Perhaps one of the reasons we get more interested in interiors in middle age is that you can never be too old for house style. There is no equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb behind closed doors. There is, however, such a thing as an ageing interior, one that pins you down to an era and says that while time shuffles on you have stood still or, more likely, sat down.
If you are easily offended – or are my mother – please look away now because the list of style crimes committed by the elderly makes brutal reading. It was compiled with the help of Ros Byam Shaw, Imperial Leather phobic and author of the Perfect English books, and Amanda Carr of The Women’s Room blog who, once they got going, were positively incontinent .
- Dust on the tops of tins with sell-by dates of 2006
- Dust on the top of everything else
- Yellow kitchen cupboards doors that slide and smell inside of old chopping boards impregnated with 50 years of sliced onions
- Wire vegetable racks (though, sorry Amanda, I’ll defend those to the day I die)
- Mug trees
- Wooden spice racks
- Brown furniture
- Candlewick bedspreads
- Cracked bars of Imperial Leather soap that have worn away around the label and smell of old men’s vests
- Mats around the lavatory to catch wee drips
- Textured glass bathroom windows
- Fake flowers
- Overhead strip lighting in the kitchen
It gets more difficult, however, when you pin it down to specific items. The wheatsheaf toaster, for example, may be an object of derision to us; to the average Hoxton hipster it’s an object of desire.
But while it’s hard to project into the future those items that our children will think reek of old age and stagnation, I suspect that falling into a style trap, or a fashion moment, and failing to clamber out is the key to it. For example, Art Deco had a big revival in the 1960s but anyone still clinging to it by the late Seventies carried a whiff of face powder and stale carpet.
Plump for shabby chic, then? It’s just going to look shabby when you are dribbling over the faded chintz. Minimalism? It goes well with grey hair and is practical with its wipe-down surfaces, but requires dedication and leaves slim pickings for the grandchildren.
Personally, I dread the time when the edge of the mid-century modern revival becomes blunted. But we aficionados should be fine if we have been selective and chosen a few good pieces rather than bought the look wholesale.
The smell in the house might still be a problem, though. That’s why I’m earmarking half of my pension for Diptyque candles.