Of Couches, Clocks and Children

(A shorter version of this was first published in Le News edition 13, 6 – 12 February 2014)

‘Goodness me,’ I said the other day (or words to that effect). ‘We have to redecorate!’

It’s not that our current decor doesn’t reflect my husband and me. It’s that it reflects us all too well: like the couch, our springy bits are gone and we’re getting saggy in the middle; and like our Swiss cuckoo clock, I too have been cruelly overwound by a small child and fundamentally changed by the experience. 

But this realisation sparked something of an identity crisis. Who are we actually, design-wise? How can a couple be sure, after years of not thinking about it, that their palettes don’t clash? What if they’re not aligned? What if he heads off in a Farmhouse direction and  she goes Coastal? What if she decides she’s Mid-Century Scandi Modernist and he doesn’t even know what that means? 

‘Well,’ advised my friend Suchira From India, who dabbles in this sort of thing, ‘first of all, you each have to find your unique style.’ 

‘Mine’s in the laundry, under a pile of socks.’ 

She gave me a look. ‘How would you describe the current style of your home?’ 

‘Predominantly Ikea with strong accents of Preschooler. Mostly in crayon, on the dining room chairs.’  

Again, the look. ‘Try and visualise your ideal home. What would you like to see in front of you every day when you walk into your lounge?’ 

‘George Clooney doing the ironing.’ 

After a sharp rebuke and a few more probing questions, she said my decorating personality was French Country, mostly because when absolutely pressed to choose, I said I preferred toile to plaid. 

I did a quick Google image search and I must say, French Country is gorgeous: all distressed wood, eggshell blue and jars of hydrangeas everywhere. One website described it as ‘rustic and inviting’, which sounds perfect for me because that’s how I’ve always thought of my husband.   

But after a few giddy hours on Pinterest, I realised I would have to let that dream go. French Country doesn’t fit with the things I already have and love, such as my African fabric collection and my children. It seems that French Country children play with vintage teddies, wooden rocking horses and the occasional chalkboard. Maybe a white porcelain tea set. There’s nothing pink and plastic in their rooms. No Barbies. And certainly no big battery-operated Tyrannosaurus Rexes that roar into life in the early hours of the morning for no reason, eyes glowing red and claws scraping on floorboards. Nothing like that, in a French Country style home. 

In fact, there was nothing like that in any of the decor styles I looked up. Nor were there Guinea Pig cages in the middle of the lounge, board games all over the ottoman or piles of books on every stair. And I speak from bitter experience when I say none of those are going anywhere, no matter how much I shout.      

So it looks as if we’ll stick with what we’ve got: an acquiescent couch, an approximate cuckoo clock and, on every surface, reminders of our children. 

It may not be in any of the design books … but it’s ours. 

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