How Not To Decorate (A Lesson)

I was originally going to call this post 'How To Decorate In A Day'. (Or a week.) But then I realised, with some consternation – and a small sigh of resignation – that I am a rubbish decorator. Truly. I am simply a journalist and an author. I wouldn't know how to position a cushion if you paid me to do a PhD in it.

Furthermore, with all of the turmoil of the past month (refer to post before previous one), including travelling overseas, moving house, band-aiding our family back together, and generally juggling writing, work projects and life, I haven't really had much time to think about colourways and creative spaces. In fact, I was so weary after 'decorating' our library (and I use that word loosely), that I thought about calling it a day on the interior design.

As such, our bedroom is still full of cardboard tea chests and liable to stay that way until we decide to move again. I did contemplate painting it navy, which would 'intimatise' the space (design code for making it sexier), but it's not a priority. So the aesthetic will remain 'tea-chest chic' for the moment. At least we'll have somewhere to sit. Even if we're not getting any.

So this is my warning to you all, dear readers. This is how NOT to decorate. And if you're a professional interior designer or architect, please look away now. Because the following images are liable to offend all of you with any taste. Or decency. Or indeed desire to declutter your lives. I can only apologise.


STEP ONE: Choose a colour palette and choose it quickly. I plucked out this Parisian green shade, called 'Blade', at Porter's Paints five minutes before closing time last Friday night. It looked pretty. Like Paris' Palais Royal gardens in spring. Or Ladurée's signature green boxes. It even seemed to be the same as the cover of my first bestseller La Vie Parisienne. Surely a good sign? "It'll do," I said nervously to the Porter's Paints girl. "Are you sure?" she said, questioning my judgement (and perhaps my sanity). I looked at the hundreds of other colours and felt slightly faint at the prospect of picking one. "I think so," I replied, and shrugged. That's when I knew I wasn't really a decorator. A decorator would never be this blasé.

That weekend, I slapped two coats on our new library. "What do you think?" I asked RR. "It's very green," he said in his typically understated way. (And yes, I know a great many of you abhor green. That's okay. It's not for everyone, I know.)

Here's where I painted around a big spider. This is called Arachnid Decorating.

STEP TWO: Find fabrics to match. Now 'real' decorators (professionals) don't believe in being too 'matchy-matchy'. Apparently, it's amateurish. Well, in Magazine Land we were taught that if you wanted a stylish cover you never used more than two colours, three at most. I'm going to stick with matchy-matchy, I'm afraid. Real designers, please look away, because I don't know how to decorate any other way. (And yes, I know French ticking is passé. But I love these monogrammed cushions. Perhaps nobody will notice?)

STEP THREE: Find the cheapest furniture this side of a Hard Rubbish Collection. After a month in the US and a new mortgage, we couldn't afford Moooi or Fornasetti (my favourite brands), or any other dazzling piece. So I went looking for a bargain. Fortunately, it's the end of the financial year, so places like Town & Country are having 50%-off sales. I nabbed a beautiful black library for half price. (Tax time. I tell you, it's the best time to decorate!) It was still expensive, but I wanted something to 'anchor' the room, and this handsome piece was begging to be taken home. No, not the Brazilian delivery guy. The library.

STEP FOUR: Pull out the sewing machine. My mother kindly loaned me her new sewing machine a few years ago. I haven't returned it. It's been the most useful thing in our lives since the blender. Last week, desperate to finish decorating, I whipped up some covers for a few ottomans. Slip covers. I tell you. They're the best thing ever. This was made with a remnant of Ralph Lauren pinstripe. (NB Professional decorators, please don't look too closely. There's no piping. And the ends aren't tied off.)

STEP FIVE: If in doubt, fill the room with books. The problem, is, we always forget to hide the trashy reads. We file the Fifty Shades of Grey next to the Graham Greene.

STEP SIX: Create a welcoming bar in the corner, so you can offer guests a drink upon arrival. I pinched this idea from Bunny Williams' guest house. I was in awe of her guest bar: an enormous antique table FILLED with top-shelf spirits that was conveniently placed within a few feet of the front door. "I'd like to emulate that!" I thought. But there were a few problems. I didn't have an antique sideboard. OR the budget for Chateau Lafitte. So we just have water. Or water.

STEP SEVEN: Always have a vase of flowers to scent the room. Dead tulips, such as these (above), are not recommended.

STEP EIGHT: Throw a throw or three around. They offer 'visual warmth'. Unfortunately, they're usually just for show. If guests are cold in our house, they're told to go and put a sweater on.

STEP NINE: Stack the sofa with cushions, so guests can't sit down. This discourages them from lingering too long.

STEP TEN: Clutter away. Clutter like your life depends on it. This is our entrance library before we moved in. (The furniture is the former owner's. I'm not a black leather kinda gal.) 

And this is our entrance library after...

No wonder my mother was horrified.

{Terrible photography. Had to use an old point-and-click as my SLR is dying. I think it's horrified by the interior design too.)

And lastly, a gratuitous shot of our just-washed puppies. Just because...

And one more of my study. Yes, more clutter here, I'm afraid. I need Faux Fuchsia to come and work her magic. But at least it's not green.

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