Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Tidy Mind (or The Guest from Hell)

Original image from made-in-china.com

I found myself staying in an Admiral’s residence at the weekend.  A handsome Georgian house, our bedroom was on the top floor looking out over the harbour and there were naval ships of an earlier era on the walls.  I loved the little white bowl with its gold rim containing two pills in a dark green bubble strip. Stuck in the base of the bowl was a utilitarian dynotape message in white on black SEASICK PILLS. (Seriously, a design classic.)  It was all charming except that something kept catching my eye: a big basket of not terribly wonderful white artificial flowers on a good mahogany chest of drawers. They just cancelled out everything that was so pleasing.  If she should read this, I do hope the delightful admiral’s wife will forgive me for tucking them away in the bottom of the wardrobe. So naughty, I know. At least I didn’t steal the little white bowl, tempting as it was.

When I confessed this to Mr. Toby Worthington he kindly absolved my sin and admitted that he has been known to fully rearrange hotel rooms. “Really, it's doing the management a favour, if only they'd see it that way.” Every time I think of it, I can’t stop laughing.


  1. Oh dear, I think you're absolutely right to put things straight. I have straightened pictures in this house we're staying in. There are a pair of prints of Hong Kong which hang one on top of the other above a door, and the lower one has been crooked for a very long time. I saw this every morning, and it was driving me mad. So I asked the maid to produce a ladder of sufficient stature, and I straightened it. And then all the others on the adjacent wall. I confessed to my host, who was of course delighted. Details, details! Similarly the rather beautiful Chinese rugs in the hallway which run from the front door through the hall to the dining room, and were not in line. They are now.

  2. Sounds like you're the guest from heaven, Columnist

  3. These wrongs have to be put to rights, we have to claim it immediately. I go in to clients houses I haven't been in for years and make little adjustments here and there. Our nature. I am just glad you did not have to sleep in the bowl of oatmeal that is this picture. pgt

  4. I don't think there is anything wrong with it. It's reversable should they not come to their senses after all! I think any guest has the right to make their room most comfortable (as long as it doesn't damage anything!).

  5. I always assumed that everybody did this sort of thing--at least everybody who hangs out on design blogs.

    One time I spent a weekend at some old friends' new (for them) 19th century cottage, which they had recently bought, furnishings included, from a nice old lady who was moving into assisted-living place. They had already redone the front room, but their tiny guest room was pretty much still intact, with 1940s floral wallpaper, rag rugs on a painted wooden floor, Currier & Ives lithographs in old frames on the walls & unrestored (and mismatched) black walnut furniture. But to freshen things up for my visit--I was their first overnight guest--they had gone out and bought a new mattress set, a strongly-colored bed ensemble in a then-trendy "Tuscan" pattern & a scrolly iron lamp for the dresser. That stuff all looked out of cgahratcter with the rest of the room, but I figured, hey, it was their house.

    When I woke up, the sun was streaming in through the old-school Venetian blinds, making rippling stripes on the sheer curtains and I wanted to capture it all in a picture, but the garish bedding in the foreground would have to go, so I yanked it off the bed & went to stash it in the closet. Inside, I spotted the old lady's white candlewick bedspread folded neatly on the shelf, next to a china lamp with a simple paper shade.

    I put that stuff back where it belonged, then ran out to the car to get my camera before the sunlight in the room changed. My friends were fixing breakfast as I hurried through the kitchen, but I didn't have time to explain where I was going & what I was doing. That could wait till after I got the shot.

    Thirty seconds later, as I ran back inside with my camera, my pal was coming down the hall from the direction of my room, laughing. I must have looked confused, because he called out to his wife, "Hey sweetie, you owe me five bucks!" Then he gave me the high-five signal & said "Do I know you, or what?"

    A few days later I got a postcard from the wife: the bedspread & the scrolly lamp were history. What can I say? A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do.

  6. I always put away the nasty silk flowers or plants I find in the hotel rooms I stay in. Also, whenever we rent a house for a holiday, we always go through it and remove as much of the offending stuff we can, and store it away, bringing it back out before leaving, (mostly) trying to put it back from where it came from. Another trick to employ when renting houses (usually beach cottage) is to bring armloads of inexpensive printed Indian cotton bedspreads to cover the nasty upholstery or replace the vile bedspreads (often dusty rose) one finds there.

  7. Magnaverde, Reggie - you're right. We lovely style fascists are so predictable.

  8. But, dear Lady West, guest and hotel rooms are meant to be re-arranged. They positively beg for it. My most startling re-arrangement was in a kind friend's lovely guest room. I lifted the sofa cushions to plump them and to hide a hideous throw, only to find an elegant Purdy shotgun under them....hmmmm


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