Virgin Mary). About 20 years ago actress Jane Asher started up a craft magazine which was damned by a reviewer just quoting the words “doughcraft wall plaque”. Doughcraft was an 80s Upward craft – they have moved on to making their own bunting.

Very posh people and the Nouveau-Richards have dining pavilions in the garden.

More here, and links to the rest.

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