A Room of One's Loan
Confession: Sometimes I purposely cancel plans with friends on a Friday night, but I have a very good reason for doing so. Friday night is when free-to-air television hits auto-play on every single BBC Lifestyle show ever produced.
The night of programming starts with Antiques Roadshow and with any luck the opening credits will roll just as my Pad Thai takeaway arrives. It’s a pleasant start to the evening’s proceedings because nothing tastes better with mirin-soaked-noodles than the look of devastation when a Roadshow hopeful is told their third generation Bunnykins music box is worth exactly the same price as the Pad Thai you’re eating.
It’s onto Escape to the Country next, where middle-aged couples dream of a tree change and fumble their way through prospective cottages in towns they’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce. It’s about this point in most episodes when the couple realises perhaps they misjudged city life and the joy that comes with cappuccinos made entirely out of froth. They decide to stay put, and resolve that perhaps they are more ‘day trip people’ instead of ‘country folk’.
The BBC degustation finally draws to an end with Restoration Home presented by Caroline Quentin, who is never-not-seen without a cotton scarf looped a minimum of three times around her neck. This show follows homeowners of decrepit, historical properties and restoring them to 21st Century glory. It’s the show where armoires go to die.
My obsession with home makeover shows isn’t a recent development that has come with age, rather it started when my parents presented me with the greatest civil liberty an ten-year-old could ever receive: the honour of the bedroom makeover.
Up until this point my bedroom was what you would expect of a young girl in the 1990s: a single bed with Disney-themed duvet, artwork consisting mainly of paper tooling fairies in ornate frames, a third generation Bunnykins music box, and a Ferrari convertible filled with Barbies who were always bickering over whose turn it was to date the only Ken doll in my collection.
Now the time had come to step up my bedroom game.
My parents told me very seriously that I had a very important decision to make, one that I would have to live with for the next five to eight years. I was to choose a colour for my dad to paint my bedroom.
As a family we went off to the hardware store and immediately I collected paint chips in every colour. While I masked my greediness as dutiful paint colour research, really I was collecting the paint chips because they made for excellent fake business cards to hand out on the playground at little lunch.
The truth actually was I knew what colour I was going to choose before I even smelt the sausage sizzle in the car park. I was going to choose Dulux’s ‘Parisian Purple’, a soft lilac with the echoes of a balmy European night. Noni Hazelhurst had deemed purple the new ‘it’ colour on Better Homes and Gardens, and who was I to argue. Remember this was the woman who taught me how to read and now she was teaching me how to decorate.
My parents were expecting a lesser colour, a lemon gelato or pastel pink, anything but purple. But when you make a promise to a child you must keep that promise, even if the chosen colour begs to ruin the entire interior DNA of your home or raise the interest rate on your mortgage due to offensiveness. One drop sheet, a sausage in bread, and a 10L can of ‘Parisian Paris’ later and my bedroom makeover was about to begin.
We cleared out my bedroom and my dad taped up the walls. The first rule of home painting is: Protect the Tudor-style cornice. This was to stay an impartial white or as my parents sold it to me as a ‘contrasting effect’.
The first lick of ‘Parisian Paris’ hit the wall, and up and down the paint roller went, evenly coating my new boudoir. In the time it took for the first, second and third coats of paint to be complete, I had precisely planned how I would casually reveal at school that over the weekend I had moved into The Purple Room, a place with similar prestige to The White House.
I was forced to camp out in my sister's bedroom at the end of day one while the paint dried. My parents were already concerned I was dying of excitement, they didn’t want the paint fumes to interfere.
Waking up on day two of the bedroom makeover was about as thrilling as life gets when you are a kid. We moved my furniture back into the room, but it didn’t match. I was no longer a Disney-duvet-kind-of-girl, I was Noni’s progeny. I needed to be as adult as a ten-year-old could be, I needed to visit the children’s linen section of Adairs immediately. By the end of day two, the final day of the makeover, I was tucked into bed in my new floral linen (in a mature purple palette of course).
Over the next year, as my parents would make much needed cosmetic changes to our family home, I jumped on the bandwagon. At 11, I was the world’s youngest interior designer, having successfully convinced my parents I needed purple Edwardian drapes, a purple glitter lava lamp, and a magenta desk (for a ‘contrasting effect’). I even owned a beret that I’d deliberately forget to take off when I was back inside, just to add legitimacy to my ‘Parisian Purple’ lifestyle.
By the time I was 12 and had opened my Edwardian drapes and clumsily tied them up for the one millionth time, the harsh light of day and even harsher light of reality had presented itself.
I wasn’t living in The Purple Room, I was living in The Purple Prison. Suddenly the old Disney duvet wasn’t so bad and the lava lamp disappeared to the study. While I could move the small things around and out of sight, I was stuck with the walls indefinitely. This wasn’t a room of my own anymore, this was a room on loan to me by my parents, and a lifelong lesson that less is more. Now I sit back and watch people make the same mistake every Friday.
This story was originally published in Incu Edition Summer 2016.