Once again I’ve packed my travel bag with suitably televisual clothes and hit the road for filming. This year I’m shooting a fifth series of C5’s House Doctor but also a brand new show for BBC1 called Cash in the Attic which means I’m living in hotels, trains and people’s front rooms for the next 2 months solid.
Not that I’m complaining. I quite like life on the road and, infact, the stripped-down lifestyle of suitcase-living highlights my work on both shows.
The main thrust of House Doctor, for example, is that “less is more”. Ann and the team go into houses that usually aren’t selling because they’re full to bulging with clutter. And in order to make them more appealing to a wide audience we pare them down to a neutral, simple décor. I call this the Way of Concision.
Setting up home in my hotel room each night has a similar concise feel. The clothes come out of the suitcase onto hangers, the toiletries go by the sink and the computer gets plugged in. And there’s much about the simplicity of a hotel room that appeals. They are designed to please the broadest congregation of customers, just like Ann Maurice’s make-overs on the show.
But where House Doctor helps us simplify our homes, my new show Cash in the Attic has a different emphasis.
As the name suggests, the show involves visiting a family who need to raise some money and rifling through their possessions to find things that would raise a few bob at auction. This means that although we’re often dealing with the same sort of hoarders and compulsive clutterers, in this show we’re celebrating the stuff they’ve collected by turning it into cash.
So for example, one lady from Somerset had been collecting odd teacups and single chipped vases from charity shops for 20 years. Her family were starting to rebel because they hadn’t been able to shove their way into the dining room for the last decade. With the expert eyes of my valuer colleague we sorted out £500 worth of treasure. The colourful stuff that people collect around themselves is what I call the Way of Profusion.
Profusion and Concision are the two poles of home design. And you can’t have too much of one without the other. A home that is all stripped surfaces and chrome fittings lacks a heart and a home filled to the gunnels with mildewy junk lacks life. So as I’ve been whizzing round the British Isles I’ve been contemplating the balance you need.
Room by room it would look like this.
Concise Kitchens have clean worksurfaces with only the things you use on a daily basis out on display. The plugs are next to the appliances that need them and the chopping board is next to the knives you chop with. Profuse Kitchens have the same sensible skeleton but are fleshed out with all the things that make kitchens live. The bowls of sleek aubergines and zucchinis, the dish of scented lemons and the huge proliferation of jars containing pulses, beans and spices all give a sense of nutritious abundance.
Consise Bedrooms are fresh and peaceful. The bedlinen is crisp and there are no clothes scattered across the carpet. Most importantly, in terms of Feng Shui, there isn’t a hundredweight of junk under the bed itself. Empty space under beneath your sleeping head guarantees healthy and wholesome sleep apparently. Again Profuse Bedrooms take the sensible core of the the Consise and fill it up. Bedrooms should be a personal space, so frame photos of the people the make you feel warm and wonderful inside and stick them on your bedroom walls. Fill the space with luxurious fabrics if that’s what makes you feel sensuous and secure and make sure that the room’s warm. Nothing worse than going to bed cold.
Profuse Bathrooms continue that theme of pampering yourself. They should be bulging with soft, fluffy towels (Throw out all those thin scratchy ones immediately) and awash with colour co-ordinated toiletries, nightcreams, bubble baths and assorted
The Consise Bathroom obviously wants to be equally appealing but – because bathrooms are often small and windowless – more practical. Clear out all the out-of-date prescriptions from your medicine cabinet and use it to store more practical stuff like toilet rolls, new toothpaste and deodorant. Keep surfaces clear so you can wash down all that damp fluff that builds up in bathrooms. And rip up that carpet! Only the British have carpets in their bathrooms.
Finally, the Consise Livingroom doesn’t have to be souless but it should be sensible. Don’t have 6 uncomfortable armchairs just because you inherited them. Sell or ditch them and buy one really comfortable one instead. Make sure the paths across the room aren’t obstacle courses of coffee tables and magazine racks and don’t let clutter take over. Throw out those old papers and piles of mail that spring up like mushrooms.
The line between clutter and a Profusion in the Livingroom is a fine one. But seeing people’s houses on Cash in the Attic has shown me that not everyone likes to live like a monk. Fine porcelain and antique furniture can bring you immense delight. Just don’t drown it in oceans of patterned wallpaper or swamp it in shelfloads of tat.
Remember consise or profuse, your home must make you feel peaceful and at ease. So swing between both poles and live beautifully!