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1990s revival? No thanks

I've been reading lots about a 90s revival in the last few months – most recently in the form of Spice Girls musicals, Stone Roses gigs and the Damien Hirst retrospective at the Tate Modern, but there were ripples even last year with the release of the (by most accounts, quite bad) film of Irvine Welsh's 1996 book, Ecstasy

And yesterday morning, I read Grace Dent's very funny (and true) reminder of all that was bad about a lot of that decade. But a revival is not just loitering around the edges of popular culture – could it be creeping back into our homes? My blood chilled when I spotted this on the Crown Paints blog, encouraging us to colour block like it's 1999. Really? Let's recap a while...

When Living Etc. launched in April 1998 there was nothing like it. And, sad but true, I loved it so much that I kept copies of those early editions (like some, far cooler people than me, kept early editions of The Face or NME). The very first issue is the one bottom left: April 1998. The others in this picture are all from the same year, or the one after. 

And boy, did we like our colours back then. Fashions are circular, so it's not surprising that colour  has come back after the minimalist, white noughties. But we do it so much better these days: what was the 90s obsession with burnt orange and cobalt blue? My own very first own sitting room was modelled on these pages (orange walls and a horrible blue studenty throw to cover my junk-shop, and not in a good way, sofa). 

Funny that only in yesterday's post I was drooling over the orange and blue kitchen in a gorgeous house in the newest Taschen interiors book. But the 90s version of these shades was just so brash, wasn't it? Talking of which...


But lordy, it was better than pastels and the acres of cream and beige... Aside from orange and blue, if I had to pick one shade that summed up 90s interiors to me, it'd be lilac. The bedroom in my current home, when I moved in, was this insipid shade of mauve punctuated, half-way up the walls, with a floral border.

Then again, all this had been a reaction against the rather twee rag-rolling and stencilling that your Laurence Llewelyn-Bowens and Linda Barkers had been getting up to in the years shortly before Living Etc appeared (Changing Rooms first aired in 1996). So it wasn't all bad. In fact, at the time – which is why I religiously bought every issue – it was all rather ground-breaking.

Anyone else remember the 'Weekend in the Life of..' feature they used to run? Where groups of good-looking 20-something friends (always, intriguingly, graphic designers) were captured fly-on-the-wall style, laughing, fooling around, looking cheeky, flirting, laughing again, going to stylish bars, drinking a lot, having hair-of-the-dog lunches in new things called gastropubs, laughing some more... you know.

I particularly love this one, above, which sums up the whole idea perfectly: not only does it begin "...Saturday morning in their two-up, two-down Victorian terrace in North London" (it was always north London) but the protagonists include people called Prosper, and Merlin – and their neighbour, James, a graphic designer, of course.

And the other regular section of note was this...

How funny that (top right image on the page) the editorial takes the piss out of now-so-desirable wood effect wallpaper (in Bernard Manning's mum's house) and, bottom right, sniggers at a very retro Joanna Lumley "knitting blankets for the local WI." Who'd have thought the Shoreditch Sisters were just around the corner. How times change.

1990s interiors must-haves
Coir matting
A Victorian property
Strong colour
Insipid creams
Chunky colour-tinted wine glasses
Mosaic bathroom tiling
Pale pine cupboards

... but enough about my memories. Yours?

PS. Prosper, Merlin and co., if you're reading this, I'd love to know. I laugh, but I wanted your lives at the time. And your flats. Especially those orange walls.


  1. How fab! I have a few of those early issue of Living etc too! Particularly remember the purple cover. And I had mauve and pink walls in my little 90's semi. The guy that bought it off me eventually nearly had a heart attack at the all the colour!

  2. I was recently given a huge stash of Elle Decorations, some going back to the late 90s. I was a bit horrified by them.. no doubt I will feel the same about the current ones in a few years. hard to imagine! But I did really love seeing work by my friends when they were just starting out, seems like they have a good track record for picking brilliant craft at least.