A friend mentioned recently that she was thinking of buying a divan bed complete with padded headboard – it made me smile. This friend is as stylish as they come and her bedrooms over the years have been graced by the latest bedsteads in iron, leather and linen. But, sick of creaky springs, Ikea sized mattresses, wobbly frames and an uncomfortable reading position, she has decided that a divan may just be the way to go. Who would have thought it?
And what other mother-knows-best choices are we returning to? I must confess I have started to think a good ‘parlour’ is an attractive idea: none of that scrabbling around when the doorbell goes kicking underwear, newspapers and toys under the couch and bundling unwashed cups and glasses into the kitchen where you hope your unexpected guest won’t follow. Open plan living is popular with parents of toddlers who maybe don’t realise they’ll soon be fighting for space with huffy young adults who no longer go to bed at 7 and have an insatiable appetite for reality tv. Furniture on steel legs, which perhaps drew a sneer from your mother, looks good but it is distracting, as you try to relax, to have under-the-sofa dust and debris staring back at you. Lots of glass to let in the light is the modern way but when low winter sun streams in highlighting smears and fingerprints, it doesn’t seem such a bright idea.
Ditto the surfeit of bathrooms in contemporary homes – the height of luxury until you have your hand down four u-bends in one day. And who isn’t sick of replacing cheap items of furniture that have broken, turned out to be unfit for purpose or we have simply gone off? Our parents lived with good solid furniture they often inherited rather than chose but it was comfortable and it lasted. Make do and mend, waste not want not, recycling and preserving possessions with prosaic items such as coasters and tablecloths are all habits which seemed tedious when the previous generation practised them but have come back into vogue.
But perhaps the useful practice we can readopt is to see our house as just a house rather than a style statement, identity or raison d’etre. Maybe it’s time to show off less and simplify: for example kitchens used to be basic, practical spaces for making the tea – some modern kitchens look as if you could perform open heart surgery in them and boast batteries de cuisine top restaurants would envy. Perhaps mother, or her mother even, really did know best: electric fires, woollen blankets and crisp cotton sheets, teapots with cosies, summer and winter curtains, cleaning days and wash days, routines, fish on Fridays, corded telephones, melamine dishes, formica topped tables, cod liver oil, drying greens – all a bit dull and passe but tried and tested and coming to a contemporary home near you.
Vintage styling and design has been reclaimed but what about vintage functionality? Which mother-knows-best tips will you be revisiting to make your life run more simply? We’d love to hear.