Magazine article The Spectator

Space Invaders

Magazine article The Spectator

Space Invaders

Article excerpt

APPARENTLY minimalism is dead - or so I read in the Financial Times's Weekend section. Finished. So last-millennium. I find this curiously satisfying. My family, I should explain, is privileged to live next door to a brilliant architect, John Pawson, who has not only published one fat book, called Minimum, but who is also the subject of several monographs celebrating his bare, prismatic architectural style. The phrase `less is more' doesn't do him justice. His house has very little by way of furniture: no pictures or doorknobs, a bathroom that is actually a vast, wet room, and so on. I've been inside, and it is beautiful and clever, with a polished, buttery, stone floor that invites you to stroke it, like a soppy Labrador. Internal walls have been knocked down, and it has a breathtaking stone staircase that seems to plunge through the glass wall of the kitchen. But since it has been featured in a million colour supplements and coffee-table books, it is not the architect's dream home that is to detain us here: it's ours.

We spent the first part of this year in a rented house, as our own house (one of a pair with the architect's) was being underpinned. This gave us, in theory, another crack at getting it right. People kept asking us what we were going to `do with the basement', for example, or whether we had plans to `extend out the back', as if underpinning was accompanied by a large Lottery grant.

Our house became a building site. The basement was soon a muddy trench. As the builders had to dig three metres into London clay, our reclaimed-maple kitchen floor went on to the skip. The Aga was dismantled, the rustic Mexican tiles ripped from the walls. The Victorian-style kitchen units and tongue-and-groove panelling were stored away. All the cracks in every room were gouged out, wire-meshed and filled with mastic. Every room in the house needed work, followed by complete redecoration.

And yes, I did spend hours in the worldof-interiors gulch that is the Wandsworth Bridge Road, fingering groovy samples of rubber flooring. I surfed architectural salvage websites, and devoted a whole week of my life to worrying about the tiles for the kitchen splashback. I spent a small fortune on paint-sample pots from Farrow and Ball. I entered that camp netherworld where the most important life-decision imaginable is whether the light switches should be in plastic or Perspex.

But, after a month of this, I realised that I was suffering from some interior-decoration-related stress disorder. …

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