One of the absolute joys of belonging to any or all of the main heritage property groups is of course to visit a selection every year. Sometimes I achieve this, but usually I miss their opening dates or just can’t be in that area at the right time. The historic houses group is a favourite of mine because they are fabulous old buildings that families still live in and call home. Most have had to make changes , sell a few of the fine art pictures, confine themselves to the draughty west wing allowing visiting public on open days to wander around the other rooms. I love seeing the wonderful furniture and take in their ancient smells. Wondering what stories these fantastic old pieces could tell us. But then I come home, whack up the cental heating and plonk myself on my very modern sofa or eat at my very modern but sturdy oak table – no draughts, but a feeling of wellbeing all the same.
I was meandering around a strangely old fashioned furniture store – I’d been there several times over the years. Usually to view their end of year clear out sale. I was very lucky to have gone in just as they unlocked the door one particular 02 January. Anyway, I was happily mooching about when my eyes lit upon the most gorgeous sideboard. it was sat in an alcove, no labels or price board on show. I knew immediatey this was from the design sold by a particularly helpful but expensive department store and when it came out about 6 years ago, I lusted after it for months until finally having to concede defeat – the sheer cost would have bankrupted me.
But here is was in an end of lines, end of season sale! The speed with which I purchased this piece of modern furniture cannot be adeuately described. It is still stunning and I still love it, years later!
I have friends who own several properties – a house in the local village, in fact one of the minor manor houses of it’s day is their main residence. Then they have a very modern no frills pad in the docklands area of east London – it was bought with a permanent move to the City in mind and was a snip at the time. Very good choice too, the value has quadrupled in ten years. Finally they enjoy trips to the south of france to their old farmhouse – another snip of a property, bought from an ex pat who was rapidly going bankrupt, and they helped his liquidity.
Having lots of places to stay is exciting and a great advantage sometimes. It is also a job to keep everything updated and if they didn’t use a property maintenance contractor for the two oldest properties, these could cause serious worries. Always worth the fee for peace of mind and keeping values up.
Years ago my family went on mass to the Isle of Wight for long carefree camping holidays. The weather forecast were fantastic, hot and dry all the way. We had a caravan and a motley collection of tents, no electric hook ups, no tv, no washing machines . . . . . We always had a great time on these simple sites. One of our favourite pilgrimages was to a seriously old manor house in the middle of the island – nowhere near anything else. It advertised itself as the oldest inhabited property and it certainly felt it. The decor and furnishings were wonderfully authentic and it made us all want to have old cottages from the same age!
Although none of us have achieved that since, in fact we’re all ultra modern, but it has made us all appreciate the homes we do have. Giving more attention to the upkeep for example. They won’t last anywhere near as long, but they’ll see us out!
If you buy a very modern home, it is almost obligatory to fill it with scandinavian rubber wood, cheap and wonderfully long lasting furniture. The 1970s brought us Habitat, the store that had the most up to date, uber trendy furniture. Everything was very streamlined and expensive, compared to the swedish mega outlets that furnish our starter homes for a fraction today.
This made my mind wander back to when my husband and I first set up a home together after years of sharing furnished flats. That was an experience – one I would not wish to repeat, but also, not to ever overlook. The mix of ghasly stained, lumpy, ugly furniture we put up with! Battered looking chairs, tables with mended legs, wardrobe doors with missing handles and a collection of tiny little holes all over the back panels. It made me appreciate fully how lucky I am to have nice looking, good quality furniture today. Ive earned it!
We all need to look at our houses and homes at some time in our busy lives. Once upon a time, say just after the early 1920s, we would have been happy with the small scullery kitchen, the tiny draining board that also had to act as a worktop. Then there was the lack of kitchen cabinets – no wall mounted cupboards for the china and other crockery. Usually there was one large walk-in cupboard that acted as a larder and pan store. There was no room for a washing machine, tumble drier or dishwasher of course – they hadn’t been invented then!
It seems unbelievable to us today that families got by like that. We demand so much more of houses now and our interior designers have a lot to answer to when a reworking or remodelling is needed to give more working space, or that larger lounge and dining area.
The wonderful smell of oak cabinets and oak furniture. It’s funny isn’t it, of all the materials in the world that can be used for anything in the home, be it floors, tables, doors, window frames – once you add the oak feature, it becomes something much more special.
This was borne out when I visited a super art deco place in a nearby town. It is stunning throughout, although a little dark for my taste is many of the somewhat bijoux rooms. The ideas were so ahead of their time in the late 1920s. There are fabulous panels in the flooring, tables with beautiful finishes. China cabinets reflecting the movers and shakers of their day. When we want something to reflect how well we are getting on in life, the only way to make that mark is to use a quality product. You cannot get any more quality thatn a good old fashioned peice of oak, whatever it be used for.
Now that spring has truly sprung into life, and the cold dankish winter weather has departed for a few weeks, it is just about the right time to be thinking up upgrading the decor or design in our properties. Maybe that old lounge set up can be brought up to date, or the bedrooms could have new wardrobe and storage units to make them more adaptable to every day living.
Thre are some wonderful ideas out there and the glossy magazines that line the supermarket shelves are full of this scheme or that. As it is around Easter time that families go into overdrive to start thehome improvements, this is a very good time to actually sit and take stock of what we already have and how perhaps a professional company could be brought in to update the home with their expertise and interior design knowledge.
On a recent holiday up to the Peak District, my companion was eagerly describing a programme she had been avidly glued to for 2 hours in the previous week – the final instalment was due to air whilst we were away. I was wondering if the cottage we were heading to actually had tv, neither of us had bothered to check this point as we usually didn’t bother as a rule. The matter of whether there was or was not a tv began to make inroads into the journey.
I am pleased to report that although the tv reception was pretty abysmal, the cottage did have enough broadband internet strength for us to watch bits on tv and the rest on computer. The subject was interior design – making a feature in every room from free existing products and without spending anything. There were great ideas from a professional interior designer and we were enthralled. A good time had by all!
Keeping up with interior decorating trends is a much easier thing to achieve these days. There is a miriad of glossy magazines that line the shelves of the local supermarkets, posh and standard alike. There are more people buying the house improvemet books than ever before. Also, day time tv now has many home improvement programmes throughout the schedules and it is possible to get the most amazing ideas on there and also online.
If interior design changes are due for your house, it can really pay to talk to your local interior design studio. Call them in for an informal chat and they can indeed show how best to use this space or that. The choice of materials will also be a feature they will offer advice on. They know the markets well and will be able to say what is currently a good buy and what will outlast just a trend.