Things we do for love
Have you ever used the services of an interior decorator? I never have, which has led to some regrettable mistakes over the years. Spending a lot of money on pink and purple psychedelic curtains was akin to having a boyfriend’s initials tattooed on my left breast and then falling out of love. We lived with those curtains for years, buying furniture and fittings that toned with them, even investing in a large pink, purple and blue abstract oil painting of the Sussex countryside.
When the Lockwood franchise offered the services of an interior decorator I thought, why not? Anita has been marvellous, helping me choose fabrics, fittings, colours and carpets. No use asking Harry. Fabric and carpets are of little interest to him and, besides, I think he’s colour blind. Just before Christmas I finalised the colour schemes: everything toned beautifully with the blond wood walls and I chose creams and greys with a very fashionable pomegranate for the woodburner and the bench in the scullery.
Over Christmas, however, I began to think a pomegranate bench wasn’t me. In a reckless move, I emailed the kitchen consultant and told her I wanted a bright orange benchtop in the scullery, then I emailed Anita and admitted this heinous departure from the beautiful muted colour scheme. I told her that I will always keep the scullery door closed so that the orange doesn’t interfere with the rest of the house.
When people employ interior decorators they avoid taking risks that might end in catastrophe. The result is a perfectly colour-coordinated house. I like the odd risk; I like riding my bicycle without a helmet so I can feel the wind in my hair. My scullery will be the wind in my hair. I’m going to buy an iridescent blue tea set and search for a kaleidoscopic painting to hang on the wall. I will shut myself away in the scullery with Bertha the bread mixer and I will be regrettably me.
In my former house I had a sky blue kitchen bench with a rimu bullnose edging. I used to arrange garden produce on it. Lemons, carrots, apples, feijoas and tomatoes all glowed against that background, as did our large ginger cat. Now I have a 5cm-thick golden rimu bench, complete with knotholes. It means my house looks more Hobbiton than Auckland, but this astonishing, ancient bench was one of the reasons I bought the place. If Bilbo and Frodo should visit one day for tea and scones, they’ll feel right at home.
I have old golden leadlights in the bedroom bay windows. My family loathe them. I like them, and the way the sun streams through them. I am choosing the fabric for the bedrooms with this golden light in mind. But I haven’t used an interior decorator. I go to one of my cupboards and haul out old curtains and bedspreads and bits of fabric. I am one of those who keep old fabric. I found two perfectly good silk saris – golden with green sprigs on them – that I bought in Fiji years ago. They will do.
But far more precious than the golden leadlights or the golden benchtop are the floorboards. The old floor was rotten and has been replaced with recycled kauri boards. They are my new love. I am on my hands and knees oiling them every few weeks. Thank goodness grandson Tane is crawling; he unwittingly polishes them daily. They are gradually becoming burnished.
You have to protect the things you love. I protect my floor from high-fashion women, pouncing on female visitors who wear stiletto heels. Men carefully and slowly remove their boots or shoes and leave them in the porch. Women clatter in, trip-trap, clicketty-clack, noisy as the three billy goats going over the bridge where the big troll lies in wait underneath. I think of myself as that big troll. Or maybe I’m Smaug, the dragon, guarding my golden hoard.