Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Charlie's Dilemma. (the Politics of Wallpaper)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Charlie's Dilemma. (the Politics of Wallpaper)

Article excerpt

The Office of the Lord Chancellor is not the only office facing a shake-up this summer. The ultra-cool style magazine Wallpaper also underwent a redesign, following the departure of its founder, Tyler Brule, and a sharp decline in readership. However, one reader who is likely to have remained loyal is the former Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine. Renowned for his expensive tastes, in 1997 he spent [pounds sterling]60,000 on wallpaper as part of a [pounds sterling]650,000 refurbishment of his official apartment in the Lords.

But fashions change as quickly in interior design as they do in politics and magazine publishing. Although his office firmly refuses to comment on the subject, Irvine's successor, Charlie Falconer, will surely fancy a change. If so, he should understand that wallpaper has always been a political subject.

Originally, wallpaper was used by the wealthier middle classes to try to create the effect of tapestries, and it has been used for walls and ceilings since the Georgian period. Like many things that start with the people and then filter upwards, such as Lynx deodorant and supporting football teams, it wasn't long before it was being used by royalty.

The greatest wallpaper designer of all was William Morris, a man who knew that it was impossible to separate politics from interior design. "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful," he wrote. As Falconer stares at his walls, he would do well to consider this. …

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