I’m no tortured, winsome aesthete; I just like my surroundings to be lovely. I am living in the land of the ugly things. Is there a bye law decreeing that newbuilds must be uniform in their hideous awfulness?
Newbuild complexes are crushing cities countrywide. They are bleak, and blank. One allegedly luxurious development is covered in beige ceramic tiles. It resembles a tribute to the Arndale Centre, which in turn, paid homage to the artistic principles exemplified by municipal urinals.
Victorian city warehouses and even Edwardian tenements were built from attractive red brick and carved sandstone. They stand majestically, still coveted and much loved. Older buildings enhance the architectural beauty of an area. They have names, and their date of completion is lovingly and proudly displayed. They feature carved symbolic relief, and contrasting brickwork.
Newbuilds are identikit flat-packs. They’re not even lego blocks, but duplo, dropped onto a brownfield site with no thought of what they might contribute to the area in terms of pleasing appearance. Oh – forgive me – some have wooden panelling on the outside, so they look like residential Mini Clubmen.
Once inside, the walls are bland, the bath fittings are bland, the people are bland. As evidence of someone’s moment of madness, the carpets are beige. Decorating rules disdain the basic human need for pleasing surroundings.
Landlords forbid us from nailing pictures or any other decoration to the walls, as we are then obliged to cover any resulting holes with filler, and repaint the entire room. This is slightly unreasonable, and I’ve given up on hanging pictures, as when you move around so much, my life would be like that of the men toiling on The Forth Bridge, with never ending emulsion.
Imagine the potential for trouble caused simply by putting up some shelves. If flats are furnished, they are provided with a cursory bookshelf, as newbuilds renters neither read, nor collect CD’s or games. I’m starting a campaign to reinstate the picture rail. Your granny’s house will have had one: a thin wooden rail around the room, allowing for pictures to be hung without damaging the walls. Renters could add their own touch of home, without gouging out the thin, eminently gougable plaster board dividing walls.
It used to be the case that owners permitted new tenants paint the walls of their new home (you know – the one we pay to live in) even allowing us a week rent free to pay for paint, but now live in fear of colour. That bloody American woman has flooded our world with neutral tones. It’s like living in the waiting room of a secure unit. Flats and their foyers are decorated in a climate of fear, both of colour and personalising adornment, indeed anything shiny, bright and happy, visually stimulating or interesting. It’s not that we want fuchsia walls, but we can’t even put up our own curtains, as they never even provide a curtain rail. In fact, we are forbidden from using curtain rails as they will leave holes in the ceiling. It defies belief.
It’s so tempting to go out with a flourish, and embellish my flat, the foyer and lifts with a lavish freeform technicolour modern mural. If I’m going to lose my deposit, then I’m going to do it in style.