Hit & Run: So long to loft living
Thursday 19 November 2009
It's official. It's no longer fashionable to live in a loft. The monument to 1990s city living – all open plan with no bourgeois walls or middle class privacy – as popularised by Friends and Jamie Oliver – is dead.
It used to be cool to live in a space where you could roller-skate from the sofa to the fridge and where only a sliding wall prevented your guests from seeing you in the loo while they were eating their tiramisu. But with the chill winds of the recession blowing up through the gaps in the floorboards, those stainless steel worktops just feel cold instead of cool.
And we, just like Jamie and his Friends, grew up, had children, and realised that we wanted a proper place with walls so we wouldn't wake the kids when we had our own friends round. Monica and Chandler moved to Westchester. Jamie and Jools bought a farmhouse in Essex. Kirsty Allsop showed us (admittedly rather smugly) her shabby chic cottage and Nigella dressed up her Victorian kitchen with fairy lights. Even the X Factor house, in suburban Golders Green, is all Scandi-style wood this year.
In a trend that feels almost retro, we've gone back to viewing our houses as homes, not just as investments. So out go the neutral walls – no need to please potential buyers. Floorboards are covered with cosy carpets. Walls are papered in bright colours that feel welcoming. Wood has replaced steel and shapes are curved and kindly.
The fashion for loft living began in New York when impoverished artists moved into abandoned buildings in the garment district in search of large spaces, lots of light and lower rents. In London loft living became a defining feature of the millennium. But as with all trends, once those who popularise something can no longer afford it, it's over. One of Britain's biggest house builders, Barratt Development, says that selling flats is becoming harder, because banks are unwilling to lend against them. Buyers can get a 90 per cent mortgage on a house and only 75 per cent on a flat.
So the only people who can afford to buy lofts are the bankers themselves and the less said about them the better. So now the really cool folk are in the suburbs knitting cushion covers out of old jumpers. Kate Watson-Smyth
The Euro stars who ought to be in the running
The European Council is having a tough time trying to decide who should be the first President of the EU, but perhaps it's because they're being too narrow-minded. They shouldn't go for some dull, compromise candidate politician, nor for some mildly exciting but deeply unpopular politician. Why not find somebody glamorous to represent the fun side of Europe? Flavio Briatore, who was recently stripped of one of his positions, probably has time on his hands, and can boast experience of dealing with corruption (that it was his own is probably irrelevant).
Rafa Benitez may be looking for work soon, and he's certainly used to overseeing inefficient and unnecessarily complex systems. But her political experience would make Ilona Staller – aka "La Cicciolina" – ideal. The Hungarian-born Italian politician and former porn star acted in hardcore movies during her time in office, was known for making speeches with one of her ample breasts exposed – well, it beats listening to Daniel Hannan. Tim Walker
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