Peter York On Ads: Apply a new undercoat and join the Deccie set

DULUX

We're all Deccies now. People know the interior looks and the words for them. Twenty years ago, no decent Englishman would have been caught saying "Gustavian" unless he was a European history buff.

But now the old Swedish look means something for many more than old Swedes. We cast about for who to blame for all this new vocabulary and the dirty habits that go with it. Many of you will think of the Byron of Bexley, Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, with his yards of parachute silk and his strange stencils. Laurence just couldn't stop himself from introducing big words and funny ideas into Changing Rooms. However ineffably naff the actual scheme, it was often inspired by something relatively arcane - a touch of the Frank Lloyd Wrights (a random stone fireplace), or the Ballets Russes back-drop look (v. bright).

As it turned out later, LLB was doing missionary work, telling women whose normal default setting was Rose White to be a bit bolder, to come on in and surprise themselves. He did a couple of programmes on taste that showed he knew the canon but was pitching it carefully. And the Jason King revival New Savile Row suits and giant shirt-and-tie combos were all there to make the ladies sit up and pay attention. Personal branding and mild titillation. He's a natural educator, much cleverer than we thought. Forget those schemes, forget the dumbstruck faces of the owners: it was all part of the business of moving the nation on.

We now spend miles more on house-buying and fixing than the rest of Europe and we're gloriously miles deeper in debt, mainly as a result of our housey-housey habit. It's a sex thing. There's a wonderful magazine called 25 Beautiful Homes, the Readers' Wives of the interior porn business. They're comfortable middle-class - usually provincial - people's own efforts. They're not Chelsea interior designers or Hampstead architects but when they talk about what they've done they've got a massive vocabulary of looks and brands - Colefax and Fowler and Farrow & Ball of course, but lots more, and little black books of crafty types who restore and re-finish, cut and sew. You can't help thinking of Desperate Housewives and the likelihood that some of those craftsmen offer a Complete Service for their lady clients. Sue, who built up and sold a successful mail-order business with her husband, has moved through a succession of bigger, better houses. Now she's in a Georgian 10-bedder near Basingstoke, while Kevin's doing a lot of work in Estonia. She'll need a seeing-to, won't she?

It's this no-sex-please-we're-decorating side of things they're playing with in the new Dulux campaign. It's all about colours and how they go together. The colours have kitschy American soap character names, which lets them do Heat cover lines about who goes with who, and why. And because it's about colour they've got race too, bold pairings of black and white and brown people.

The whole Llewelyn Bowen motive is about selling bolder colour combinations with faster churn than magnolia or any kind of obvious 1980s-ish graduated co-ordination. In one of the current campaign versions they've got a golf-course setting with a slight, young, white man in a primrose golf sweater - Dulux colour name Forest Lake - and a tall, black woman with an Afro, a hot pink top and hot pants, colour-code Candy Love. She's looking like the love action in a Richard Prior film of 1973. This is exotic sex for the British Leyland set. As he settles for his shot she's right behind him, jiggling away, holding his hips and splaying her brown fingers across the crotch of his white trousers. He wriggles and she adjusts her hands.

It's the sort of thing that drives media-sociologists in the University of East Berkshire into a lather - the sexualisation of black women (there's some more objectification, a black stud, in another of the treatments). But we know it's all completely harmless because there's a butler type in a bowler hat with a drinks tray off to the left to draw everything back to the old Brit' telly references.

The real excitement's in the colours they're peddling. An anaemic yellow and hot pink together, that's hardly 2006 approved taste, more a Thatcher-ite palette, actually. And some of the other combinations will set hearts racing and stomachs churning too. It's bold stuff.

The visual language here is all American: soaps, celebrities and sweat-free sex. But the perspective, like ICI-owned Dulux itself, couldn't be more British, more Irony Lite. When you see that familiar dog wander across a hot pink floor you know where you are. It's all a bit of fun.

Peter@sru.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'