May 2, 2020
January 15, 2014
My parents have been doing a spot of “decorating” and so keen to see the result, off to visit I went. Apparently, the fabulously swirly whirly 1980s Axminster carpet (endlessly justified as “it’s very good quality”) had been replaced, and a sludge brown bathroom suite had finally been jettisoned (“it was so exciting at the time to have all those colour choices!”) plus some repainting and numerous re-hanging of mirrors, paintings and so forth had been actioned. However I sensed a touch of nervousness before the big reveal. But then it seems to be a side effect of my job, often witnessed when visiting those I don’t know well, sometimes friends, but rarely my own family: fear of interiors judgment. Despite the fact that 1/ I’m off duty, and 2/ When visiting someone’s home, it’s the way you’d made to feel in it, not what it looks like that really matters.
But considering ELLE Decoration dedicates the meat and potatoes of the magazine to the portrayal of gloriously perfect visions of ideal homes, I suspect that reads a little contradictory. So let me explain. Yes, we absolutely feature houses that contain only exquisite combinations of colour, texture and object; in short, the world’s most beautiful homes, but they are there to give you inspiration and ideas in order to help you make your home your own. I certainly don’t live in a home quite like these (I seem to be missing either an uninterrupted view over a Swiss lake or an extra storey, but still), and neither do most people I know, but that’s not the point. Inspiration can come from many places, but rarely by looking backwards/beneath you.
Besides, happy-home-creation is nearly always the result of anything goes as long as it’s done consistently, professionally and has nothing to do with theming. I add the latter as I recall my mother attempting the technique of “sponging” in a small bathroom once in an attempt to “lift” a spectacularly inept paint job. I cried with laughter as she explained her futile pursuit, begging her not to paint over it before I’d had a chance to see it. She had been intent on a “watery” theme. Think aquamarine blue, fish-print tiles and an odd-shaped mirror. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, no good lies for anyone along the path of theming. Children’s rooms being the only permissible exception; and I’ll write about them another time.
And so back to my parent’s abode. I’ve often mused on whether an obsession with pot placement and my colour-specific fussiness is nature or nurture. Apparently, I designed and edited my first magazine at the age of eight. It was recently found in the attic. I was rather shocked. There was an editor’s letter, some puzzles, little features, even a hand-drawn cartoon, all neatly stuck onto squared paper. I couldn’t decide if this was amazing, or rather dispiriting, that my career path had seemingly been hard-wired in from the start. And while the subject matter of this magazine was not interiors, moving my room around had long been a source of some considerable inconvenience for my poor parents. I’d always, it has been alleged, been quite particular about where things should go. Thus, through successive childhood bedrooms, university halls of residence, first rented flat onto (and then onwards from) marital home, everything would be shunted, shifted and repainted until it was just so. Training as an architect while continuing to nurture my love of magazines kind of mapped out the rest, but was it always in my DNA?
Certainly there are a few family mantras that I’ve never forgotten: “Buy the best you can afford” and “Choose quality over quantity.” And I definitely inherited a need for order and the desire to file, as well as a respect for print, specifically hard-back books, encyclopaedias, atlases and newspapers. But I’ve never understood the necessity of TV cabinets, baskets of pot pourri (in fact little baskets of anything), chess, allowing the cat to take the comfiest chair, not fully utilising ones central heating, “best” china, lacy doilies of any permutation, wall-hung plates, Lowry paintings or beanbags.
However, on arriving à la Maison Ogundehin senior, it appears that a little interiors influence has actually crossed back across the generations: my often repeated assertion that certain things should always be white (loo roll, tissues, crockery, bathroom suites); the importance of non-hoarding in a loft, and that three-for-one offers are not necessarily your friend. Nevertheless, my parent’s home remains stubbornly and uniquely their own, as it should housing their history of our family. Sure it’ll never make the pages of ELLE Decoration but I love visiting, it feels homely, has lots of cushions, and now has lovely, calm cream carpets throughout too!
Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.