Return of the Living Dead Room

They say that fashions come in cycles, and it's true. But you always have that glimmer of hope that some things won't come back. I had the vaguely optimistic feeling that the worst excesses of 70's interior design could never return to haunt us. Wrong.

With a safe cushion of years we can discuss those decorating foibles in shocking detail. The stone cladding over the fireplace, the bubbly copper sheeting. or, worst of all, razor sharp artex -- were they trying to flay us alive? The style seemed to be one wall decorated and three walls plain. And, oh, the decoration. Pink -- and I mean bright candy pink -- purple, brown, orange and my own bugbear, lime green. What were they on? I don't recall my parents dropping tabs or smoking dope but then they did insist on me going to Sunday school (I got kicked out for wanting to be the Morrigan when I grew up, "Susan! Celtic death goddess is not a suitable career choice!") so I don't know for sure what they got up to on a Sunday morning.

My mother was, and still is, immensely fond of her huge tin of lime green gloss. Our living room doors were painted this stunning shade until the paint congealed into a rock-hard little lump only about five years ago. Lime green matched nothing else in the room, or in the house, except possibly the late, lamented budgerigar. A friend recalls with horror his parents' habit of buying three gallons of white and one of a colour. One wall was painted in purple, orange or brown then the remaining colour was mixed with the white paint and applied lovingly to the remaining three walls to give a most tasteful effect.

I shouldn't cast aspersions about my parents' taste -- the paper in my bedroom is large orange, pink and yellow floral. It went up when I was eleven, when we got the inside toilet and bathroom. It was the height of fashion in 1974 and, as my bedroom is too small and far too cold to use for anything other than sleeping in, somehow I've never got round to removing all the books and all the clothes to redecorate it. We found a roll at the back of the shoe cupboard recently. I had forgotten how the colour had... matured and faded somewhat over the years.

There is a TV programme called Changing Rooms -- a strangely compulsive show. Brave and/or foolhardy friends decorate rooms in each other's houses with the able assistance of an 'expert' interior decorator and a strict budget. Results vary from the wildly eccentric through the weird-but-liveable-with to the truly terrible. The budget is only £500 per room, curbing the designer's worst excesses -- one of our favourite games is flicking through Homes & Gardens looking for the most expensive egg cup (£35) or curtain tie-backs (£125!) Recently they redecorated a playroom-cum-study in delightful shades of orange and lime green. The poor woman who wanted to use the room as a study looked shell shocked when she saw it and whimpered that she would have to wear sunglasses when working in the room. My heart went out to her.

As I was completing this article, I enquired whether the excesses of the 70's were purely a working-class problem? Had the more refined tastes of the middle classes acted as a buffer? Alison informed me forcefully that chocolate brown was the colour of the decade, that Mike's living-room carpet evokes the period perfectly and that burnt orange was also 'in'. I have the warm, cosy feeling that the poor taste of the decade was universal. The lime green doors have gone now but fear not, we still have the black plastic sofa, guaranteed to weld to any exposed flesh. I wonder how long it will be before IKEA has them in stock?

-- Sue Mason

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