Sunday, 18 January 2015

World of Interiors, Again



A Radio 4 Interviewee who grew up on a council state says that the built environment expresses the class system – you know which layer you are in by looking at your surroundings. (But of course “There’s no such thing as class any more”.)

Daily Mail always mentions how much someone’s house cost (to locate them socially).

The fashion for a collection of junk shop flower paintings leaning against the wall has reached adverts.

If Upwards want to sit at a kitchen table they have to go to a posh café. For about 100 years, they have felt that they ought to aspire to Bohemia rather than Suburbia. They wouldn’t like it really.

Upwards hate people to make money out of property – unless it’s them – and it has to happen by accident. In the 70s and 80s they would buy a “shell” – a ruin that they spent years doing up themselves. They babbled of high ceilings and “beautifully proportioned” rooms, and spent all their weekends chipping paint off the original ceiling roses. (They have laptops and cafes now, and outsource the plaster-chipping.)

Were the houses built with high ceilings to prove that you could waste the space? Or because of Victorian superstitions about “foul air” and the miasmatic theory? It’s why Victorian schools were huge, high halls. The hot, “exhausted” air rose to the ceiling and fresh air came in through the windows and the pupils froze. One plus is that you can have tall windows that let in a lot of light, but tall rooms are harder to heat.

Property programmes are always asking “Are you going to change the layout?” This still shocks Samantha Upward slightly – are you really allowed to turn a kitchen into a bedroom? Houses had drawing rooms, dining rooms and kitchens (and perhaps halls, snugs and booteries). The most she and friends would do was “knock through” and talk knowledgeably about “RSJs”.

Upwards and Weybridges aspire to a big house at the end of a long, long drive so that you’re cut off from other people – they call this “tranquillity”. The drive is gravel, not tarmac. The Middletons 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”. Nouveau-Richards have a sea of gravel right up to their front door, so that 30 guests can park at once. Upwards can’t actually afford to move to the kind of house that has a drive, and besides they secretly love living in cities.

In American sitcoms, a vivid crocheted Afghan over the back of the sofa is a sign we’re in a blue-collar home. Same goes for ceiling fans.

Nouveau-Richards have “hobby farms”.

Oscar Wilde said that a gentleman never stands at a window. In the 60s, council estates were given windows that you can’t lean out of and shout down to someone in the street. (Oh, OK, they didn’t want people to fall out either.)

More here, and links to the rest.


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