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?