The way we live now, by Peter York: Seriously bling

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The Independent Online

The point about bling is that everything's meant to register as seriously expensive. Magnums of Cristal, Maybach limos, private jets, Vertu jewelled cell phones. All branded. It's the absolute opposite of anything thoughtful, middle-class, laid-back or drabbed-off. The original bling boys were from the roughest projects in the Bronx or Chicago Southside and they wanted what they'd seen in films and ads, without the remotest ironic take on it. (Over-educated, lucky people often have an ironic take on bling, like the heir to an earldom who has valuable photographs of his 1990s black idols in his drawing room).

Curiously, when bling first flourished in the early Nineties, kitsch - as a sensibility, a way of dressing, doing up your house - was in decline. Because, despite the apparent resemblance, they're opposites: kitsch takes nothing seriously. Since then, bling has just roared away. A couple of years ago there was a wonderful BBC documentary on Moscow's new rich and an estate agent who served them. The camera panned around the blingest room imaginable - monstrously over-scaled, shrieking with mirror glass, gilt-wood, marble and giant chandeliers - and returned to the agent who confided to camera, "I'm afraid this is too understated for my clients."

There's one seminal blingtastic image: the obligatory shoot-out in the Capo di Capi's New Jersey mansion you get in so many Mafia films, with blood on snow-white deep-pile carpets. The great example is Scarface and Al Pacino's astonishing house. The bathroom is football-pitch size. The round bath is a baby swimming pool with masses of gold tap-ery. The room is arranged for entertaining bathroom visitors like Michelle Pfeiffer.

If bling evokes heavy metal and precious stones, then glitzy describes the floor and walls. Very high-shine, heavily figured, brand new marble, and curious composition stones with inset brass strips. Countertops in granites so luridly flecked with crystalline bits you think they must be laminates. Heroic new chimney-pieces from white Chinese marble that's as deeply shiny and granular as Kendal Mint Cake. Old Money likes expensive stone, faded, cracked and worn matt. Clever architectural modern money likes it pale, precise, unfigured and honed. In a blingtastic house, every surface has to shine.

Proper bling demands real money to buy fake-looking things and nerves of steel in the face of laws of taste and the mockery of clever-dicks who, as Julie Burchill said, are educated beyond all instinct and earn just over the minimum wage. This room (above) is seriously blingtastic. It's a custom-built drinking-and-conversation pit, sexy as anything. Everything's specially made, very likely by a designer who usually does clubs, not houses.

Four round custom-made banquette sofas in shiny black buttoned leather. They form a circle for anything you want

The circle is defined by a curtain of disco gilt mesh, through which you can see other shiny rooms beyond

This brilliant chandelier rendered in white Venetian glass is a funny take on those antler chandeliers you get in comedy hunting lodges - a stroke of genius

Two of the side-tables have crystal ice-buckets for the Cristal or the Dom. Champagne always at hand: it's part of the decoration

Creamy-white deep-pile carpet looks about two inches deep, and feels like the sheepskin rug in the back of the new Roller

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