Linda Bee's home in an art deco block of flats in London is a shrine to feminine glamour. She has collected from the Thirties and Forties for over 40 years and her flat is packed with photographs, books, huge perfume bottles and objets d'art from these most feminine of eras.
"I'm an escapist, really, and I think glamour is an escape from reality," she explains. "I like to create serenity around me. I'm not very happy if I go to an hotel and the room is ugly. I always take a cushion or something to put on the bed to make it my own. I like comfort and sensual fabrics and I've tried to create that within my budget."
You definitely wouldn't find a bedroom like Linda's in your average Holiday Inn. The walls and bedspread are in tiger skin and there's a picture of Miss Hollywood Glamour herself, Marilyn Monroe, framed above the bed. The tiger skin on the walls is actually fake fur fabric which she got for a bargain price when the Biba boutique closed down in the late Seventies. "The fabric lengths are stitched together and then they're stapled to the wall at the top and bottom through a thin piece of wood, so the tiger skin isn't actually lying flat on the wall. It hangs better that way."
The bedroom might be wall-to-wall tiger skin, but the rest of the flat is cleverly united by beautiful colour schemes. "Colour is the most important thing in my life," she says. "You have to get colours and lighting right for a glamorous home. Central lighting will kill glamour, so down-lighting and spotlights are essential."
The bathroom could be a mish-mash of bottles and ornaments, but it's saved by an elegant French navy and lemon colour scheme. "I always wanted a pink and black bathroom," she explains, "but when I saw the yellow tiles I thought, well, you have to work round it. It's very hard to get your colours right. French paints and Moroccan dyes are different from British paints, they're of better quality. When my friends go to France I always get them to bring back colours with them."
As well as keeping an eye out in antique fares, Linda picks up bargains at car boot sales and gives them the glamour treatment. The bamboo mirror surrounded by dressing-room lights was once a fire screen. "I turned it upside-down, took out the picture, wired up the lightbulbs and put the mirror in," she explains.
The kitchen shouldn't really work. Seventies pine units, black plastic tablecloths and Fifties tableware do not mix, but because the colour scheme is so well worked out, it's as successful as a Hollywood classic. Linda's very disciplined about colour and everything matches. Glossy reds, black and silver dominate the room - even the water filter jug is red and the kettle and trays are black. She has an ability to mix many different styles in a small space and make it look like the most natural thing in the world. A small black and red coffin shares shelf space with a collection of china tea caddies and an art deco dinner service. "You either have or you haven't got a wonderful sense of proportion. I think mine comes from my artistic background. My sister is an artist and my father was a hand-bag maker in the Forties," she explains.
Linda has discovered that display shops have the best materials for creating instant glamour. The black plastic sheeting in the kitchen came from Muraspec in London and faux-aluminium blinds from DZD give the lounge a Seventies penthouse feel. Huge perfume bottles, hat boxes, gothic candelabras and copies of Indian Mogul chairs ensure that it doesn't look trashy. In fact, Linda manages to make Pierrot clowns, rubber heart-shaped cushions and glove-shaped vases look, well, classy. It's just the way she throws them all together. The centre-piece, an original Twenties black and red lacquer suite, gives the room a heaviness it needs and a huge mirror in the fire- place opens up what could be a small, stuffy room.
Linda's love of fashion has kept her interest in different periods moving. "Unlike other antique dealers, I've always wanted to progress and change and go on to new things. An awful lot of people get stuck in a particular era, especially with their houses." There are certain themes which carry on throughout the house. "I love portraits of people. I am fascinated by faces," she says. In every room, there is a reference to the feminine form with at least one Twenties or Thirties figure lamp holding a globe of light in the corner.
Linda has lived in this flat for 20 years and mixes modern IKEA units with her retro-glamour surroundings. "Shopping is something I love doing," she says. Does she ever have a purge and, God forbid, chuck anything out? She thinks for a minute and says rather apologetically, "I do try. Hard."
Linda Bee's Art Deco stand is at Grays Antique Market, 1-7 Davies Mews, London W1, 0171 629 5921Reuse content