Winner!!!!! Primelocation Favourite User Blog 2010/11

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I am delighted to announce that Buying Agent Blogs the sister site to this with the same blogs as here has just won Primelocation’s favourite blog. This is the only category of award that was voted for by the users. Absolutely over the moon. All those nights and weekends fitting around the day job, struggling for the ‘mot juste’ has been worth it.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me. Now all I need is an Agent or publisher for ‘the book’. That may be trickier but feel that lot’s of loo’s in Britain might benefit from my musings. However, Primelocation did describe me as unapologetically opinionated, so I guess I would say that 😉

Oh and as I keep forgetting to mention, I do find people houses for a living, so do shout if you want to chat about that. here

Yours, delightedly

Tracy

The coalition guide to a middle-class lifestyle.

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I’m not political, in my game you have to deal with all sorts, I even work with lawyers. However, now that the Right Honourable Dave Cameron has declared himself middle-class and what with him having £70m in the bank and a Baronets daughter for a wife, it seemed to me that those of us who thought we were middle class had better up our game.

I have been deep undercover (Sloane Square), to bring you the guide on how to move undetectably through the ranks of the coalition babes. It’s never been more important to have a middle class home and lifestyle. Here’s my guide to what’s in and what’s out. All hail Sam Cam.

What’s in?

Boris bikes. For when you don’t want to get the brand new Range Rover Sport out, nothing shouts ‘I’m coalition middle-class’ better than one of Boris’ bikes.

Audi R8 . drive it round Notting Hill streets dead fast, especially when you’ve got nowhere to go.

Staff. Yes, you can call them that again. even though last year you called her an au-pair. Make sure they’re multi-lingual but preferably Mandarin speaking, East European is so last year. In addition, a Filipino maid sleeping off the kitchen is the pinnacle you should aspire to.

Ballerina flats. Blue for Waitrose, Red for the school run, (so the  Mums think you’re racy), and Animal skin for Kir Royales with the girls.

Byrons Burgers. Posh burgers and Boris’ favourite family watering hole. There are no plastic gifts for the kids which is obviously a  good thing.

Brio. Wooden toys for the kids are de rigeur. They won’t play with them but that’s not the point. They cost a bomb and they’ll look fab on the shelf

Laduree macaroons. Five quid a bite.

Chandeliers in the kitchen. Yep, I know, how d’ya get the chip fat off all those dangly bits?  Please! That’s the Filipino’s problem.

Lacanche. French range cooker. Get the blingiest one you can, the more gold the better. Stretch yourself and go for the £37k one.

Dyson air multiplier, only for show, who needs a fan in the UK anyway but they are expensive and everyone knows that, so perfect.

Daylesford organic, favoured watering hole for Yummy Mummies. Eight quid for coffee and a cake shows everyone you have money to burn, which is the point, innit.

Festivals,  Pricier, colder and far more miserable than a week in Barbados but you’ve gotta be seen there. No tents, it’s got to be a Yurt or a Winnebago. It’s all about ‘Glamping’ these days.

Flat White. Cappuccino’s and lattes are so last year. The flat white is the only one to order, it’s erm, not frothy man.

X Factor. Simon Cowell is rich, he’s blingy and he’s unrepentant. Your perfect role model, watch it.

Apropos glass box extensions. Bolt them onto your Edwardian semi for that contemporary feel of space and light. Ignore the soaring temperature and the green slimy roof you can’t reach to clean.

Harrods. Trust me, Qatari’s are much cooler than Egyptians… Watch out Selfridges.

Kiehls moisturisers and shaving stuff for men. Just make sure your purchase comes in a Harvey Nicks bag for perfect metrosexuality. Less than 16 squids on shaving foam? Shame on you.

Baby names. If it’s a boy, name it after a pet. Felix, Oscar, Buddy. For girls name it after a place. Florence, Sienna, India. I shall gloss over the fruity ones thanks Gwyneth Paltrow.

Monmouth coffee. Never heard of it? Tsk.. it’s the only coffee to have in your skinny flat white.

Garden office. Insulated, heated, and painted in one of the latest ice cream coloured pastels. Gingham curtains and you’re all set for that ‘Calamity Jane does the coalition’ look.

Skandium. Scandinavian furniture. Sorry, Scandinavian furniture that’s even too expensive for the Scandinavians, so they sell it in Knightsbridge.

Divertimenti. When you’ve been in Skandium pop down the Brompton Road and buy all your kitchen stuff here. No, £35 for a melon baller is not too expensive.

Superhuman. If you don’t have this bin, the two compartment recycling one,  your truly middle-class guests will truly gasp in horror.

Google Street view on your car Sat Nav… OK, it only comes on the new Bentley Continental, but whats wrong with that? Just make sure it’s Azure blue.

iPhone 4, iPad, anything Apple. Obviously.

Photo volcaic anything. Inefficient, expensive and ugly. Attach to the roof to make sure your neighbours can see them, they shout ‘I’m rich, so can afford to look green’.

Sub-Zero. The only fridge freezer to have. Ten grand, don’t argue.

M&S frocks, befriend the chairman to have a bespoke one made. Ideally it should have a pussy bow for that real Tory wife style.

Wellies. Jimmy Choo or the latest Hunters are the only ones to have. Multi-coloured Cath Kidston-esque ones are only for Chav’s. There.. I’ve said it.

What’s out?

Aga. Not blingy or expensive enough. As for the Emma Bridgewater spotty one, it was never in.

Cath Kidston, at blo*dy last. Seeing her oven gloves on the reduced shelf at T.K. Maxx made my 2010.

G-Wiz. Apart from looking ridiculous, owners are discovering the £3k cost of a new battery. Coming to a tip near you soon.

Henna Tattoo’s. Embraced your ethnicity?… No of course you didn’t look patronising and silly.

Prosecco. It’s the real stuff or nuffink.

Cupcakes. So last year sorry… it’s all about Macaroons for you now.

Fairtrade. ‘Fraid that’s a bit last year what with all them air miles. Supporting the Cotswold smallholder who hand washes his fake parma hams is much more Dave.

Green and Blacks chocolate… they sell it in Somerfield for God’s sake.

Prius. Laughing stock, don’t do it.

Au Pairs. See ‘staff’ above. ‘Au pairs’ doesn’t work anymore. Kerry Katona has one.

Nespresso. The beloved ‘pop it in’ plastic coffee maker beloved of Journo’s and Foxtons receptionists is out. Simples.

Feature walls. How long could anybody look at cerise and silver peonys the size of your head anyway.. good riddance.

Just when we’d learned to drink Prosecco instead of Champagne and almost felt good about driving a Prius, we now need to up the ante on overt consumption. Just think 1980’s. If your Mother says it’s a waste of money, you’re right on the money, because the ‘innest’ thing of all is CASH. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

A middle-class home.. The sequel.

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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?

The A-Z of a middle-class home.

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I am so often being asked, soto voce and bashfully, ”what can I do to make my home look middle-class”. To save the blushes of all you aspirational middle-classers, I have put together a helpful little guide. A hard copy is available and can be delivered by courier in discreet packaging.

Let’s go on an alphabetical stroll through a middle class home and see what you need to do. Continue reading

My AGA saga……..a conundrum

Will the duck egg blue, aubergine and greater spotted AGA be discarded from our Notting Hill basement kitchens? Will the Cath Kidston tea towel ever look as good hanging from an eco-bling stainless steel goliath? The AGA accessories and the Nigella powder blue ones –  what about them?

Do Prius do ovens?

What will the blue, red and cream ones, nestling in Cotswold kitchens be replaced with? Can you bring a lamb to life in a Neff super range without roasting it? Will the labrador leave home? Where to warm the welly liners?

Seems the AGA is the big non-green and terribly un-jolly green giant lurking in kitchens across the land

A dilemma indeed. Should one be admired for ones real or quasi-farmhouse kitchen or risk scorn from eco friends?

What’s it to be?

I’m torn between aubergine and duck egg blue