Tuesday 20 December 2011

Terribly House and Garden

Design for Living, a song by comedy duo Flanders and Swann, reveals that the middle class fad for "upcycling" goes back a long way... House and Garden was a magazine (and still is), but it was Vogue that exhorted readers "Why not - rinse your blonde child's hair in flat champagne" etc etc (S.J. Perelman parodied it in a piece called Frou-Frou, or the Future of Vertigo - it is in Most of the Most of S.J.Perelman.) Design for Living is a play by Noel Coward.

Here's the song:

When we started making money, when we started making friends we found a home as soon as were able to. We bought this bijou residence for about a thousand more than the house our house was once the stable to. With charm, colour values, wit and structural alterations, now designed for graceful living, it has quite a reputation:

We're terribly House & Garden at number 7B,
We live in a most amusing Mews, ever so very contemporary.
We're terribly House & Garden - the money that one spends
To make a place that won't disgrace our House & Garden friends.
We've planned an uninhibited interior decor,
Curtains made of straw,
We've wallpapered the floor.
We don't know if we like it
But at least be can be sure:
There's no place like home sweet home.

It's fearfully Maison-Jardin at number 7B.
We've rediscovered the chandelier:
Très, très very contemporary.
We're terribly House & Garden though at last we've got the chance.
The garden's full of furniture and the house is full of plants.
It doesn't make for comfort but it simply has to be
'Cos we're ever so terribly up-to-date, contempo-rar-areee.

Have you a home that cries out to your every visitor "here lives someone who is exciting to know?" No? Well, why not - collect those little metal bottle tops and nail them, upside-down, to the floor? This will give a sensation...

of walking on little metal bottle-tops turned upside-down.

Why not - get hold of an ordinary Northumbrian spoke-shaver's coracle, paint it in contrasting stripes of, say, telephone black and white white, and hang it up in the hall for a guitar tidy for parties.

Why not - drop in one evening for a mess of potage, our speciality, just aubergine and carnation petals, with a six-shilling bottle of Mule du Pape, a feast fit for a King.

I'm delirious about our new cooker fitment, with the eye-level grill. This means, that without my having to bend down, the hot fat can squirt straight into my eye.

We're frightfully House & Garden at number 7B
The walls are patterned with shrunken heads:
Ever so very contemporary.
Our boudoir on the open plan
Has been a huge success,
Though everywhere's so open
There's nowhere safe to dress.
With little screens and bottle-lamps
And motifs here and there
And mobiles in the air
And ivy everywhere
You musn't be surprised to meet a cactus on the stair
But we call it home sweet home.

We're terribly House & Garden, as I think we said before
But though 7B is madly gay
It wouldn't do for every day.
We actually live in 7A,
In the house next door!


  1. I've wanted a Northumbrian spoke-shaver's coracle ever since I first heard this song. When was it? About 1960, I think. Not an ordinary one, mind you. I want a very special one in rustic shades of black stained leather with the willow frame tending toward root beer. Naturally, in those tones one could never think of painting it. How ghastly! And a guitar cozy? Not on your life. Though I have alternately considered whether to hang it bottom out or inside facing. Considered the ceiling briefly, but no. If I ever find one it will fit so perfectly with the rest of my decor: Early Vincent Price.

  2. Mrs Price had an eye for decor - she collected miniature marble obelisks. And you think I'm making this up!

    1. Now in all honesty, and after looking at a filmography of Mr. Price's, I see that I cannot really claim influence from his early period at all. The film that aligned with my proclivities is "The Tomb of Ligeia", and certainly middle period for the man. The scene that struck me was one wherein our hero slouched languidly against the stained and discolored but never cracked palimpsest of a stucco wall in his kitchen, rustic shelves cluttered with earthy crockery, archaic pans, and obsolete utensils. A quick double take and my thoughts exclaimed, "That's it- and so do I aspire!" A slow pan 'round the perimeter of my abode revealed that I was already halfway there.
      The obelisk thing seems much more "House on Haunted Hill", don't you think? But of course Vincent's wife was bound to share his tastes.