Now that Spring has finally decided it’s time it sprung, we are seeing a great rise in the number of folk getting their houses out on the market. There’s nothing quite like an early Easter holiday to get the decorator in us racing down to the diy emporiums and selecting paint sample pots, fabric swatches, new cabinet catalogues and even more exciting – new furniture booklets. I have recently helped a young relative make the big step up from living in a small and very conveniently sized starter home up to the dream home in the country. They had filled their dear little house with carefully chosen modular units from the well known scandinavian outlet – it was very effective for the purpose and they enjoyed 4 comfortable and easily mainained years. Now though they’re up for the generation change – only oak furniture with the right period look is being considered and it all looks fantastic.
Sometimes you just need to get away from the everyday humdrum. Taking a break in a country cottage for example can give you an instant lift. The cottage is more than likely going to be in a seriously gorgeous part of the country; the interior design and layout of the place will be old, characterful and full of history – and the more of that we can enjoy, the more our own little existence becomes worthwhile. I really do love living in a modern airy and very spacious detached exec property – it suits me well for the most part. Sometimes though I do hanker for the old, very ancient feel of a historic property. The interior designers of today have much work to do when they want to give more space for families – we own so much clutter now. The kitchen equipment alone needs space !
I subscribe to a certain online magazine supply site. It has been an absolute revelation I have to say – all the wonderful house and home publications are there and I recently found myself completely lost for hours reading back issues of an old favourite that deals primarily with expensiver homes and even more expensive antiques. I absolutely love being able to see inside other folks’ homes and it is such an inspiration to see what they have done with a particular style. Taks a 1920s built property, it will invariably have the gorgeous little touches that were so popular in that period – usually in the form of hand crafted woodwork in the kitchen, bathroom, stairs and of course, the bedrooms. Today modern designs are being used in refits and with a good project team on board, some fantastic schemes are coming to the fore.
I really love the feeling of oak for all kinds of furnishings. Be this the dining room suite – or the bedroom ensemble. There is no surer way to make the room look well furnished and stylish than ny using oak. I have often been around show rooms where they have all kinds of modern arrangements on view. This excites me as I can usually see the potential of this piece or that in any setting. If I am working on someone’s new scheme, I obviously ask them for their ideas of what constitutes a really well dressed and furnished room. Invariably the oak table and sideboard is left out of their thinking. I know not why, but once I introduce this idea, they are with it all the way. The warmth and versatility of the wood cannot be beaten, especially by the low cost mass produced scandnavian home fillers that still abound.
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.