Saturday morning it was, the clock had just struck the half hour when from the other side of the living room came the refrain What's the time? Half past nine, hang your knickers on the line. If a policeman comes along, take them off and put them on. There is not much to say in reply to the rhyme known to every British child and from whom that word knickers will always raise a titter.
Not really anything to do with decorating you might think, but hearing the rhyme made me think again of the kind of ballooning shades, immensely popular in the 1980s, resembling tart's knickers. That tarts ever wore such voluminous undergarments is debatable and unrecorded in any history of tartdom I have ever read but, nonetheless, they have lent their nomenclature to a kind of window dressing. Some can be seen in the de la Renta living room.
I was going to write about one of the more fascinating aspects of 1980s decoration - the democratization of an aristocratic style of curtaining and drapery, a trickle down (to use a term popular at the time) or rather a torrent of expensive stuffs down the economic scale. It occurred to me, too, that I might discuss the books written by English ladies showing how to contrive dainty trappings for windows large and small. Also, I would have liked to have talked about the affectation of spuriously aging chintz by dipping in baths of strong tea (no sugar or milk, thank you) or liquid plant food, but it will not happen, because today, (I wrote this yesterday, Sunday), we went to a big Greek Easter celebration - lamb, goat and pork spit-roasting, the bishop blessing the assembly, kids being loved all over the place, never-ending pouring of wine, music, and food, food, food, and more food - so after the most generously hospitable event I've been to in a long time, I'm a little in my cups, thoroughly tired out, have heartburn up to my earlobes, and am far too happy to discuss any curtains I may have lost, loved or hated.
Instead, I would like to show you photos of a place I wish I could have seen, rooms that had such an effect on me when I first saw them in 1984 - I found them utterly beautiful. These rooms belonged to Mr Gep Durenburger, an antiques dealer, whose home was in San Juan Capistrano, California. I look through them again nearly thirty years later and still they are a source of wonder to me. The rooms speak for themselves.
Photos by Tim Street-Porter for an article written by Mr Durenburger, from The World of Interiors, September 1984.