When I was 14 I decided to give my bedroom an exotic makeover. I painted the walls turmeric yellow, the ceiling cobalt blue and the skirting boards a rich shade of pink Dulux called “Rajasthan”. My bed, also in “Rajasthan”, was hidden behind a lime-green silk curtain, and my canvas wardrobe was decorated with gold-stencilled stars. It was magnificent. A couple of years later, a glamorous aunt visited our house for the first time in a while. I led her proudly to my room and waited for her verdict. “Hmm yes,” she said, her gaze resting on the brass incense diffusor dangling from the ceiling. “I suppose Moroccan-style decor was quite fashionable in the late Nineties.”
Interiors date slower than clothes – people don’t repaint their house or replace their sofa twice a year – but, as I learnt the hard way, some interiors date quicker than others. If you pride yourself on your good taste, there are few things worse than watching a TV sitcom and realising that your carefully chosen furnishings resemble a set-designer’s vision of a middle-class home. Thankfully, there are simple ways to maximise the lifespan of your living room.
1. Avoid fashionable wall colours. A couple who live near me have just painted their (curtainless) open-plan kitchen in millennial pink. It might look fresh now, but when the next hot shade arrives they’ll be left with walls the colour of a cafeteria in an old-people’s home. Grey, especially when offset with flashes of yellow, is already looking a bit tired. Unless you are very confident with colour, it’s safest to stick with boring white.
2. Approach buying second-hand furniture as you would stocks and shares. Trust your instincts: if you think £2,000 seems steep for a “vintage” Ikea chair, you’re probably right. Rather than going with the herd, hunt for solid, well-made pieces from eras that are out of fashion. Streamlined 19th-century furniture can complement mid-century designs nicely.
3. Mix up styles and periods. Don’t buy everything from the same brand, don’t buy only 1960s teak. Be brave and combine light and dark woods. Avoid themes: don’t go all-out industrial or New England or Scandi. If you have a lot of Danish furniture, don’t get a geometric rug – buy a Persian carpet instead.
4. Customise your decor: a house with personality will date slower than a bland show-home. Source cheerful doorknobs. John Betjeman, a British poet, livened up his flowery William Morris wallpaper with stickers of butterflies and insects. But think twice before smothering solid wood in chalk paint and don’t even contemplate paint effects. It’s called distressed furniture for a reason.
5. Start collecting art and decorative arts, or anything that you can show off. Invest in work from up-and-coming artists, or handmade pots, or antique glass, or Victorian curiosities. Some friends of mine have a beautifully displayed assortment of rocks. A growing collection means your home is always evolving.
6. Remember that impractical trends will die out sooner. There is a reason why chicken-wire fronts on kitchen cabinets went out of fashion. Bi-fold doors are great when fully open, but if you live in a cooler climate, for most of the year you’ll be left with messy-looking half-open doors which take up a lot of patio space. Arranging books by colour might look pretty on Pinterest, but will expose you as a fashion victim who doesn’t actually read.
7. Keep an eye on what other people are doing with their homes, and do something different. If your friend has redone their bathroom with oblong subway tiles, go for square ones. If everyone on your street is buying plantation shutters, get curtains.
8. Don’t worry if an interiors magazine tells you that brass is the new copper or that the chicest floors have terrazzo tiles. There’s a whole industry that depends on making people think they’re behind the curve. Have confidence in your own choices and if you can’t be bothered to redecorate, hold firm: one day your grandchildren will be looking to your home for design inspiration.