A middle-class home.. The sequel.


As I am well known as an aficionado of all things interior design and good taste, my mate Kevin, called me asking for help. Kevin is a bit of an Essex barrow boy and a city trader. The boy done good. ‘Would you do me a favour Trace? My sister Michaela wants you to cast your eye over her pad. See if you can give her some tips on making her home a bit more, well, a bit more… Middle-class’

So up we rock to a block of flats, I think I’ve seen it on the Bill.

Kevin throws a quid to the boys leering at the Porsche. ”Another five when I get back, watch the motor” Can’t help thinking they should put it towards jeans that cover their arses.

We head off into the block and up the stairs. Best not to take the lift, Kevin says, holding his nose. The stairwell hasn’t seen Febreze for a while either.

Along the open walkways to Michaela’s front door. First part of educational mission accomplished, it’s not a Farrow & Ball red, (I know their Incardine when I see it). In fact all the apartment front doors are red. No doubt a conservation area and it all has to be in keeping, despite the F&B faux pas, I like that.

We ring the door bell, one of those stick on jobs with a rubber button, eww. Lots of barking, lots of yelling at the barking thing and we’ve woken the baby.

Michaela seems like a nice girl. Hair scraped up in a top-knot and some very large hoop earrings. She’s obviously into keep-fit. The pink velour hooded track-suit, sparkly boob tube and the Adidas trainers are the giveaway. Although the packet of B&H in the bum pocket ruins the lines.

I’m in the hall. Stairs to the left. Ooh, fabulous, it’s a duplex.

Laminate flooring in the hall, what a shame, a few thousand quid more and she could have had solid rainforest-free mahogany. A dado rail runs down the corridor. Striped rhubarb and custard wallpaper below. Rag-rolled effect paper with gold stars above. The hall window has the matching festoon blinds. I am trying to remember which Colefax and Fowler range, but it has me stumped.

The knotty pine kitchen units are a make I’ve never heard of, Hygena, very retro. The latest Danish design perhaps, I must keep up with Wallpaper magazine.

Worktops are Formica with wood trim edges. Hmm, it’s got be granite or zinc and those tiles will have to be replaced with green glass splashbacks.

A Smeg fridge, it’s Katie Price pink. Should be black and shouldn’t be Smeg. Also, where are the magnetic letters making motivational quips? and the Nespresso machine?

We are kindly offered refreshment. Michaela is out of milk and has nothing herbal, so Diet Coke from the can it is. Although we could have had Stella.

I am given a guided tour.

Lounge … no it’s not a reception room. Crittall windows. A good start- they’re coming back. The bottom half is meshed glass, just like school. I can’t fault the retro vibe.

The ceiling is artexed – I avert my eyes. There is just a ceiling pendant. Lighting should always be on three levels. A trip to Kartell or Christopher Wray is in order.

The focal point (every middle-class home should have one), is the 50” Plasma screen with Hollyoaks muted. It needs to be built into the wall – with walnut surround or possibly birds-eye yew for a lighter touch.

A large distressed rococo mirror leaning against the wall would help to add depth and light. And it needs loads more accessories, an Ikea vase with a plastic Gerbera doesn’t cut the mustard.

Oh dear a cream DFS leather sofa, reclinable – just because that blonde from Changing rooms advertises them.. never mind, down to Graham and Greene for a velvet chesterfield pronto.

The boyfriend is here. Vest top, shell suit bottoms, gold chains. Adidas shod feet up on one of those Moroccan leather pouffes, I’ve seen them in Harvey Nicks, excellent, bang on trend, this Moroccan theme should defo be encouraged.

The fish tank, just like the TV really ought to be built into the wall, this will add ‘atmosphere’, very important.

Jason is friendly, as is the Staffie he is petting. Not convinced the crystals are genuine in the collar though. I’m starting to question if Michaela has ever even been to Selfridges Wonder room.

Onto the first floor, the stair carpet does not have brass runners and is neither sisal nor 100% wool. Hmm.

The family bathroom is the only bathroom, I find that confusing. All white, very good but the tiles are square and matt. They need to be brick shaped and glossy. A bit of limescale and mould remover wouldn’t go amiss either. They need to lose the shower curtain and gain a creative toilet seat. I’ll send my wet-room team in.

The master bedroom is shocking. This should be an oasis of calm, with a soupcon of sensuality. A harmonising of colours and textures. Not this blast of primary colours. Shiny sheets are in, but not in red, please. A steel Brabantia laundry basket rather than the floor would help lots.

And so to the report. ‘Michaela’, I say, trying to hold her gaze. ‘To achieve a middle-class home you need to focus on certain things. Texture, lighting, atmosphere, focal points, iconic pieces. Think clean lines, think modern materials, think accessories. She looks puzzled. I try to make it simpler for her.

‘Darling, bedlinen should be from The White Company. Accessories from Lombok. Everything else, Graham and Greene or John Lewis.

I’m getting into the flow now.

‘For Gods sake you’ve got nothing artisan, let alone crocheted. No sniff of a feature wall and Sweetie, really, I shouldn’t have to tell you about Cath Kidston. It really is all about statement florals these days.

Plus, (I pause for effect), ….your soap is Imperial Leather.

She is looking at me vacantly, clearly, she’s just not getting a handle on all this, which perplexes me. What the hell did they teach her at that free school?


…. all fur coat and no knickers. A Penthouse fit for who?


I often have to try and wheedle out off-market properties for my clients looking for something a bit special.These properties are not be in found in the usual places. Tesco’s/Haarts, in these cases, don’t deliver. The people in the know for these properties rarely have any property background, they tend to fall into the ‘I know a bloke’ category. As such, the leads can sometimes lean towards spurious.

A current client is looking for a classy central London pad, he has quite a bit of cash to splash, well, to be honest, a heck of a lot. I want the right address and I want it downright classy.

I received a well timed call from a contact whose profession is best described as ‘let me know if you want something.. anything’.

” ‘Ere Trace” is the opener .. ”got anyone who wants a stunning penthouse in that posh new place, Building X?” .. ”bloke needs to sell, so it’s a steal at £22m”

If there are two things assured to get my attention, they are ‘bloke needs to sell’  and anything in Building X. They just do not come up and certainly not at ‘deal’ pricing. The use of ‘stunning’ for the thousandth time this week, I ignore.

The viewing takes a bit of organising. Apparently there will be a few ‘representatives’ looking on behalf of VIP bosses and I can tag along.  I am told I have to pretend I am a secretary-my contact feels this brings me respectability.

I meet my client in building X.  ‘Swish’, doesn’t do it justice. The concierges are Armani clad,  the water feature atrium won a prize at Chelsea and a Man United footballer wandered past and smiled.  The building is all I expected and if the price is what they say, I am convinced my client will jump at it. The day is going well.

We sit and wait for the contact .. and wait. Calls are made, seems we are awaiting third contact flying in with the keys. Eventually two blacked-out Mercs.  glide to a stop outside. Four burly men in shades pour themselves out. One at least has a suspicious bulge under his armpit. Their rubber-soled shoes more for quick getaways than fashion I suspect.

Introductions made, only first names of course, then ‘Follow me’, says the lead ‘heavy’ and we leave Building X and cross the road. We head towards a manky Mansion block. A steel gate covers the entrance courtyard and after a bit of railing rattling and bell ringing, we gain access to the central courtyard. We brush past the skips, and up the steps into the chip papered ‘common areas’. In relation to expectations, never has that description been more apt.

The three man lift was not designed for me and two hairy mammoths but we ascend directly into the penthouse.

Much kerfuffle as we are made to remove shoes and place blue plastic bags on our feet. Those rubber soles not much use now I think as the heavies grunt & winge. At least one has odd socks.

I am struck by how tall the windows are and how high the ceilings are. Hang on, something’s not right. The ceiling is glossy black lacquered panels – the windows are reflected to double size. The ceilings are low- creative interior design, hmm.

Colour scheme discussions will be short, the floor is black. The curtains are black. The dining table is black. The soft furnishings, umm, black. Accents of ‘colour’ are restricted to silver curtains and Swarovski knobs.

This is a big, big place. The dining table will seat 30. The bar area with Swarovski inset into the granite has a dozen ostrich skin bar stools. The cinema room is, how can I put it, a cinema.

We all know about dressing homes for sale but this one takes it to the next level. Aside from the Tom Ford coffee table book (black), the Christies Impressionist Auction catalogue and the biggest piece of Lalique I have ever seen, pride of place is given over to a Grand Piano. Slightly worn around the edges it sits a little incongruously in this shiny, sparkling, perfect environment.Then I spot the provenance discreetly engraved on a brass plate ..’owned by Elton John’

God, I’m looking forward to the Master bedroom. It delivers. An oasis of white and the carpet as tested by toes through my plastic bags, is silk. The bedspread is white.. mink.  Now, I am used to seeing tea trays on beds with cup, saucer and plastic flower, this had something a little different. Laid out across the bed, La Perla bra, G string and white stockings. Size zero by rough estimate. I have to confess, a titter did come out and it was audible. I was shot a glance my lead Heavy, which put me firmly back into my secretarial box.

I rattle through the rest of the place including the six bedrooms. SIX bedrooms? ‘Who wants six bedrooms and one reception room?’. I whisper to my contact. A man of the world, he looks at me knowingly and just shakes his head.

We all gather back at the bar and the inevitable ‘Whatcha think?’ question is asked by the key holder. A shiny-suited chap for whom ‘Man at C & A’ would be a sartorial compliment.

‘Bloody fantastic’ says one of the Heavies.

‘Lovely’ I say.

It’s not.  It’s vile. Completely vile.  I cannot imagine who would want it. Well, maybe I can.

The chap with the odd socks is in the corner on his mobile, it sparkles. Clearly a Selfridges Wonder Room purchase.

‘Hey, John’,  he says. ‘How long will it take you to get ‘ere from Cobham?’

Authors disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any real person, any real property, or any real taste is wholly coincidental.