Sunday 19 October 2014

World of Interiors 4

Why is it the super rich never seem to have any taste in curtains? (Feargus O'Sullivan)

Syrie Maugham started the trend of stripping and repainting French provincial antiques. (Wikipedia)

Poverty has its whims and shows of taste, as wealth has. Some of these cabins were turreted, some had false windows painted on their rotten walls; one had a mimic clock, upon a crazy tower of four feet high, which screened the chimney; each in its little patch of ground had a rude seat or arbour. (Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens)

Today your bedroom is the backstage area where you prepare for your performance in the theatre of the world... The living room... a sort of stage-set where homeowners acted out an idealised version of their lives for the benefit of guests... The inexpensive and slightly lowbrow connotations of gas meant that it was still shunned by the upper classes: they stayed loyal to candles. Lucy Orrinsmith, author of The Drawing Room, Its Decoration and Furniture (1878), suggested that one’s ambition ought to extend beyond a coal scuttle decorated with a picture of Warwick Castle and a screen showing ‘Melrose Abbey by Moonlight’. Instead, homeowners should look out for quirky, exotic flourishes for their best room: ‘a Persian tile, an Algerian flower-pot, an old Flemish cup, a piece of Nankin blue, an Icelandic spoon, a Japanese cabinet, a Chinese fan … each in its own way beautiful and interesting’. (If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home, Lucy Worsley)

Middle-class Upwards are still following Orrinsmith's instructions almost to the letter. But Rowena Upward, the ultra-Bohemian, is collecting Jacobethan furniture, little brass animals – and anything decorated with Warwick Castle or Melrose Abbey. She has an eye on a bamboo Edwardian overmantel which she plans to fill with knicknacks. She even intends to crochet frills for all its brackets. It won’t quite go with the Jacobethan – but perhaps she’ll go all-out for 1880, with potted palms on stands and round tables with velvet covers to the ground.


Sofas from the 1950s often had plastic trays clipped onto their arms to hold food or drinks. (If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home, Lucy Worsley)

The “random cladding” movement in architecture. (Adam Furman)

In a poncey club sitting on a sofa made from a slab of pumice with no back to it. They know how to make you feel welcome. (Mark Gatiss)

Bow windows with bottle-bottom glass, plus Georgian fanlights, on a 60s council house.

Hotel room en suite bathrooms with glass walls so you can watch TV in the bath. (What if you’re sharing the room???) And many hotel rooms have TVs in the bathroom, some disguised as mirrors or pictures.

“Classic” French provincial bathroom cabinets (including a basin on cabriole legs with faux drawers).

Buying a Georgian house and removing all the fireplaces so that there’s no obvious place to put the furniture and it stands around looking awkward.

Dummy chimneys on new houses.

Bars in Dalston with the “poverty look” - distressed wood and reused school chairs - which are too expensive for local people.

Crazy paving – on the wall.


The Pig Hotel “all shabby-chic Georgian splendour, roll-top baths with views over parkland...” (Times magazine 2014-08-16) Nothing can be both shabby AND splendid. Unless you specifically mean “shabby splendour”. And if the Georgians had had roll-top baths they would not have sat in one looking out over parkland. Oscar Wilde used to say that a gentleman never stood at a window – or was it Lord Chesterfield?

Using a rumpled but neat look. (

“Shaker style” now just means “wooden kitchen units”.

Rustic” is now a catch-all term that has drifted a long way from its roots in clothes and furniture actually made by genuine rustics (You can have a rustic or “woodsy” wedding, according to Etsy.)

The Museum Selection catalogue name-drops frantically in an attempt to convince us that its style-free products are sprinkled with the fairy dust of famous writers and artists.

“Rackham Plaque, redolent of the dream-like paintings by Arthur Rackham” – but not based on any particular work.

“Petal Fairy Statue, recalling those depicted in tales by Andrew Lang...” It looks like a rip-off of the Flower Fairies series by Cicely Mary Barker, and looks utterly UN-like the illustrations to Lang by HJ Ford.

“English Tweed jacket, Beautiful wool tweed jacket evoking the silhouettes of 1940s originals” – but not modelled on them.

“Art Deco Mugs, inspired by the vibrant Art Deco ceramic designs of Clarice Cliff...” They’re a poor imitation. None of the “Art Deco” products look remotely Art Deco.

It continues through the ages, “echoing”, “capturing”, “evoking” – but never reproducing.

Housing crisis.

More here, and links to the rest.

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