This very traditional room is an especial favourite of mine for two reasons. First, have wanted to do something with shells indoors for a long time. Second, this room is in our house. It may be a super trade, but it wins admiring looks from anyone spending any time sitting in it. What more could one ask? Such a room can demand the uninterrupted attention of a captive audience, and (especially important, this), because of its size, merits your spending a little more time on its decoration. This principle extends to the details and accessories as well. As pointed out elsewhere in this book, the smaller space and the longer the time people spend in it (both these are true of bathrooms and toilets), the greater the effort you must put into the detail.
But as to the total effort and slog involved, smaller rooms mercifully mean it’s done a lot quicker. I would have been completely fazed by having to undertake a shellwork scheme in a living room. Even a bathroom would have meant a back-breaking amount of work. But in a room this size (generous for a loo), the task was manageable. Moreover, it meant that budgets could be kept to a reasonable level: in this case, the decor cost just £200. When he saw the toile toilet finished, a friend of mine grumbled that if it were his, he would find it impossible to clean. But all the decoration is at the top of the room and less likely to gather dust. And my vacuum blows as well as sucks.
The tented ceiling
I have only tented a ceiling once in my life: and that was for this book. And I can tell you that it is not particularly difficult, especially in a small room. However, finding a suitable fabric was more of a problem. I could have hunted the world over and not found a shell-motif paper or fabric that I like. So the alternative was to find one that suited the very eighteenth-century quality that the shellwork would have. The answer came in the form of a toile de Jouy which has a loose, charming design of peasants flirting in bucolic merriment. This would be just the job: light and joyful.
I also needed a design that was made in the matching paper (for the walls) and fabric (for the ceiling). It is surprising how few commercial ranges of paper and fabrics truly match, usually because they are printed in different factories using different inks and dyes. After embarking upon a search, we soon came upon just the thing and, even better, it was one of the cheapest of its kind on the market.
Attention to Details
This room is even smaller than a bathroom, and consequently, no wall is ever more than a matter of inches away from the eye. And because the loo is a room in which rumination and even concentration occur, any guest’s eye will be inspecting the quality of finish and the menu of detail in this room, all in order to keep themselves occupied during their visit. Do not let them down, but put all your efforts into decorating this room to achieve the highest possible spec that you can.
In this case, we stripped the old copper water pipes in the room back to the metal and then polished them up to a decidedly Edwardian standard of a mirror finish. Apart from anything else, doing things like this will afford you enormous pleasure, knowing that you’ve decorated at least one room in the house to the best possible standard.
One way of surprising people is to tread a slightly different route. Not a radical one that is often designed just to shock or deride, but a lateral route that will make them think, ‘that’s really clever’. The usual reason for doing this is because the professional decorator has spent the entire budget and so has to find a clever solution using materials to hand. Each example on these pages does just that and, not only are the ideas different, they are also good practical solutions to tricky problems. It has to be said that using materials in new ways is one of the most satisfying elements of interior design.