Monday, May 17

Ikea to Lulu via John Lewis: The Short Lifespan of Interior Design at No. 10 | Carrie Symonds

Wallfashion Bureau, a group representing the British wallpaper industry, was insulted. Derry Irvine, the first of Tony Blair’s chancellors, had advocated spending £ 59,000 on handmade wallpaper. on the basis that “these are quality materials, capable of lasting 60 or 70 years. You’re not talking about something at the DIY store that might collapse after a year or so. “

“As an industry,” the office’s Terry Langstroth responded, “we produce high-quality products that can cost a fraction of the price you’re paying.”

This was in 1998, but memories of Irvine’s wallpaper – part of a £ 650,000 makeover of his official apartment in the House of Lords – have haunted the body politic ever since. It’s modest compared to the £ 200,000 that Carrie Symonds is reportedly spending on the flat she shares with Boris Johnson in Downing Street. Not that the prime minister sees it that way: His problem is that the Johnson-Symonds family budget will take most of the hit. Irvine’s interiors were funded by taxpayers.

Theresa May with her husband Philip and advisers in their 10th floor, in the middle of a decoration discarded as
Theresa May with her husband Philip and advisers in their 10th floor, in the middle of a decoration dismissed as “John Lewis taste.” Photography: Steve Back

So you’ve apparently floated the idea of ​​setting up a charity, whereby friendly donors can pull you out of the financial hole created by home improvement. It appears to be loosely inspired by the White House Historical Association, a privately funded non-profit organization established by Jackie Kennedy in 1961, whose mission is to “protect, preserve, and provide public access to the rich history of the Executive of the United States. “. Mansion. “He typically spends $ 1 million to $ 2 million a year renovating the White House.

As with so many gasps from Johnson, his idea sucks. There is the possibility of flagrant conflicts of interest: who is to believe, in a world where there are no free lunches, that there will be no quid pro quo for someone who subsidizes what anonymous “friends” call “exquisite taste … classic, stunning, elegant and chic ”? Or, as Johnson is said to have put it, her spending“ totally out of control ”.

Carrie Symonds spending is
Carrie Symonds’ spending is “totally out of control,” Boris Johnson joked. Photograph: Victoria Jones / AFP / Getty Images

It would also be an exaggeration to justify the expense on property grounds, as Irvine did. You could claim that only the wallpaper in this spec would respect the architectural masterpiece it was hung on, the Palace of Westminster. Melania Trump could justify for similar reasons the $ 300,000 renovation of Scalamandré’s crimson silk walls in the Red Room of the White House. But there is no evidence that the Symonds suite, even though it is said to have been “inspired” by “celebrated eco-designer” Lulu Lytle, will make a comparable contribution to design history.

The nation, in the form of a suitably deferential post, has yet to be invited into the renovated home of Boris, Carrie, and little Wilfred, so it’s hard to compare its furnishings to the chartreuse yellow couch Samantha Cameron was on. in the photo chatting with Michelle Obama, or with the impassive gray object that Gordon Brown used to perch on. We know little else that will differ from the “John Lewis” taste of former occupants Theresa and Philip May.

Otherwise, we will have to rely on some speculative articles about the inspiring Lytle. He likes to “mix old-time glamor with bold, modern colors,” according to the Evening standard. Above all, he likes rattan, a material that the article mentions by name 12 times; in fact, it is “the savior of British rattan”. So there will be no equivalent to Irvine’s offense to the wallpaper industry, when it comes to rattan.

It will probably turn out to be a more striking notch than the interiors of previous headlines. This is not saying much, as prime ministers and their spouses always have to swing agonizingly between defending the dignity of their office and looking like ordinary people who cannot spend large amounts of taxpayer money at home. Those Cameron interiors, for example, combined a moderately high-end kitchen and an Arco lamp, a classic design from 1962, with Ikea cabinets and plain shelves filled with DVDs.

The question of ministerial accommodation occupies the complicated border territory between its private and public figures. Margaret Thatcher was reluctant to allow her Chancellor Geoffrey Howe to replace the “antediluvian” kitchen at 11 Downing Street, though she would later have the classicist architect Quinlan Terry remodel the more ceremonial spaces of No. 10 with Inigo-style ornamental plasterwork. Jones. The difference between the two could have been a reflection of their growing grandeur, but also a distinction between the personal world of Howe’s kitchen and the official realm of Terry Salons.

Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron at the Downing Street private residence during the US President's state visit in 2011.
Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron at the Downing Street private residence during the US President’s state visit in 2011. Photography: REUTERS

In fact, there are sane arrangements to deal with these problems: Prime ministers can spend £ 30,000 of public money on their official accommodation, after which they have to finance the improvements themselves, as the Camerons did. The question has only become problematic due to the expense of Symonds’ rattan-tastic taste combined with the damage done to Johnson’s finances by his divorce and the loss of a lucrative newspaper column, along with his consequent attempt to raise cash with a cheeky serving a knockoff of Jackie Kennedy’s invention.

All of this will be puzzling and fun for the Erdogans and Putins who might one day entertain themselves in Downing Street, who don’t think of spending much larger amounts on their luxurious palaces by the water. Britain can be grateful that our leaders are still not on their level. But Johnson’s bogus charity is a step in his direction.

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