It’s not unheard of for Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, the flamboyant enfant terrible of the interior design world, to be controversial. Today, he wants to talk politics – in particular, revolution.
The people of Britain, he says with a majestic sweep of a perfectly manicured hand, are revolting. Not literally of course. Rather they are rebelling against two decades of miserable minimalism.
‘In the midst of the scariest outside world we have ever faced, people want to create a home that’s going to recharge their batteries, to make them feel cocooned and safe, a space that’s not only comfortable but has a strong sense of self,’ says LLB, whose new book – More, More, More – celebrates the need for maximalism in our homes.
‘During the pandemic, thanks to years of chilly-faced so-called experts telling you to fold your pants into fortune cookies and paint your walls in the perfect shade of taupe linen, people found themselves locked into grey cells of their own making, trapped in boxes of nothingness.
‘You are never going to be happy in a home that is a nightmarish, high-maintenance cold cube with so much glass and shiny floors that it’s incredibly difficult and expensive to heat. Especially in the midst of an energy crisis.
‘We are now living in a world that is seriously not nice, but it’s a world that happens outside – so when you close your front door after a day from hell, you have an opportunity to reorder your little corner of the planet to be whatever you want it to be.’
Here, LLB shares his top tips on maxing out your home in a recession…
Trust your taste
There’s no such thing as good taste or bad taste – just your taste and my taste (mine is obviously much better than yours, BTW.) Sadly, we have become a nation congested with stuff in storage because the beige merchants have told the masses they are not allowed to have anything of colour or interest in their homes! So, they keep that old chair they inherited from granny hidden under the stairs.
It’s time to start a conversation with every object in your home to see if it needs to be in your life. I bought a glass and I have a whole list of reasons why I like it; it works in the dishwasher, it’s a bit fancy, looks unusual, it was also very cheap so if it breaks I won’t be upset.
Have a bonfire of the vanities of your belongings and if you can’t bear to look at granny’s chair because she was a harridan, then get rid of it because someone else will love it.
That’s what’s so wonderful about the whole circular ethos of selling things on eBay or donating to charity, as someone can appreciate what you now longer need – plus then it won’t end up in landfill… own too much stuff by all means but own it thoughtfully, own it respectfully and above all, know why you own it.
Modernism hated the idea that people could make things for themselves. But for hundreds of years that’s how homes were made; mum darned socks, dad painted the living room and you’d recover a chair, not simply replace it.
Decorating something shows you love it. Embellishing anything carries an immediate association that it’s something special. Hang some wallpaper, make a cushion cover, sew some curtains.
LLB’s 10 commandments of maximalism
Don’t buy that designer vase for £300 – display the one you inherited from Auntie Fanny instead because it’s got heart and soul. Our homes should be conglomerations of incredibly emotional objects that make us feel happy.
Put treasures on show
Our grandparents didn’t have cupboards. In fact, fitted kitchens didn’t even exist before the Second World War – everything was on display on shelves.
Not only was that more practical, they were also proud of what they had and wanted to show it off. And granny would arrange everything nicely with all the cups facing forward so you saw the pattern and all the glasses were arranged beautifully.
Why hide things away in a cupboard? If you love something, love it like it’s Ming! All the obsessive love you might devote to a museum-quality Italian ceramic, give that to the pink plaster of Paris flamingo that you won at the fair. Because the important thing here is not how much it costs, it’s how much it means to you.
Cosy does it
We live in a big old house and we’ve really started cutting back on the heating and consumption of power. Sure we can all put on another jumper – but if you really want to make a room feel warmer, use colour.
Paint a beige room red or green or dark blue and add chatty pictures to the walls, beautiful cushions on the sofa and layer a wooden floor with rugs. Hang a pair of velvet curtains to keep out the drafts, pull the furniture away from the walls and more into the middle of the room and light a few candles. That’s bloody cosy!
This is what people used to do but modernism has always been about the now and the future. Learning lessons from the past is the future.
Stop buying new
Minimalism may sound like you don’t own anything. The truth is it’s a conspicuous consumer of stuff and space and technology and terribly bad for the planet, as things aren’t allowed to get old.
If you really want to shop responsibly, look at preloved on the internet, check out thrift shops and antique fairs. People have no idea how cheap antiques are now – you can buy a Georgian wardrobe for £200.
Go to a thrift store and spend £45 on something 100 years old that has been created with skill by a craftsman and been polished and loved by three or four people before you found it. A £25 preloved spend on eBay and a lick of paint can make a spectacular difference to the way a room feels.
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