Chez nous: a designer peek behind Blair's Islington curtains

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Indy Politics
Tony Blair is a conservative - not really because of his politics, more the way he and Cherie furnish their sitting room.

Close examination of a photograph in yesterday's Independent of the Labour leader at home in Islington, north London, reveal him, according interior design experts, as "dated", "not very thrusting" and ... "conservative".

Caroline Atkins, editor of House Beautiful magazine, judged the Blair home to be "surprisingly conservative". "Crystal chandelier, pleated curtain pelmets - it's terribly formal and rather unlived in," she said.

It was evidently not the kind of home she had expected of the young father. "I hope he has some fun somewhere - I envisage a big family kitchen with a scrubbed pine table and lots of Islington clutter, but I suspect Cherie's locked him in here until he gets his TV presentation finished."

Sarah Bravo, deputy editor of Ideal Home magazine, said that the room "lacks warmth and personality". "There is nothing in the room that makes a statement one way or another ... the only personal touches are a collection of photographs, but even these seem to have been strategically styled."

Most scathing was Tyler Brule, editor of Wallpaper, Britain's trendiest new interiors magazine. "I think that a new Labour government would definitely have to establish a Ministry for the Interior," he said.

Given that Labour was a party leading us into the next millennium, he said, it was "rather backwards looking" in terms of what he thought may have been a publicity "set". "I thought the Labour Party would have gone for something rather more thrusting in its approach," he said. "Those pelmets and fabrics are so traditional - but perhaps this is a comfort to dyed-in-the-wool Conservative voters."

Just as Labour's accusers say the original Mr Blair has been spin-doctored and air-brushed out of existence, so his home appears to be so determined not to offend that, according to one design specialist, it resembles a hotel foyer.

Lizzie O'Prey, deputy editor of Inspirations magazine "for upmarket, creative homes", said the Labour leader's room appeared "rather like a show home, somewhere that has been designed for display, rather than as a comfortable home".

She said it felt "quite dated and a bit ostentatious. Crystal chandelier lighting is all well and good in the foyer of the Hyde Park Hotel but over the top for a family home".

Perhaps Mr Blair was determined to avoid charges of elitism: "The fabric overcloth and glass tabletop - it's the sort of furniture you'll find in the show home at Barratts," Ms O'Prey said.

Still, in the world of interior design, just as in the world of politics, there is no pleasing everybody.