Shades of pale

inside...

Flamboyant designers on certain popular TV programmes would have us believe that bright, bold colours are the height of chic, and white and magnolia are for cowards. Thankfully, the British are having none of it

AS OSCAR Wilde said of the wallpaper in the room where he was dying, "One of us must go". In retrospect, it seems Oscar has endured and wallpaper has been banished from the modern interior. If interiors pulp TV is to be believed, we as a nation are rag-rolling our matt magnolia walls with lime green. "Chuck out your chintz" is maybe a close second to "Cool Britannia" as most hackneyed phrase of the Nineties. Changing Rooms guest interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was quoted as saying "I passionately believe that underneath our traditional conservatism, we are simply not beige people." But we are, Laurence, we are.

Interiors magazine House Beautiful commissioned a survey which confirms that 90 per cent of the British public are still belligerently beige. Interiors shows like Home Front and Changing Rooms may have 12 million viewers, but it seems we aren't after decorating tips. No, these shows are more akin to You've Been Framed, in which some poor dope has their sitting room painted puce and silver at the command of a man sporting tight trousers. How we laughed.

The British are not suspicious of colour because of traditional conservatism. We just don't want to live in the interiors equivalent of a Zandra Rhodes frock. Was it Vogue editor Diana Vreeland who said "Elegance is denial"? Wise words. Any fool who rushes into colour is metaphorically playing hopscotch in a minefield. "Colour is so easy to get wrong," says Wallpaper* interiors editor Toni Spencer. "The overall feel of Wallpaper* is calm, clean, serene. Yes, you will find more subtle colours or textures but it is more likely to be a cement or putty tone than hard, fast and loud colour."

Granted, House Beautiful is the chintz brigade's parish magazine. Their survey says that 28 per cent of its readers still haven't got over Laura Ashley. They are magnolia people at heart. But the basic message behind the survey is encouraging. With the current frenzy for interiors TV, magazines and retail, nobody is fooled by the many blind alleys "celebrity" decorators are leading you down.

Modernists have always championed light, white and clean. If you look at decorative movements in the last century, you'll see colour is always linked to decadence. White always cleans the slate for the new mood. In the Nineties, minimalism had an arduous task on its hands. We were coming out of the Eighties boom time when people bought a Knoll sofa the way they would a BMW. It was blind acquisition and taste levels were uniform. "Good" design was also priced beyond real people. The minimalists took slate-cleaning to an extreme. Nobody was seriously expected to live in monastic purity. It was just a way of ushering in a softer, more understated aesthetic.

Of course, colour doesn't simply mean loud and proud. The Nineties take on colour is natural. It is tone-on-tone. We are seeing tactile qualities as important as visual impact. It's the difference between a sandy suede sofa in clean lines and an overstuffed, over-designed lime green horror. Colour whispers quietly in the Nineties. It has no need to shout.

You'll find this sentiment echoed by Elle Decoration editor in chief Ilse Crawford in her mission to promote "Soft Modernity". The foundation for soft and modern is still in that narrow colour spectrum between brilliant white and softest mushroom. When we're talking walls, white is still the dominant colour. It is a blank canvas. It is also one of the most effective reflectors of light. White says calm, serene, relaxed. Hot pink says frenzied. British light doesn't accept brash colour. British people don't accept hot pink walls. Simple.

Photographs by James Merrell from the book 'Wooden Houses' by Judith Miller, published by Ryland Peters & Small

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Graduate / Junior C# Developer

    £18000 - £25000 Per Annum + bonus and benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Drama Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Drama Teacher Required! The jobWe are ...

    Nursery Worker

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Worker (permanent) Greater ...

    English Teacher - long term assignment in Cheshire

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: English Teacher - long term job opport...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits