Tuesday 12 August 2014

World of Interiors 3


Why is it every so-called luxury development in the UK a mix of velvet, dodgy chandeliers, dark wood, silk or sateen cushions, beige... Brown stippled walls, ugly accessorizing, ugly vases, beige marble bathrooms? (Christian Harrup)

Nice kitchen, but the monkey statue is a distraction. (uglyhousephotos.com)

Furniture from an all-over scheme is transported into an environment with a completely different style where it has no practical use, is too big or is the wrong colour. A jardiniere stand from a late Edwardian drawing room is surrounded by generic modern oak furniture, children’s toys and shabby sofas. Sometimes pieces of furniture look as if they were missing their friends. Interior decorators always try to persuade us that an eclectic mix will look marvellous, but this isn’t what they meant. The upmarket version is an arty interior with lime-washed carved oak, black distempered walls, stag’s heads, classical sculpture and that perfect chaise longue/Italian cassone/George III commode.

Half-baked makeover: you repaint the walls and replace the chairs but can’t change the banquettes. Or you add peach curtains and cushions but they clash with everything else.

One-bed flats, studios and bedsits with family-sized kitchens. And why waste space on halls and corridors?

Tudor panelling – in your bathroom. “It was all done by the present owner. He wanted it to be in keeping with the rest of the property.” Escape to the Country

Elaborate pelmets: so 80s – and they belonged in a stately home, not a bungalow.

Black tiles and black granite work top in a tiny kitchen: makes it look like a prison cell.

Volume builders copying a copy of a copy of a copy of “vernacular architecture”. Details are simplified, shrunk, dumbed down, slapped on without any knowledge of their original function. Particularly miniature oriel windows.

Corrugated plastic roof on your lean-to “conservatory”, especially when covered with the dirt of years.

A few very small pictures.


“We’ve got a large baronial lounge.” (Delboys and Dealers)

"Diana Dors had a sumptuous lifestyle. Home was Orchard Manor, a mock-Tudor mansion in Sunningdale, Berkshire. It had a mirrored indoor swimming pool, leopardskin sofas, a Rolls for the school run..." Daily Mail (She slept under a mink bedspread.)

“It’s kind of shabby chic cum glamping,” says the owner of house she can’t sell on Under Offer. Her home sports black baroque mirror surrounds, lots of gilding, and a zebra-striped cocktail bar. More hair salon chic than shabby chic. “Everything is top spec. The banisters are Brazilian mahogany.”

Rachel and Justin build a house in Alderley Edge (known for blingtastic footballers’ homes):

“There are lots of houses going up that are glitzy and footballer-style,” says Rachel, “but we’re in a village and we wanted it to be in keeping – we wanted a Georgian box. People have this awful impression of Alderley, but it’s not what they think. There is a lot of bling, but not everyone is like that. People stereotype Cheshire but, actually, the people who’ve lived here for years aren’t like that at all.” Their house has 4 storeys, 5 beds, 4 baths, recep, dining room, huge living area and “a ballroom sized basement themed around country sports (an expensive add-on to the plans after Justin saw something similar in Country Life.) “Although she had no training as an interior designer, Rachel felt she had a natural flair... “Although our style’s quite traditional, I’ve tried to put a fresher, modern twist on it. I wanted the rooms to be very colourful, to be smart but cosy.” [She teams chocolate, lime and violet.] Taupe is fashionable, and I can do it for clients, but it’s not me... I wanted a simple, hand-painted kitchen, in Farrow & Ball’s Bone, with Mouse’s Back walls... We haven’t done the dining room yet, but I’m tempted to use De Gournay emerald silk, with handpainted chinoiserie. Don’t tell Justin.” [The dining room has a fake vaulted ceiling “which they limestoned to look like an authentic wine cellar in Bordeaux”]. “Much of the furniture came from antique shops over the border in Staffordshire or Derbyshere ‘because there’s nothing really left in Cheshire’, and every room is lit by antique chandeliers.” (Times June 2014-06-22)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Get the Look 2

The 60s were all about colour
Yes, I’m addicted to property and makeover programmes. You don’t need to know any design history, just throw around words like cottage, rustic, country, original, shabby, Victorian, French farmhouse. As somebody said, the French wouldn’t recognise it. And it all seems to mean “paint everything grey”.

If you want to “preserve the character” of your older home, strip back the fireplace to a hole in the wall (and call it an inglenook), and install a woodburning stove. Remove ALL other original features. “Preserve the Victorian character” seems to mean “remove all Victorian characteristics”. (And “Victorian” seems to mean “olde worlde and rustic”.)

The 17th century Shakers wouldn’t recognise a “Shaker kitchen”, either, and nor would the 70s designers who revived the look.

“30s-style, inspired by..., reflects the...”
“It’s shabby chateau!
French farmhouse, rustic probably” (some carved wood).
“Love the kitchen, it’s got the country modern feel.”

“They’ve reclaimed these floorboards from a Victorian church.”
“Right – quite rustic!”

“It’s got a cottage feel to it.” (Escape to the Country)
“The 60s were all about colour!” (Great Interior Design Challenge has never heard of Op Art.)
“It’s glamorous, opulent, classic, shabby chic, French rustic.” (Great Interior Design Challenge)

“The new bathroom is elegant and captures a period feel.” (Homes under the Hammer)
It’s kind of vintage but modern and relevant.” (Homes under the Hammer)
“It’s not cottagey, but it’s got that old-fashioned look to it.” (Homes under the Hammer)

“The kitchen is sympathetic to the style of the property.” (Escape to the Country But it’s not IN the style of the property.)

“But don’t get carried away too much, or you’ll end up living in a museum, and you don’t want that.” (Nick Knowles’ Original Features)
“I want to be faithful to the period (1900), but not so it’s like a museum, maybe a modern twist on the 1920s.” (Homes under the Hammer So that’s “completely unfaithful to the period”, then.)

A B&B in Bath has a “subdued, minimalist style”, with whitewashed walls, sisal carpets, oriental vases and crystal chandeliers (and you can get a "standard king-sized" room). (The Times Feb 2014 Yes, it’s a chandelier, but it’s a subdued chandelier.)

“The council is poised to knock down 16 houses in Dalston Lane thought to date from 1807 and replace them with new buildings in ‘heritage likeness’.” (Hackney Gazette, January 2014 The terrace was reprieved, and an organisation has offered to do the renovation. Hackney Council has turned down the offer. Aug 2014)

“Design is cyclical. Look how retro design is back in vogue. What we have done is take designs that have served us well over the years and remodelled them and they look very current now.  Nothing came close to the popularity of the daisy-chain patterned fabric designed by Pat Albeck, which arrived in 1964… her daughter-in-law has reworked the design for a teapot.” (John Lewis spokesman, Times, April 2014. They couldn’t quiiiiiite bring themselves to revive the original. The “reworked” design on the teapot looks nothing like the original Daisychain.) More here, and links to more about decor.
Pat Albeck's Daisychain fabric

Saturday 9 August 2014

Class and Decor in Love, Nina

"The kitchen has a massive dresser… all covered in trinkets and pretend fruit, little animals and people and little cups and in each little cup a little thing… The knives and forks are giant…. The floor is planks of wood with gaps… I have a giant mirror, like out of a posh pub. The surround is ornate and painted bright orangey red. … Some people have water filter jug things but they’re a bit of a faff, to be honest… If everything else in your house is all charming and junky, why would you want an ugly plastic jug?"

From Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe, a book of letters written while the author was working as a nanny for a writer in Gloucester Crescent, London - in the early 80s or thereabouts. She's describing a high Bohemian interior in Gloucester Crescent, London in the early 80s. Rich Bohemians bought Victorian cutlery, which was big and heavy. They exposed floorboards, but were too impractical to realise that you needed to fill the cracks. Dressers (Victorian, stripped) were a good idea, but they cluttered them with twee nicknacks.

"Some new people have moved into the crescent and put lace curtains up at the windows (where there used to be Venetian blinds). A kind of half-curtain. They’re the talk of the Crescent. Everyone keeps saying, 'What about those curtains!'" (Nobody has lace curtains in NW3 – they're so suburban.)

"Mary is getting her house done bit by bit. She’s had a dark brown shag-pile carpet in her bedroom… And the walls are dark brown too. It’s all very brown."
(This sounds more 70s.) 

"MK is an art lover and has a wide variety of pictures…  She’s got a picture of an emu just standing there (side view) and one of a big vase of daisies (unrealistic yellow) on a green background, also a cricket match on a green background. In fact, quite a few of her art things have a green background. Not bluey-green, but bright plasticky green."

More here.

Saturday 2 August 2014

What to Wear, Part 4

Working class young people will always create an over-the-top fashion, or version of the current fashion, and often look fabulous. (Which is why “advice to young people” always tells you to “avoid extremes”.)

Danielle Sheridan in the Times, 2 August, writes about tattoos almost entirely in terms of class:
"Tattoos were once the preserve of sailors, prostitutes and criminals: a warning as much as a decoration. Now they are most likely to be found daubed on to the skin of Britain’s middle class.
Over a quarter of the section of society once known for its love of pampas grass and teasmaids now sports some ink..." Tattoo parlours are now "stylish" rather than "dark and scary". Tattooist Mr Coppoletta says: "Coming through the door now is mainly professionals, aged between late 20s and 40s. They have careers."

Women’s magazines used to warn against baggy, grey, torn underwear. Were Upwards so poor that they couldn't afford new pants – or too miserly? Trouble was, sexy underwear in the 50s and early 60s was all made out of nylon (in red, trimmed with black lace), which the middle classes couldn't wear. And then Janet Reger happened (silk French knickers), and manmade fibres became more like silk. But in the 80s Upward women agonised over looking sexy – surely it was common?

Stow Crats say: "No rings during the day apart from wedding and engagement rings that you never take off." Presumably you can wear a “cocktail” ring at the cocktail hour – a large stone that can be either genuine and priceless or outrageously faux. In the 50s and 60s huge arty pottery rings were acceptable. (Presumably the women who wear all their valuable rings – engagement rings and eternity rings from several marriages – have nowhere safe to keep them.)

Hippies wore bells round their neck in 1967, sometimes attached to a string of beads. Indian traders immediately bought up all the budgie bells they could find (or are they temple bells?), attached them to beads, shipped them West and sold them to young people at a huge markup. They had been a spiritual aid. They became instant fashion and were sold off stalls in Oxford Street. They were bought by Teales in Pinner who wore them at a festival one weekend and then threw them away. They saturated the straight world almost immediately. And then you couldn’t giv’em awye.

From clogs to clogs... Shops like Fat Face take an ordinary jacket shape but make it in loose woven, unevenly dyed fabric and give it shell buttons. But then some cruisewear label does a knockoff with more polyester and fake coconut-shell buttons. And the topstitching creeps back.

Samantha Upward is amazed that Americans are still wearing plaid Bermuda shorts. (Americans have an admirable "if it ain't broke" attitude to clothes, and left their stylish 40s uniforms as they were while we Brits were creating frumpy 60s versions which then became fossilised.)

More here, and links to the rest.