I am currently decorating my flat and have had my mother helping me the last few days. Every home decor or interior design programme and magazine would be grateful for my mothers input, she'd be right up there between Kelly Hoppen and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, caught between both of their monstrous hair dont's and even more enormous egos. I grew up in a house of ever changing walls and with a mother of ever changing hairstyles. When I was about nine years old my best friend came to stay and asked me in total wonderment if my mum was a punk (I think she may have been rocking a purple crop at the time).When I was a few years older I asked my mum why she had to decorate the house every six weeks and she replied very softly "darling, if you can't change your life the least you can do is change your wallpaper" which is probably not the best thing to say to a gullible, pre-pubescent boy with an abnormal interest in interior design.
Whereas most of my friends mothers could be found sitting around drinking tea and gossipping, my mother was normally up a ladder painting or at a sewing machine making sofa covers. My childhood was full of bold colours, regency furniture and scatter cushions, so it's no wonder I turned out rather dramatic. I think my formative years were probably spent under a heady spell of paint fumes and wood glue, which may account for the fact that I am the only one in my family under 6ft tall (but my hair does always have a high gloss).
Care always had to be taken in the house as you never knew what had been freshly painted or what had been recently modified and my mother would give you no warning, she used to find it amusing if you sat down on a chair and stuck to it or if you sat down on a chair and fell through it. I once drank a glass full of milk and ended up being rushed to hospital as it was the white spirit that my mother had been soaking her paint brushes in. Coming home from school was always exciting because I never knew how the house would be arranged or what theme we would be working from that month. Carpets were laid and then ripped up, floor boards were restored and painted, rugs were either animal skin or shag pile. I actually thought we had been burgled once and the house had been vandalised with spray paint, but no, my mum had been experimenting. Some nights the house would be candle light and romantic, at other times bathed in a red sultry glow or alight like a gypsy fun fair. The one thing that really amazes me is I never got the disco ball I was hoping for.
As soon as my mother gained access to power tools I knew there would be trouble.Every time "Changing Rooms" finished it was like waiting for Jack Nicholson in The Shining to arrive. The legs were sawn off the dining table to give the house a more "Japanese feel"( although we were still served fish fingers and mash, never sushi & miso) and then when that fad had passed it had to be replaced with a full on country kitchen. We went from Zen to Midsummer Murders in a week.
It wasn't only the kitchen that felt the edge of my mothers chainsaw, my dad came home from work to find she had removed the bannisters and stair rail and was in the process of taking down a wall to make the living room "more open plan". Luckily she never managed to take a sledge hammer to any of the supporting walls of the house.We used to find it hilarious when my grandparents came to stay and had to gingerly make their way up and down the stairs for fear of tumbling over the side and onto the floorboards below. In fact, the more I think of it, the house became like a fun fair ride, you never knew what to expect or what each room would hold.
I don't want to give the impression that anything was done cheaply or without much thought, my mother just had very eclectic and ever changing taste. One of the first men I ever dated was a psychiatric nurse ( I think he thought I was a good case study) and the first night he came to pick me up he said "who ever does the decorating in your house has some interesting issues". My mum thought this was hilarious, I never saw the guy again.
I've written this post while waiting for the paint to dry on my walls. My mum helped me choose the colour and she really listened to me when I said how I wanted the flat to look - this is a woman who doesn't believe in "tester" pots of paint. She left a couple of hours ago and said "the flat looks lovely darling, you've got such an eye for colour".
Which stung like she'd just slapped me across the face. In case you're wondering what paint I chose? "Antique White" and it's on every single wall in the flat.