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Forced to confront our years of clutter

PUBLISHED: 10:43 17 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:02 22 October 2010

The Blue Room at Bullock Towers is finally nearing completion, I am happy to report. After several weeks of dust, disarray and decorators, my smart new home-office is at last looking neat and businesslike.

The Blue Room at Bullock Towers is finally nearing completion, I am happy to report. After several weeks of dust, disarray and decorators, my smart new home-office is at last looking neat and businesslike.

It's been an exhausting project that has left me significantly poorer, mentally scarred and only a tendon's stretch away from a hernia. Having lived in our present Norwich city centre home for 15 years, the refurbishment of the spare bedroom and general junk-dumping area had been long overdue.

Overlooking the extensive grounds of Bullock Towers (a weed-strewn patch of grass containing Gregory's play equipment), it had been used as a master bedroom by the previous occupants and was dominated by some truly horrendous 1970s fitted wardrobes.

We hated those dreary brown cupboards from our very first viewing of the house but, boy, could they hide a multitude of sins! Rarely-worn clothes, unwanted gifts, board games, electric blankets, old photographs, memorabilia and suitcases could all be made to vanish so deftly that even Paul Daniels would have been amazed.

They were solidly built and good quality, too, so we grudgingly tolerated them for far longer than most sensible householders would have done. Eventually, however, Julie and I felt the wardrobes had blighted our lives for too long and should be dismantled to make way for modern replacements.

The trouble was, they needed to be completely emptied - and where do you put all your junk and clutter when the official junk and clutter room is no longer available? We had finally run out of hiding places.

The lengthy process of clearing them involved confronting our worst fears: holiday souvenir ornaments we wished we'd never bought, dodgy fashion mistakes from the 1980s, weird family heirlooms we felt obliged to keep for sentimental reasons, A-level English Lit essays that "might come in useful one day".

From the outset, I decided that the new office should be blue - fresh, cool and clean shades of sky blue. "Eye-shadow blue" was how I actually described it, though that expression will probably mean nothing to anyone other than women over 50 and Abba's official make-up artist.

We certainly like bright colours here at Bullock Towers and already have a lemon yellow dining room, an apple green hall, a pale blue sitting room and a peppermint master bedroom. There's also our green and purple limed-oak kitchen, that looks considerably better than it sounds.

As mentioned in a previous column, we soon discovered that blue carpets and blue rooms are now totally out of fashion (if indeed they were ever totally in fashion). It seems that trendy folk these days prefer boring old neutral tones or variations of that awful brownish-purple: maroon, aubergine, plum, ox-blood, liver or beetroot. Nice.

Julie and I initially found the nation's obsession with coffee and cream hard to understand. Classic bold colours, after all, have always been popular - you only have to visit historic properties to see their impressive blue bedrooms, scarlet studies and yellow drawing rooms.

Then it dawned on us that faded stately homes are hardly the barometer of modern taste. One day we'll catch up with the 21st century!

Undeterred, we pressed ahead with our outmoded blue carpet and scoured the Dulux colour charts for something approaching eye-shadow blue paint. There then followed one of those bizarre conversations where you have to discuss the merits of various absurdly named paint shades while trying to maintain a straight face.

Julie, for example, was torn between Bermuda Cocktail and Summer Medley. Having rejected Brooklyn Nights, Fragrant Cloud and Royal Regatta, I was quite taken with Holiday Blues. In the end, we settled for Bermuda Cocktail.

Off to the DIY superstore I dashed, to have a pot of Bermuda Cocktail put through in the paint-mixing machine. Cocktails don't come much bigger, or better shaken, than that.

It was embarrassing enough that I should have to ask for Bermuda Cocktail in the first place - the name sounded so Essex Girl, as if it should be served with a gaudy paper umbrella and crushed ice.

More embarrassing was the fact that the lady shop assistant struggled with the word 'Bermuda' and typed 'B…u…m' into the paint machine by mistake.

Now it's time to choose curtains. Oh dear - I can feel a headache coming on already.


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