The clever way to furnish...
13 November 2009
Some random thoughts on furnishing a home.
You would never believe it, but when I came into the furniture industry in 1979, buying a three piece suite was all the rage. A what I hear you say? Well it was pretty much what it sounds like; Three pieces of upholstery, a three seater sofa, and two chairs, one often with wings for the gentleman of the household and a smaller ladies chair, all in the same matching fabric, usually under the Beyer brand name of Dralon. But hey, Dralon could either be plain or matched with pattern that covered both seat and back cushions. What with so much choice, its a miracle we didn't all get heart attacks, worrying about it all!
The name of the game back then, when Brotherhood of Man was the bees knees, was to be matching. You had a matching three piece, a matching dining suite (this included chairs, both with and without arms, a sideboard, dining table obviously, with the possibility of matching wall units as well. This way you couldn't go wrong; You couldn't make a decorating gaff; No one would laugh at your dead smart home, you were all sorted. The only trouble was, as people eventually began to realise, you were all sorted out exactly like old John Smith, 4 doors down, and that wasn't quite so good. Great British furniture brands like G Plan and Ercol, that had reigned supreme in the 1960's were beginning to run out of puff, as people started getting fed up seeing their friends homes looking a tad too like their own.
The penny began to drop that rather like the way you dressed you could also dress up your home. A bit from here and a bit from there, putting it all in your own personal style blender and hey presto you have a look that both says something about you, and the way you want to live your life. You could even mix expensive heritage pieces with something great value from say Ikea, a bit like putting a Topshop skirt with a Stella Macartney jacket. Those in the know will think how savvy you are, and those who aren't will think its all cost a bomb.
Mixing and Mismatching became the thing to do. How many patterns of differing types, and different colours could you get in a room? Probably rather less than some people tried! It didn't matter though, because the occasional mistake didn't cost a fortune to rectify, and we were all learning by trying stuff out. There were more trends than even the most workaholic Home magazine editor could get to grips with, which meant in a couple of words; diversity and individuality.
The trick in creating a look personal to you, is coming to a conclusion about what you truely like. Try making a list of all the home trends or looks, or pieces of furniture that appeal to you. Then have a look round your home and decide on all the stuff you have but don't really like, and make a mental note to get shot of it, as soon as you can afford to buy a replacement.
Then try moulding your ideas into a consistent whole. How about trying opposites as a starter? Nothing looks better in my humble opinion than mixing modern art and old furniture. It doesn't have to be top notch antique, you are just looking for the contrast. I have a fifties retro cherner chair at home sitting in front of a Georgian desk / bookcase, next to a very modern picture. It sounds pretty awful, but actually looks interesting; and that is what you are trying to achieve; areas of interest.
Another idea is to use colour as the glue that holds a scheme together. I recently did a bathroom and wanted it to feel like how the sky does, when it meets the sea on a classic English windy summers day. A mix of greens and blues and greenish greys, some light some dark, but at least 5 or 6 different tones in quite a small space. The effect is amazingly calming, the furnishing equivalent of a good meditation course!
A final few thoughts; on the subject of collecting. Nothing says more about someone's personality than what they decide to collect. A lot of very similar things together or even better identical things, as a whole always looks interesting and graphic, in a way that a couple or three just doesn't. There must be a modern equivalent of Hockney and those baked beans cans? Thoughts to the blog please?
(Which has just made me think, what can I make out of all those hundreds of LP covers currently sitting in my attic, all unloved and dusty?) Ideas to the blog please and the one I like best gets a free sofa of their choice.
Try making something out of your collection, the cheaper the collected item the better. The single best chandelier I have ever seen by far, and nothing comes within a million miles of it in my opinion was a chandelier made from hundreds of popped party poppers. Again please ideas to the blog, and the winner will get the same deal.
All for now,
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