House Doctor

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I DON'T know what to think about all this interior design business. I mean, it seems you can't open a newspaper or magazine these days without seeing a piece on how to decorate and furnish your spacious new loft-style apartment. Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but it doesn't seem very - well - British somehow.

I mean, take that Feng Shui. Apparently, they measure up the ley lines and cosmic energy centres in your front room and say you need something metal in the corner and some running water down the side. We've never gone in for that sort of thing in Bethnal Green; wouldn't have the room for it, for a start. The arrangement of furniture and bodies in our house was always centred around the one wall that was long enough for the sofa. The television had to be opposite this, obviously, which meant it was in the "alcove" next to the fireplace. This was good, as you could simultaneously face the telly and the fire. "Alcoves" were very big in the Sixties. My dad once made some varnished blockboard seats to fit in ours, although I don't remember anyone ever sitting on them - perhaps a Feng Shui consultant could have explained why - or maybe it was just because they were too narrow for your bum.

Anyway, none of the houses that I have lived in since have offered any greater options for arranging the furniture. Walls are always interrupted by doors, windows and fireplaces, plus, of course, radiators and electrical sockets. Have you noticed that wherever you position an electrical socket it will always end up behind a bit of furniture? I think it must be an immutable cosmic law - a sort of Feng Shui in reverse. Obviously what we need are more Feng Shui-literate plumbers and electricians; I shall take this up with Steve the plumber next time he turns up. On second thoughts maybe not - when Steve sets off in his van in the morning it's enough of a Magical Mystery Tour as it is.

Another idea that interior designers like to push is that there is one colour that suits a room better than any other. This is strange, because the flat next door to me has been redecorated by three separate interior designers over the past six years, and each of them has specified totally different colour schemes.

But back to the furniture. I've decided it's mostly a class thing, this interior design, because in order to have any choice over where your furniture goes you have to have huge rooms. And it's also a British thing, because we don't seem to have confidence in our own choice of what makes us feel comfortable - we clearly want the Italians or Germans to make those choices for us. But why? How is somebody else going to know what you like more than you yourself? The word "taste" is used in this context advisedly, because some people love pickled onions and others can't stand them, and neither of them is right or wrong; they're just different. And the same is true of interior decor - different people like different shapes and colours. There's no such thing as bad taste, only different taste; and heaping scorn on what makes other people feel comfortable is just snobbery.

So, anybody want to buy a pair of alcove seats?

`Struck Off - The First Year of Doctor on the House', by Jeff Howell is available from Nosecone Publications, PO Box 24650, London E9 7XQ, price pounds 9 including postage.

Jeff@doctoronthehouse.demon.co.uk

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