Surviving taste shaming

Surviving taste shaming

Surviving taste shaming

Are you among the surprisingly large tribe of homeowners who press the panic button when they realise that the ‘tasteful friends’ are coming round? Shane Watson tells you what not to do

I  don’t know where you are on the decorative taste spectrum. You may be one of the charmed ones who instinctively know how to place things in a room. You may have the gift of grouping pictures on walls, mixing patterns, and choosing the right size lampshades. Alternatively, you may, like me, be the kind of person who gets half a room looking ok, lets the rest drift, and then panics when you realise the ‘tasteful friends’ (TF) are coming round, and there is nowhere to hide.

The TFs can’t help but judge. They’re like chefs with highly refined palates — they wince at crude combinations and lack of balance (balance is a big one). They cannot fathom why you have put that with that, or how you can live with that picture frame. So, in the hours before they turn up, you dash about rearranging shelves (bloody shelves! They look like tombola stalls!), lighting candles, regretting
the cushion that was meant to provide an ‘accent’ of colour, and the lamp that seemed very Scandi designer, but now appears to be a standard fixture in all Foxtons branches.

Having no clue

Taste shaming is the worst. Who cares about being outed as not remotely houseproud (our mothers’ deepest fear). But being exposed as the person who can’t see that the picture is too small to ‘work’ above the fireplace and the rug is completely wrong for the room... that is social death. I have in the past taken to sending my friend Sarah short videos of my room arrangements for her approval (“shall I move the mirror up?”) but she has been unavailable lately for the kind of commitment I require. Which is why I am delighted to report that there’s another solution, in the form of lamp designer Helena Barrowcliff.

I discovered her by accident. Resolving to sort out my living areas with a couple of new lamps, and having been told by one of the TFs about a website called TMO Lighting, I phoned to place an order, and got Helena. Something about my dithering made her cross examine me before letting me buy. Then she made me email her photographs of the rooms in need of lamping, and it was at this point that she announced she was coming up from Dorset in a van packed with lamps to ‘play’, which turns out to be shorthand for performing decorative surgery. This I had not bargained for but it was clear that this was a bit like Vita Sackville West deciding to nip over and sort out your herbaceous borders. You don’t say no.

Naturally, I did the usual panic rearranging before her arrival. I needn’t have bothered. She walked through the door, saw some glasses on a round table and said “Do we really need these ‘displayed’?”. She prowled around casting her gimlet eye over everything, now and then moving a chair or wandering off with a standard lamp. “You’re not really a lampseller at all!” I observed as she told me the desk should be moved and the ottoman despatched downstairs.

A tip, if you accidentally call in an expert taste shamer — surrender. Yes, someone you have only just met is rescaping your surroundings, when all you wanted was a lamp, but they’ve got a very good eye and excellent taste, whereas you’ve got two very average eyes and haven’t managed to pull it all together in five years. You have angostura bitters splattered on your sitting room wall and loose covers that have shrunk so they don’t do up. You need to know when your horse has come in.

A couple of hours later, she was gone leaving me with two enormous lamps, four shades (two hand painted on spec-based on the iPhone pictures) and £600 poorer. Since then, I’ve had a couple of emails suggesting I move one painting, and sell my sofa, and my husband has been giving me admiring glances. You don’t get that from a visit to the lighting department in John Lewis.

The Telegraph

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