One of the most wonderful things about growing up in our multi cultural world today is the chance to experience how other nations and peoples house themselves and furnish thos dwellings. I don’t travel as much as others – the sheer effort of getting through the queues at airports and ferry ports – all that business with customs……. so I travel at home by watching the excellent choice of travelogues and lifestyle programmes on tv. At the moment my interest seems drawn towards the constant stream of ‘updoing’ of houses – we see a hapless family who have outgrown a house that would seem quite large here, and the ‘expert’ is shown criticising and suggesting how to improve it – generally to sell on so the family can move on up to their more desired size home. Although the programmes must now be a few seasons old, it’s still fascinating to see what the families – usually in Canada and North America, choose as essentials on their new home wish list. I note that they still plump for the large family sized L shaped sofas, but these are often put in the childrens’ tv areas. The main family rooms are more refined with smart furniture that reflects a neater, less staid image. Designers can make such a difference to a home. They see things that will suit a property and family which could otherwise get overlooked.
I have never felt totally happy in dark wood lined rooms. I’m wondering if this has anything at all to do with my sister having locked me in our nan’s shed once and dropped the key, so I was stuck in there for some while until the whole family had searched and failing to find the key, broke down the door and got me out. The smell of a shed doesn’t worry me persay, but I can’t shut the door unless I’m in charge of the shutting/locking device. So when I was visiting some friends who have bought an old house – plans to refurbish and fully redecorate in the making at this very minute – I was horrified to find myself wandering around a very wood lined interior. It was awful – real 1970s planks up the walls, on the ceiligs and even up the stairs. Strangely though, the only place it wasn’t utilised fully was on the floor. The wonderful solid oak planks we enjoy today were not fashionable then – no it was shag pile carpets to tone with the wooden slatted walls. Help!
When you go out into a garden, any garden, there will inevitably be some form of seating – a bench, couple of patio chairs, swing settee underneath a canopy . . . . . . the variety is endless and for the most part, each will be lovingly popped into the garage or shed for protection over the worst of the winter. What we don’t need to do however is decorate anything outside very often. Unlike in the house – the internal decor is very important to us. How a room looks says a great deal about us ad our personality. Take the uniquitous cream 3 seater leather sofa and matching armchair. I have one set exactly so – plus another matching 2 seater sofa, which is in my family room. The set was bought new as we waited for our house to be built – a well known furnishing store was closing down and they had a tremendous sale. We managed to buy three beds, complete with matresses and headboards; the sofas and armchair and lots of large pictures from their display settings – it would have cost a fortune if the shop wasn’t closing. I’m sure if there had been online sites, he would have managed a bargain like that – I like to think so.
Kitchens are a very personal matter. Well so are most things in our own houses of course, but how we like to work in a kitchen is a critical to our existence. I don’t do a lot of cooking these days, or I didn’t until a little while ago when I realised I’d fallen into the trap that many singletons do – eating any old thing for the main meal, because it’s easy and quick and I’d lost interest in the fundamental art of choosing food and cooking a decent meal for myself. However I have recently started to try different recipes and have actually enjoyed the process of sitting and thinking about what I’d actually find tasty and how I want to cook it. Having a modern kitchen helps. Mine’s not overly large – but I have work space and lots of useful cupboards. The overn has a pull down door which helps with weighty dishes, and I’m only now, years after moving in, discovering the joy of having a utility room separate from the main concourse!
Taking time to sort out what decor one wants in an area of the house can be very time consuming and the start of many an argument amongst those that live there but don’t contribute! I have found this amongst some of my friends who’s adult children have come home to nest again. There was a feeling some years ago that the kids had left home and it was now the adults’ time to stretch wings and make some time for their own travels and hobbies. Not a hope now. The grown up toddlers are back from uni, usually earning reasonably but not well enough to buy a house of their own. But when mum and dad want to start decorating their own house, you’d be amazed how many of the returners suddenly find their voice and make objections. They have read the magazines and seen the high ideals of city life. But they don’t want to pay for it!
With space for housing becoming quite a problem in towns and cities, the infill method of extending out is very popular now. It needs a really good interior designer to look at a space and be able to envisage it as a new kitchen or bathoom. I know of a young couple who live in a suburb of London. They struggled like mad to get that first property and had to pay half a million for a very narrow, dark house that had been created out of the partitioning of two others. They now have a baby and needed to build out themselves – into the only bit of space available. Velux roof lights have made such a difference – they have a large bifold patio door out from the kitchen and the bathroom now resides in what was the store room. Again additional ceiling mounted windows was the only means of getting any light in. Fantastic space – is has just been sold for another few hundred thousand.
The neat and very smart furnishing themes of the 190s are back with a bang. I was looking at a couple of very high end inerior design and decor magazines last week and to my absolute delight, they were featuring the beautiful little dining set we still use that my mother was given second hand in 1965. It still has the little blue labels underneath each piece to show it’s makers mark, date and piece number. We have looked after it over the years and it has given us immense pleasure. It’s even nicer now when younger, hip city professionals amongst our relatives come round for a meal and covet my dining suite big time! I’m so glad that when we were having to empty the bungalow when mother had to move to a care home, we each had a choice of what to take – I named the dining set and it has been my total pleasure to own.
When we were clearing out an aged aunt’s furniture and effects from her little bungalow, it didn’t seem such a bad job – we all thought it would take half an hour if we all mucked in. My word that was a gross mis calculation of time over effort! I can’t imagine where all the glassware, cooking pans and stuff came from originally, but we packed box load after box load into our cars for redistribution around various relatives and charity shops. The very basic cabinets in her kitchen seemed absolutely tiny in comparison with the massive ones we enjoy today – how things have advanced from the 1980s when that bungalow was considered the latest in luxury living. When we come to sell it, the new folk will immediately rip out everything and replace with hi end glossy gorgeousness. Oh and the bathroom will need a complete gut and rebuild – it makes me shudder now!
I must say that having a large and cumbersome leather four seater sofa in the main sitting room, and its little sister, a two seater, in the family room, it is easy to be a bit careless with food and drink. The arms on the smaller sofa seem to jump at me sometimes – and my cuppa often spills down the sides. But unlike with a beautiful floral or tweed number, it doesn’t get wrecked. I leap out of the seat and fetch my leather cleaner spray and a clean cloth. A couple of sprays and wipes and bob’s your uncle as they say.
That is not the way forward with some furniture though and if I had one of those divine danish light ash wooden table and chair sets, then obviously I would be taking much greater care of them. No banging around with the vacuum cleaner for a start – more damage is sustained that way than with coffee I feel!
I’ve never been a pet lover of the type that lets pets sit on chairs or my bed. In fact I’m not that keen on anyone else going near my bed, animal or human. It’s funny how we get used to having our own private, personal space. I have waivered over the years and at last I am happy in my own house with my own choice of furniture and fabrics. The walls are the same throughout because when I last had the place decorated, the chap was over for a holiday from his own home and only had two weeks in which to do my work. He did carry out the total redecoration of the downstairs. I gave great assistance by emptying and moving various peices of furniture and cleaning around the walls etc. before he began. And any visiting dogs just have to stay put in the parlour – after my gargantuan decorating, they’re not welcome!