Design: The profound, professional journey of Peter Pryor

Living in a minimalist room: an extract from Three Men On A Plane by Mavis Cheek (Faber pounds 9.99)
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The Independent Culture
PETER PRYOR sat in the cool, white loft space and waited for the cafetiere to brew. He liked delayed gratification and would not open his post until the coffee was ready. He enjoyed being aesthetic. Among the post was a letter from Daniel, so he felt quite impatient. What car had the boy bought? He looked at his watch. Another two minutes before aromatic perfection.

To pass the time he drew delicate doodles on a plain white pad set exactly square to the shiny white German table top. He doodled curlicues and devices and decorative conceits - an acanthus leaf surrounded by a swan's neck, an initial P intertwined with another P by means of a rose garland - the baroque designs he used to play around with when he first graduated. Before he became an ardent minimalist and sold himself to his future clients as plain, plain, plain.

He looked up with pleasure at the flat white-painted canvas he had just purchased. Smooth as a baby's bottom. Just the odd flaw here and there in the smoothness to show the painter's hand. Saatchi bought the others. He smiled more broadly. Good company to keep.

He poured the coffee, which was almost black, into a white cup and added no sugar, though he craved it. He took the first sip. And then he turned to the pile of post. He had to hold the envelopes some way away from his face now, to focus. A change that he did not like. He made a note to see his oculist.

He poured more coffee.From the envelope he removed the payment for one of his accounts. The Swedish heiress who wanted a cubic home. No doorknobs, no skirtings, no nothing. Easy money. He had created that environment in one form or another for the last ten years. Even to designing the extension to the Shoreditch Gallery in the same way. Caused quite a fuss when no one was sure how to get in or out of the lavatories. But they learned. He could almost do the design sleeping nowadays. In fact, sometimes it felt as if he were sleeping. To Simplify Your Environment is to Simplify Your Life was his philosophy. Pamela, who had once been so admiring of him, said "Oh, bollocks" to that. He opened another envelope, took out another cheque, this time from a delighted American couple. You had to peer quite hard to find the doors in their house, too.

He first conceived the Design of Absence years ago. While Pam graduated and took a post with a fabric designer, he began his professional journey towards a creative philosophy to herald the ebbing of the age. A profound journey. One that reflected the damage man had already wrought on the world. It took many years. On the way he made a name for himself. And then, one day, he was ready. He made an announcement about it during a particularly targeted, select gathering at his then home. Which was when his then wife, Pamela, pulled one of her funny faces and said, "Don't be so silly. Think of children, pets, grubby fingermarks. What would you do? Make everyone wash their hands before coming indoors?"

On the pad, on a separate page from the conceits and curlicues, and the note about the oculist, he wrote "Call travel agent: Dublin". And then he looked around the room a little anxiously. Given the tonal qualities of matching whiteness and his 51-year-old eyesight, he was forever losing the phone.