Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

That’s What I Call Redecorating

Saturday, 1 August 2009

I’ve been doing some redecorating lately, and reading lots of interior design magazines. These are usually full of case studies - you know, a nice middle class couple open up their beautifully redecorated home for the cameras; you get a small summary of their lives (“Philip is an airline pilot and Jane is a home-maker”) and then a long summary of what they’ve done to the house (“Ryan and Catherine built a dramatic new double-height kitchen, lit by skylights and windows on three sides.”)

  It fills the reader (me) with a terrible sense of inadequacy. I’m usually just leafing through on the hunt for a nice practical £25 wall light. I know, I know, just go to John Lewis. In theory, I like reading these magazines “for inspiration”, except I end up just feeling really boring and non-visionary because I haven’t created a giant arched stained-glass window which also operates as the door to a hidden library.

  But sometimes I have to just throw my hands up and KNOW I can’t compete. That certainly happened with the following extract from a case study I read last night.

  “Amanda wanted to use the 17th-century barn as a spare guest wing so she painted the walls in fresh creamy colours, Pale Hound from Farrow & Ball, to create a light airy feel. Unfortunately the barn was haunted by the ghost of a child, so Amanda had to call in a priest to perform an exorcism. Once that was done, Amanda and Brian added cornicing and deep skirting boards to reflect the look of the main house.”

  Some people think of everything.

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sol at 11:48 pm on August 1st, 2009

What are you on about with all that Farrow and Balls insecurity crap? Get a grip and get to B&Q;.
Or I will hunt you down and sweep you off your lovely feet with a multi-coloured paint roller and show you the power of….

Carl at 12:26 am on August 2nd, 2009

Nice to see ghosts have tastes too - say no to fresh creamy interiors! Every time I walk past the Farrow & Ball shop I can’t believe it’s still open in this recession…

LC at 1:37 am on August 2nd, 2009

Well, you really do have to clear out all the old ghosts before it feels like home…

MarkP at 11:29 am on August 2nd, 2009

I believe Homebase are doing a special, buy any family sized pack of energy saving lamps and get a free spectre.

AndytheDealer at 12:44 pm on August 2nd, 2009

Absolute disgrace, I’m reporting Amanda and Brian to English Heritage and the SSPEG forthwith.  We’re in a recession. People can’t go around exorcising ghosts willy nilly.  We’ll end up with no tourist industry.

AndrewM at 1:56 pm on August 2nd, 2009

Hi, just wanted to let you know that there seems to have been an editing mishap in your Observer column about the weather today with part of a sentence gone AWOL (

“...exhausted by baffling wars, mendacious bankers and misleading politicians and we

When David Miliband says the mission…”

Love the blog and Only Connect btw :D

Sam at 4:40 pm on August 2nd, 2009

The genius of this is how casually it is written.

If they donate a paragraph to the exorcism it is not the same.

Victoria Coren at 5:43 pm on August 2nd, 2009

Thanks Andrew. It’s missing the words DON’T WANT TO BE CONNED ANY MORE. In the paper, these were in italics; I’m guessing italics are a problem for the online version. Ah, tip-top modern technology! Have emailed the Observer; with any luck, they’ll fix it.

David R at 8:17 pm on August 2nd, 2009

I like the idea of weather forecasters promising us things, but why stop at promising us barbecue summers? I want to be promised a “log-fire winter”, and I want meteorologists to excitedly tell us that it’s going to be a “cardigan-wearing spring”, complete with huge headlines in the newspapers.

And I’d like to see the public saying at the end of November: “So much for the Pre-Raphaelite Autumn the Met Office promised us.”

Karen at 10:12 pm on August 2nd, 2009

Remember that whatever you read in these magazines is made up by the journalist! My mum invited “50 interiors” or one of those magazines in to photo her house recently in a fit of redecoration vanity. She was quoted as loving the intimacy of her bathroom ceiling (!) and the colour pink. My mum has no pink in her house - all the accessories were brought in by the magazine! Which explains how they are always able to identify the vase on the sideboard and where you can buy it on the highstreet for £9.99.

Jimmy Arrier at 11:02 pm on August 2nd, 2009

You know, as I do, that these homes are all unreal, uncommonly almost anally clean & tidy, no sign of the presence of children or normal family life, and all in all an exercise in oneupmanship/smugness/self-regard - with the protagonist sat in an abnormally spacious leather sofa with a facial expression which says “Haven’t I done well for myself”. Well, fair enough.
But I refuse to let these people seem superior to me, and use my imagination to persuade me that these people may not be as classy as they may or may not be… see Part 2

Jimmy Arrier at 11:33 pm on August 2nd, 2009

Part2..starting in the southfacing Master bedroom with the sunny aspect through the large sash&case;windows, past the tasteful repro 4-poster bed in subtle MDF with burgundy drapes, we view George in the ensuite with his boxershorts at halfmast peeing in the sink….then on to the extension into the back garden: a modern minimalist lounge with floor to ceiling windows where the light is filtered through venetian blinds across a chrome&glass;coffee table festooned with empty lager cans/cheap cider bottles/mountainous ashtrays, while in the shaded corner, George & Wilma’s 7yearold son, Crispin, is writing ‘I’M BORED’ on the wall with a marker pen….TBC

Jimmy Arrier at 11:39 pm on August 2nd, 2009 the 1st floor drawing room featuring the restored oak panelling & marble fireplace, halfway up the olive velour curtain hanging by its teeth is the family Staffordshire Bull terrier, Grizwald, swinging genty above a trail of shredded material & smashed Satsuma vases….then back to where we came in, the Entrance hall where, at the foot of the grand staircase, on a small Queen Anne table, sits a pile of court summonses, a P45 and Wilma’s Dear John letter.

Works for me, no inferiority
Good luck with the book/finding the wall light

Rain at 2:49 pm on August 3rd, 2009

Anally clean? I’m no expert, but surely that’s colonic irrigation rather than home decor?

Jimmy Arrier at 9:32 pm on August 3rd, 2009

I’m no expert either, but I’m sure I’ve seen wallpapers inspired by the product of colonic irrigation…not in my house I may add!

Dan at 11:37 pm on August 3rd, 2009

It sounds possible someone bored of making the same stuff up year after year and finally cracked.  Brilliant find either way.

daniel maris at 1:56 am on August 26th, 2009

These magazine people are just the front. I think it’s a case of choose a few patterns and invest your poker winnings in an architect and interior designer!

Victoria Coren

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