Thursday, 21 August 2014

Living in Style - the 60s

Space helmets were a fad

60s interior decor and style in general was a game of two halves. In the early 60s, tasteful Swedish reigned: the lady with the beige handwoven rug with a faint brown stripe was dressed in restrictive tailoring in muted autumnal shades. By 1969 she was wearing purple velvet and living in a squat. But half-way through the decade, the colour was turned up,  and modernism mutated briefly into futurism (space-helmet hats) before morphing into Victoriana and a fascination with the 20s and 30s.

The early 60s interior

“The house was decorated in Coral’s favourite white and shades of green: white cupboards, white fireplace, white Venetian blinds, olive green and white willow-pattern wallpaper. The bathroom had some unusual features: a shaggy bearskin rug and pots of roses on top of the lavatory cistern.” (From a life of Coral Browne the actress – in the 80s she collected antiques and marble obelisks.)

pictures by Canaletto printed on melamine for a table-top

one wall in dark grey with life size silver trees (“Woods” by Cole & Sons), or black with a white brocade pattern

art featuring vintage cars, art made of watch parts in the shape of vintage cars on black velvet.


a giant red brandy glass on top of the television

Swedish glass - thick and dark green

candy striped sheets

nautical memorabilia especially things in the shape of ships’ wheels

16th century style sun faces.

passementerie and fringes on curtains, lampshades and bins – an odd hangover from Victorian upholstery

pale-blue velvet, pale-blue fitted carpet

prints from Boots and Woolworths: the crying boy, exotic maidens, swans, ballet dancers in swan costumes, sunbeam striking through a breaking wave. (By Vernon Ward and J.H. Lynch)

biscuit barrels etc decorated with hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades

spiral staircases

East European folk art

matching wallpaper and curtains

Late 60s decor

Around 1966 it seemed everything changed. Bridget Riley's geometric "dazzle" paintings became fashionable Op Art. Mary Quant's clothes for teenagers were all black and white. We wore white eyeliner. We painted our fingernails white. We chucked out the coral lipstick and wore - white. (Beige was more flattering.) We wore Op Art dresses, Op Art PVC (a new wonder-fabric) raincoats and hats.

The word "trendy" came into being. Trends came thick and fast.

Everything was “fun” and throwaway: paper lampshades, slot-together plastic lampshades, self-assembly paper chairs, modular cuboid furniture, paper knickers (they live on in hospitals), paper carrier bags (perfect for advertising and for making a statement).

Bright Casa Pupo rugs replaced the beige haircord. They came in flowery patterns and went with thick white pottery.

We chucked out the Sheraton and hung circular mirrors with thick red frames. We weren't quite sure what Pop Art was, but we got the look.

We lounged in peacock chairs, basket chairs suspended from the ceiling, or hammocks.

We chucked out our restrictive "girdles" and wore tights instead. Men's shirts and ties were going to be replaced by nylon turtle-neck shirts. Dull evening dress was jazzed up. Middle-aged men grew their hair longer, and grew mutton-chop whiskers which went perfectly with giant blue velvet bow-ties, kipper ties and frilled shirtfronts. (They grew the hair but failed to wash it more often. And it looked very silly combined with a combover. These ghastly aberrations soon faded from the scene.)

Op art was followed by psychedelia: There was a fashion for taking hallucinogenic drugs – because they made you see the world in bright rainbow colours. Manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and added vivid, clashing colours to their patterns for fabric, clothes and wallpaper: lime-green, orange, purple, pink, yellow, turquoise. Green/purple was popular. Patterns were swirly. Paisley (from Victorian era Indian shawls) was already fashionable – now it became bigger and brighter. Jacobean embroidery went through yet another regeneration. Op Art was remade in lime and pink. You could get a psychedelic mini-kaftan with a ring-pull zip and flared sleeves in M&S. Very daring. Posters, magazines, graphics had the look. It dated very fast.

Psychedelia was replaced by a depressing hippy ambience with burgundy walls, a vague 30s/Victorian feel, everything old and dusty, curtains closed during the day, purple ostrich feathers from Biba, old lace clothes hung up, old shawls, vases with incense (which left dust and bits everywhere). Spanish and Chinese shawls. Kimonos and printed silk.

Women who lived in a room like this had a chest of drawers and dressing table mirror, but the drawers wouldn’t shut, all surfaces were covered with clutter, the mirror was draped with bead necklaces, the dressing table covered with cheap little boxes. The brass bed had clothes hanging off the end. There’d be an orange crate by the bed for a lamp and an overflowing ashtray. The rest of her clothes hung on a hook on the back of the door. If there was a wardrobe her best clothes would be in a heap on the floor of it.

In every bedsit, there was an oblong art deco mirror hanging from a chain, and a central light with a marbleized bowl shade. Both going for £££££s in vintage shops today.

On the walls were posters of Alphonse Mucha and Van Gogh’s sunflowers. People with degrees had prints of Sienese art.

It wasn't really that seamless: hippy flowery fabric was both around in the early 60s – before hippies. When hippies came in (summer of 67), flowery fabric was swiftly labelled “hippy”. Colours were getting brighter before “psychedelia”. Daisies were “in” in the early 60s too - but they were quickly whipped into service for “flower power”.

Fashion Crimes of the Past

More here.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Afterlife of Things 6

Silversmiths love to produce supposedly practical objects for people to give each other as presents. We’ve had silver holders for billiard cue chalk, vesta cases (for phosphorus matches that would catch fire if kept loose in your pocket), tops for canes, comb cases, wine coasters, pencils, handles for shoehorns, buttonhooks and parasols, silver pheasants for your dining table (why?), clocks, menu holders, handbag clasps, cigar-cutters, cigarette cases, hip flasks, snuff boxes, toothpicks, powder compacts, scent bottle tops, lorgnettes (spectacles on a stick), money clips, pill boxes, vinaigrettes…

Vinaigrettes were not small bottles of salad dressing, but boxes containing a sponge soaked in aromatic vinegar. You sniffed it if you felt faint, or if you were surrounded by nasty niffs (before the germ theory of disease caught on, we thought noxious odours caused disease).

So are they making silver phone covers now? Garrards usefully offers a cocktail shaker, a champagne bath, claret jugs with lion and unicorn heads, and a statuette of Edward VII. The Asprey's catalogue has a rather disappointing selection including a birth certificate holder. Thanks, just what I wanted.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Food in the 60s

Food suddenly became quite... nice! Instead of being used to punish your children, it was used to keep up with the Joneses who had been on holiday to Italy.

eggs Provençale
artichoke vinaigrette
prawn cocktail
Instant Whip
Lyons Princess Sandwich

Dairylea cheese triangles (in many flavours, in a presentation box)
chicken/veal/ham/cheese sandwich breadcrumbed and deep fried

steak tartare
almost-raw steaks
steak au poivre
steak Diane (flambee)
filet mignon (very thick steak eaten almost raw - possibly popular because unobtainable during rationing)
peppers, red and green

melon with powdered ginger and no sugar
melon with everything
melon balls (made with a special device)
prosciutto crudo (very thin smoked ham)
prosciutto crudo with melon balls

Russian salad (delicious, and probably out of a tin or bottle)
Danish pastries

Caerphilly/Cheshire/Wensleydale (very sharp, sour cheese that you had to pretend to like)

trout, trout, trout, trout
cocktail biscuits in the shape of clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades
salade Nicoise
Irish coffee

crème brulee, especially making your own
avocadoes which you had to force your children to like
tuna mould in a ring
salmon mousse
kipper pate

Briefly, Swiss and Dutch food was very chic – fondue, Emmental and Gruyere, Petit Suisse (a bit like creme fraiche and delicious with caster sugar). Dutch Edam cheese with its red wax coating was everywhere.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Afterlife of Things 5

What happened to those flexible knives with a serrated edge designed for cutting up grapefruit ready for eating? Grapefruit’s decade was the 60s. You served half a grapefruit as a starter, with sugar (but it was more posh to eat it without while exclaiming how delicious it was). Or you could sugar the halves and put them under the grill (better). Or you could cut it up and add it to salads or sweet’n’sour chicken. You might also use a “runcible spoon” to eat it with – a spoon with a serrated edge. I think these, and the terminology, came in in the 70s. (Borrowed from Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat: They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon.)

More here, and links to the rest.

50s Food

The standard meal was boiled mutton, boiled cabbage and boiled potatoes. It was even worse when the mutton was cold and the cabbage had been boiled for three hours.  We also ate cold tongue and cold ham (both delicious).

Breakfast and tea were lovely (Chelsea buns, lardy cakes, fairy cakes, cup cakes, pink icing, shredded coconut), lunch and dinner were revolting. Huge joints of meat were cooked and eaten for Sunday lunch. (Joints had been unavailable during rationing, wartime and after. After years of bacon and sausages, people fell on steak and roast beef. Not so much fun for children who struggled to cut it and chew it. We’d have been happy with sausages – or macaroni cheese – or fish and chips.)

Anything that might have made this spartan fare palatable – butter, chutney – was strictly rationed, even when rationing was over. The mindset lingered for years.

Vicarage Mutton
Hot on Sunday
Cold on Monday
Hashed on Tuesday
Minced on Wednesday
Curried Thursday
Broth on Friday
Cottage pie Saturday.

For school lunch, we were often given “mince” – grey, tasteless and overcooked but at least you didn’t have to try and cut it using adult-size knives and forks, or chew it using tiny milk teeth.

Spaghetti came in. Bohemians were ahead of the game. Many wondered how to eat it, so they cut it into short lengths – sometimes before cooking. Others bossily snapped: “Twirl it round your fork!”, “It’s supposed to be al dente!”, and “Don’t cut it!”. Heinz brought out tinned spaghetti (very soft, in sweet tomato sauce). We ate it on toast. The middle classes had hysterics.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Silver Service

We emptied the silver cupboard and the sideboard and spread their contents out on the dining room table. Candlesticks, serving dishes, sugar bowls, milk jugs. Sauce boats, sugar tongs, ashtrays, salvers. Fish slices, a tea caddy, an ivory-handled crumb scoop. And other items, entirely mysterious unseen for decades… Those were knife rests, that was a pair of grape scissors. And this was a bon-bon dish. “A what?” said my daughter. There were the napkin rings… It had come to this. Time was, life could not proceed appropriately for a family such as my grandmother’s without ownership of sauce ladles, knife rests and ivory-handled crumb scoops. Now her descendant did not know what a napkin ring was for. The battered and baffling array of metal in front of us seemed suddenly to be a potent symbol for 80 years of social change… In 1995 there was still a tin of Silvo [silver polish] at the back of the silver cupboard, its contents long since dried up… Starch, grate cleaner, metal polishes: the goods reflect an age and a lifestyle. (She goes on to say that as sales of Brasso fell due to the disappearance of brass doorknobs and fingerplates, Reckitt and Colman marketed its own range of brass fittings. “A neat idea, if something of a last-ditch stand.”)

Penelope Lively, A House Unlocked
More here, and links to the rest.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Calling Cards

The text messages of their day. Here's more from The Woman's Own Book of the Home, 1932.Much of the formality connected with calling and card-leaving disappeared when the Great War changed many conditions of social life and etiquette, and the younger generation especially has to a great extent gaily dispensed with such conventional customs, but in some circles the acknowledged etiquette of calling and leaving cards is still followed, so it is well to know the rules.

A lady's visiting card should be printed in quite plain lettering from a plate. It is much the same size, or very little larger, than those used by gentlemen.  Ornamental or old English lettering is at present out of date but a high-class stationer will always advise as to the correct vogue of the moment.

A widow should have her visiting card printed the same as during her husband's lifetime, not use her own Christian name before the surname.

Unmarried girls of the present day have their own social circle and use their own visiting cards when, not accompanied by their mother, they call upon friends, leaving one card in the hall at the conclusion of the first visit. Afterwards it is not necessary unless the friend is not at home when they would merely leave a card.

Unmarried daughters calling with their mother do not use their own cards. Their names may be either written or engraved on the mother's card, beneath her name. A married or widowed daughter living with her parents acts independently, following the respective rules for wives and widows.

When a girl visiting away from home calls upon any friend who is unknown to her hostess, she either uses her own card or one of her mother's, which also bears her own name, in the latter case drawing a line through her mother's name.

An unmarried girl staying with a friend and paying calls with her hostess upon the latter's friends has her name written in beneath that of her hostess instead of using her own cards.

Cards left upon friends staying at an hotel or boardinghouse may have the name of the person for whom they are intended pencilled upon them to avoid any mistakes in delivery, but this should never be done when they are left at a private residence.

To be continued....

Friday, 4 April 2014

Living in Style 2

Arty types in the 50s liked "objets trouvés", or "found objects":

"Unusual objets trouvés were displayed everywhere - a Webb toy theatre, a model of an old steam engine, a rocking-horse, a row of marionettes, a ladder painted with stars and diamonds, an American wall clock with an enormous winking eye painted by Ronald on its pendulum." (piece about Ronald Searle’s modernist home)

More conservative homeowners filled their homes with the three "see no evil" monkeys, a set of three elephants in descending size order, a set of three camels chained together, and silhouettes of the pyramids with a background of blue moth wings. They also liked horse brasses, and mats showing Old Cries of London or Venice in the eighteenth century. The monkeys shared the mantelpiece with miniature suits of armour, tiny beer barrels, scaled-down brass cannon, and calendars set in the side of a wooden dog. They ate their dinner off Myott Chinese bird plates or willow pattern china.

Picasso became popular because there was a big exhibition. If he was too modern, you could hang reproductions of Dutch flower paintings with very realistic drops of water, butterflies, slugs etc; Tretchikoff’s green lady; paintings of white horses galloping through the surf; or a much reproduced depiction of a breaking wave with a shaft of light gleaming through it (was it part of Boots' art range?). These shared the walls with hunting scenes and framed golfing jokes.

Teenage girls hung paintings of swans or Degas' ballet girls above their divan beds (with folkweave coverlet).

Working class people bought Beswick china flying ducks modelled on paintings by Peter Scott.
Middle class people despised these, and hung Peter Scott prints, and elephants by David Shepherd.

Also seen about were stripy awnings with scalloped edges combined with modernist architecture and (oddly) fairground lettering, or with curly wrought iron.

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Afterlife of Things 4

In the 1930s your Radio Times (the magazine that told you what was on the radio) was kept in an ornate leather folder, decorated with embossing and oversewing, or tidied away in a floor-standing magazine rack. There were occasional tables but no coffee tables. And you couldn’t just leave a magazine lying around for a week getting tattier and tattier. Could you? Radio Times folders and magazine racks faded soon after the war.

They somehow went with shoe bags embroidered with your initials, night-dress cases and handkerchief sachets. Where did they go? Tissues happened. Handkerchief sachets were usually handmade out of linen and embroidered. There was no telly and we had to make our own entertainment.

Other linen embroidered objects we simply couldn’t live without: antimacassars and traycloths. Antimacassars went over the backs of armchairs and sofas to stop hairoil marking the furniture. 30s men used an oily “dressing” on their hair to keep it in place. (It faded out in the 70s.) Traycloths were a miniature tablecloth that went on a tray for breakfast in bed, or supper by the fire. They vanished with the servants who cooked and brought you the breakfast or supper. And with no servants keeping you out of your own kitchen you could eat in it.

All these were objects you could make yourself, and perhaps that’s why people were convinced they were necessary. They were the descendants of the purses netted and slippers embroidered by early Victorian girls. (Now we make bunting.) Handwork was taught at school, and girls needed projects. Magazines would give away patterns for traycloth embroidery. (They can always be upcycled into cushion covers.) Handwork was strictly gender-segregated: boys made manly pipe racks in woodwork. When did men stop smoking pipes? They were still puffing in the 70s. I remember ads for a vanilla-scented tobacco – was it St Bruno? And there was one called Condor… The decline of pipe-smoking did for the small tobacconists who used to operate from kiosks. More here, and links to the rest.

The Afterlife of Things 3

A few words about sauce boats. Yes, like mustard pots, they came with their own little stand and special ladle.

There were prohibitions about adding anything to your food. You couldn’t add too much. Of course, the gravy or sauce in the one sauce boat had to go round everybody and you had to calculate your share. Child’s play! But if there was never quite enough sauce or gravy, why not make double and have two sauce boats? That would have been much too logical. Meals weren’t supposed to be enjoyable, they were ordeals by cutlery. This one lapsed in the 60s too. More here.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Afterlife of Things 2

In aspirant households of the 50s and probably earlier, hot English mustard was the only condiment on the table apart from salt and pepper. If salad was on the menu, you might get matching, silver-topped oil and vinegar bottles on a silver tray. And if you were really, really lucky the lady of the house might have made her own apple jelly, mint sauce or chutney. Middle class households did not buy Branston Pickle, tomato ketchup or salad cream (when these arrived from America after the war), or anything that might have made the food actually edible. (Though in Mrs Beeton’s day, your cook made her own tomato, walnut or mushroom ketchup.)

The mustard was made from mustard powder and served in a mustard pot on a little saucer with a tiny spoon. The latch by the handle levers the lid open, and there is a little slot for the spoon. So simple, a small child could operate it! Did people transfer Colmans or Dijon into the mustard pot – until they thought “What the hell!” and put the jar on the table?

Salt was supplied in a salt cellar on a plate or stand, with its own tiny spoon. You were supposed to put salt in a little pile on the side of your plate (with the spoon), because it was rude to assume that your hostess’s food was inadequately seasoned. In the mid-60s, sets of salt and pepper shakers became fashionable and presumably this piece of etiquette melted away like snow on the desert’s face. Aspirant couples now had sea-salt and black pepper grinders, just like in the Italian restaurants that were so chic at the time. People gave each other sets for Christmas.

Jam was decanted into a glass pot with its own saucer, and ornate spoon. If the jam stayed in its own pot, you used a specialised jam spoon with a kind of latch that hooked over the edge. It was also long enough to reach the bottom. (Now we struggle to scrape out the last of the jam with a too-short teaspoon.)

More here.
What I don’t miss about the 50s.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Afterlife of Things

Before fridges, butter came in a lump, kept in a butter crock in a chilled pantry. When it was needed for breakfast, tea or dinner, it was turned into pats or curls (by rolling small pieces between two ridged bats), put onto a small plate and sprinkled with water (to keep it cool). You served yourself a pat or curl with a silver butter knife like a tiny fish knife. (You weren’t supposed to cut your dinner roll with your own knife, but break off a piece, dab a bit of butter on top, and eat it.) Bread and butter at teatime probably came ready buttered. You might spread your own toast at breakfast when manners were more free and easy, but you couldn't ask anyone to pass you the butter - you had to wait for them to pass it to you.

Fridges happened in the 50s. There was a short period during which a block of frozen butter would be put on the tiny butter plate, and guests would attempt to carve off a piece with the tiny, blunt, fragile butter knife… I remember being shouted at to SPREAD my bread with the rock-hard butter. Not easy, aged six. Eventually people came to their senses and butter knives became more robust.

Perhaps our parents longed to get back to gracious living after serving in the forces and having just one knife, fork, spoon, mug and plate. But there was also a sense that we had to do things this way because this was the way things had always been done.

Until the late 19th century, sugar arrived at the house in the form of a “loaf” (in the shape of a bullet or a concrete bollard – a “tall cone with a rounded top”, says Wikipedia). This was cut up with special cutters called sugar nippers. It could then be grated to form granulated or caster sugar (fine enough to be served in a caster), or proffered in tiny pieces – perfect for picking up with a pair of tiny Georgian silver sugar tongs and dropping in your coffee or tea. Apparently the first lump sugar factory was built in 1802. Lump sugar was certainly around in the 50s – in lumps too big to be easily picked up with those tiny sugar tongs. Especially when you were six. They soon went the way of the Georgian silver butter knife.

Thursday, 20 March 2014


We know all about servants, don't we. People had them in the past, but we don't, because we're modern and aware. (And housework has become far less labour-intensive.) So why the fascination with Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey? Servants cast a long shadow over our lives - perhaps because when they'd gone, we continued to try and live as if they were still there. Middle-class households prepared elaborate meals in a small kitchen, passed them through a serving hatch, and then sat down to eat. (Working class families sensibly cooked and ate in the kitchen - and sewed and did homework there too.) We decanted vegetables into serving dishes as if they were going to be carried along miles of cold passages from a basement kitchen. (The food must always have been tepid.) And then we all said "Oh, forget it!" and began to live more simply. I hope.

When I re-read those first [books] I’m amazed at the number of servants drifting about. And nobody is really doing any work; they’re always having tea on the lawn… (Agatha Christie, The Writer, 1966)

You can’t get the good old-fashioned kind of servant any more. (Agatha Christie,  Sparkling Cyanide)

"We cannot save our servants trouble; we cannot insist on their making their work easy for themselves; but we can tell them that it would be wiser were they to help themselves." (Mrs Panton, From Kitchen to Garrett) She means that the cook should lay the kitchen fire before going to bed, so that in the morning she only has to light it.

A country house like Downton Abbey was more like a hotel than a house. The family were constantly entertaining guests. Also, there were no supermarkets. Food was raised or grown on the "home farm" or in kitchen gardens, and cooked in the kitchens. A huge staff of servants was necessary. Before self-consuming wicks and whale-oil lamps servants were constantly on hand to "snuff" the candles (to trim the wicks). Candles were of course the only source of light. Likewise, open fires were the only source of heat, and it was the servants' job to carry the fuel, lay the fires, keep them lit, and clean the grate.

Women would ask a male guest to ring for the servant to put coal on the fire. Because SHE couldn’t do it, and HE couldn’t do it, and it was so kind of him to save her the trouble of pulling a bell pull… (OK, the coal might have dirtied her hands or clothes). In George Gissing's New Grub Street, Marian is embarrassed when Milvain puts coal on the fire - these shabby genteel characters are still trying to live as if they were middle class. (She is also mortified because she knows her father has deliberately let the fire die down to save fuel.)

"He took the tongs and carefully disposed small pieces of coal upon the glow that remained. Marian stood apart with a feeling of shame and annoyance. But... after all this vulgar necessity made the beginning of the conversation easier." George Gissing, New Grub Street

When hot water for a bath was heated in the kitchen and brought up to your bedroom by hand, a servant carried it. If you needed a servant, you rang a bell - for instance, to conduct a visitor through mazes of passages from your sitting room to the front door.

"Don't ring - I'll let myself out." (Enter a Murderer, Ngaio Marsh)

This detective story was written in the 30s. The speaker, Nigel, is visiting his friend, Felix, in his small flat. But Felix still rings for his manservant to show Nigel out (the few steps to the front door - Nigel can hardly get lost. In this era, too, menservants and maids prepared a bath for their masters and mistresses - by turning on a tap. Lift boys pressed lift buttons. When did it occur to people that they could see out their own visitors, run their own baths and operate their own lifts?

Monday, 10 March 2014

Social Life in the 30s Suburbs

In the olden days, when you couldn't talk to anyone to whom you had not been introduced, how did you meet a partner? If you were lucky enough to live in the suburbs, you joined a club.

According to the Woman's Own Book of the Home, 1932:

"It is understood that fellow-members of a club are on speaking terms without an introduction, though introductions pave the way more swiftly to friendly intercourse. Thus a new member would be correct in exchanging a smile or word of greeting or a chance remark with any member in the club, though not personally known to her, but without an introduction she should not presume upon the fact that they are fellow-members.

One cannot, however, lay down any hard an fast rule concerning this matter, as custom varies in different clubs, so it is for the new member to discover for herself what is usual in her own club, but whether she has been introduced or not she should refrain from going up to any members who are conversing together and joining without waiting for any invitation to do so; in fact, a newcomer should not upon any occasion be too forward in making friendly overtures, that being the recognized prerogative of older members.

Visitors: Each club member is responsible for the conduct and moral character of any visitors she invites to the club, a point to be considered carefully when giving invitations...

All club accounts, such as dining, card-room, lecture, dance and other entertainment, or games fees or scores should be settled promptly."

That gives you some idea of what went on in these clubs. I expect you had to be put up for membership by one or two other members. The advice continues: don't borrow money from other members, ask them for free advice, or expect them to help you into a job. In mixed clubs "men and women meet on equal terms of good comradeship" and should not be "indiscreet". Furthermore, "ladies should rigidly obey any rules restricting their use of smoking, card or billiard-rooms, never invading any which may be intended for masculine members only".

More on how to get on and get off in the 30s.

Living in Style

Anaglypta dado
After the retro look? Try one of these.

1850s Plate-glass windows muffled in several layers of drapery: blinds, nets, lined curtains. The view was further blocked by potted plants and glass cases full of rare ferns.

1890s Clutter, clutter, clutter, occasional tables, draped shelves, triple window drapes, bobble fringes, draped brackets (but not piano legs), ornaments, pictures, flowery wallpaper, flowery carpet, dust, portières, draught excluders. Potted palms in jardinieres on stands, plaster alsatians, twig effect picture frames, marbled glass lampshades and anaglypta dados painted glossy brown. (Anaglypta was a kind of wipe-clean embossed wallpaper, and a dado is a decorative strip running round the walls to about waist height. You can still get anaglypta in many patterns, including one that looks like swirly Artex.)

00s and 10s: Arts and Crafts peasant style (a bit like shabby chic now). Trees in pots, checkerboard patterns, women in rational dress. Stencils. Painted pottery, barge-painting. Green, blue, red. External wood painted white.

00s and beyond Internal woodwork painted brown because it’s – wood colour. External wood painted dark brown, burgundy, forest green, Kelly green or white. Rooms edited a la William Morris, leaving a few items of oak furniture, blue-and-white plates, books, flowers. Pewter tankards, copper trays. Dark panelled halls and staircases. Books bound in limp purple suede.

20s Primrose and black, all-white interiors with books bound in white vellum. “He had rented the week-end residence of some spinster of moderate means and ghastly good taste… copper warming-pans, ships in bottles… and comfy cretonne-covered armchairs.” Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Magic of My Youth (The copper warming pans were a hangover from the late 19th century.)

Art Deco furniture

30s Heavy Jacobethan furniture and panelling gets everywhere and the middle classes desert it for Art Deco. The Arts and Crafts style fizzles out into a Ye Olde look with a lot of natural wood, brass and copper, especially fire screens/leather folders for the Radio Times with an embossed brass Viking ship (or galleon – anything with square sails). Linen cushions embroidered with crinoline ladies in cottage gardens with hollyhocks. Pewter tankards, pewter everything. Also traycloths.  Pictures of coaching inns and people in Regency dress. Nobody wants this stuff now when it turns up in junk shops. Jacobean crewel embroidery becomes a pattern on wallpaper, chintz and cretonne; or in jazzy colours lives on in Cubist pottery and cushion covers. Pale green walls. Kitchens painted pale green and primrose yellow. Cotman watercolours became fashionable, and watercolours of winding paths through bluebell woods.

40s In the States, there's a style of modernist cosy – heavy square “davenports” in anonymous new flats. Also a desert style with geometric carpets, unglazed pottery and ceramic donkeys. In the UK, utility furniture. Postwar, Cézanne is popular after various exhibitions, and pottery inspired by Picasso’s worst efforts.