Victoria Summerley: City Life

'If I paint my front door and windows in some fashionable toff tint, the burglars would be round like a shot'
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The Independent Online

The first time I ever set eyes on our house, I thought it was the ugliest property I'd ever seen. Luckily, this impression only lasted until I got inside the front door, when I promptly changed my mind thanks to a large rear extension with huge glazed doors and a glimpse of exotic, jungly garden beyond.

But the façade was grim. Our house is a Thirties semi, with red brick to the first-floor level, then render painted a buttermilk-cream. Sounds OK, doesn't it? But the window frames, which are wide, Crittal-style metal jobs, are painted dark grey, the sort of stormy North Sea shade that would make a Royal Navy frigate feel quite at home.

Next door, which is a mirror image of our house, has conventional white paintwork, which looks fresh against the red brick and far more welcoming. Our house, in contrast, looks sullen and shuttered, especially as it has matching grey Venetian blinds at every window.

I assume the previous owners regarded this as achingly chic. Personally, I think it's horrible. I think grey looks horrible with red brick. I think it looks horrible when the weather's foul. It doesn't even look nice when the sun's shining. Even more irritating, I feel I'm being somehow old-fashioned by not liking it.

Some friends claim they like it, but I think they're just trying to be kind. I have tried to like it, but failed, partly because I can't quite get over the fogeyish impression that the grey is just the undercoat and that one day, someone will come and paint it all a more civilised colour. And now that day has come. Tomorrow, the decorators will arrive to enact the long-awaited transformation and eradicate every trace of grey from our abode.

Fashions change more slowly in exterior decoration than they do in the world of interiors, but over the decades, they have altered quite radically. When I was small, many of the Victorian and Edwardian houses in my neighbourhood had their bargeboards and window frames painted in dark colours such as maroon, pea-soup green, mustard, mud-brown or even black. Even as a child I found this depressing, especially when combined with dingy net curtains and funereal shrubs such as yew or privet in the front garden.

Gradually, this gave way to a universal taste for white paintwork, with perhaps a splash of colour or contrast on the front door: scarlet, yellow, purple or pink in the Sixties and Seventies, and sober black or navy in the Eighties and Nineties. Some maverick souls are brave enough to paint their exterior walls bright colours, too, but I always think this can look a bit self-consciously arty, unless you happen to live in Balamory.

These days, however, I've noticed that the white paintwork is giving way to grey. (It's only when you're pondering what colour to paint your house that you become aware what colour everybody else's house is.) Two other houses in my road have the battleship Potemkin look, while the very smart remodelled residences in the next road have what look like powder-coated steel window frames in a lovely shade that's not quite grey, not quite green and not quite beige.

If I could have replicated this subtle hue courtesy of Mr Dulux or Mr Sanderson, that would have been my ideal choice, too. But I'm not very good at paint colours and my chances of coming up with a successful match are about as slim as the West Indies winning the Third Test.

The greeny-greige must be available over the counter, however, because I've also noticed that the big posh Victorian houses in our neighbourhood are abandoning the black or navy gloss and painting their front doors this very same shade. It's probably made by Farrow & Ball and called some daft name like "City Bonus Beige" or "Filthy Lucre".

I'm going to stick with the white, though. It may be passé, but that may prove to be a bonus. The one good thing that could be said for the old dark grey was that I'm sure it deterred any potential burglar. They probably felt so sorry for me that they decided to try their luck elsewhere because, touch wood, so far we've escaped the attentions of any local tea leaf. Who knows; if I painted my window frames or door in something instantly recognisable as a toff tint, they'd be round before you could say quick-dry gloss.

What does BT stand for?

This column should have come to you courtesy of BT Broadband. Unfortunately, my broadband connection has been down for a whole five days, so I've had to resort to the electronic version of elastic bands and bits of string in order to file my copy

We've subscribed to BT Broadband for at least five years, loyal naive idiots that we are, without anything going wrong, so I think I might be forgiven for suspecting that the delay in sorting out the problem may be connected with the roll-out of BT Vision, which we have just had installed (and which, of course, is not currently working).

Have I been on to BT? Oh, yes. I've sat at the end of the telephone for hours this week, waiting for someone to "just check with the engineers", and whiling away the tedium by inventing phrases to suit the abbreviation BT. Big Trouble. Blasted Technology. Bugger This.

I've now come up with a totally new term – AGANFV. It stands for: "Anyone Got A Number For Virgin?"