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Shankari 1 380x345 What is your porn?

Shankari

Over the summer, Husband said I had to stop reading porn. He said it was unhealthy for our relationship, it created unrealistic expectations and stimulated desire at inappropriate times. He thought I should be happy with what I’ve got, instead of feverishly pouring (or is it pawing?) through this porn, seeking the unattainable.

He was right of course. I hate it when he’s right (but that’s a whole other blog post). And so, last month I put all my pornography in the recycling bin. Every last magazine: Home Beautiful, Vogue Living, 25 Beautiful Homes…I kept Better Homes & Gardens on the grounds that one day we might get a pet and I may need Dr Harry’s sound advice.

I am ashamed to admit that until recently, I suffered from what could only be described as a First World malady that is self-caused and can be self-cured. It’s called Beige-itis (in psychiatric journals it is also referred to as Immuno-Style Deficiency or I Wish I Could Afford Your Interior Decorator-itis). All around me, I am surrounded by stylish women who live in stylish houses. These houses have the over-sized glass candleholders, the faux-Victorian birdcages and the thigh-high vases with artistically-placed twiggy things in it.

The thing is, I know that:

- Newborn would impale himself on the over-sized candle holder whilst eating the over-priced organic soy candle it contained;

- Tercero would use the birdcage to catch lizards; and

- Secundo would use the twiggy things to toast marshmallows over our cooker.

I know all this, and yet, when I read these magazines, there is something so soothing and seductive about the creamy, antique white, hogs bristley, mocha, latte, beigeness of it all (see pages 5 and 6 of the Dulux colour chart). The walls match the floors which match the sofas which match the curtains which match the cushions which match the rugs which match the abstract art which match the candleholder, birdcage and twiggy things.

I have never been able to match anything with anything. My mother dressed me until I was 18 and after that, my cousins took on the difficult responsibility of choosing my clothes and accessories. If I can’t do clothes, can you imagine me trying to do decor?

Recently our neighbour (an interior decorator who lives in a completely beige house), staged an intervention. She said it was time we stopped “styling” like university students and started styling like adults. She used the inverted commas, not me. She didn’t think that my original Millenium Falcon should have its own display cabinet and she thought we should cover up our bookshelves as they made our living room look like a library.

I have always wanted to live in a library (or the Millenium Falcon).

She also said that your interior decorating has to tell a story – about you. And then I started listening to her and I learnt a tremendous amount from her. You see, I like to tell stories.

My great-grandfather was one of the first people in his small village in Sri Lanka to live in a house made of stone. If we’d stayed in Sri Lanka, we’d be living in a Red Cross tent. Today, our children are not even aware that much of the world still does not live in stone houses.  Or any house. I should remember that.

We are keeping the bookshelves and the Millenium Falcon, we rearranged the furniture instead of buying more and now, when I visit my neighbours, I don’t long for the beige, I see beyond it to the beautiful stories their homes tell me about their lives.

Last night when I bathed Prima (8), Secundo (6), Tercero (3) and Newborn (almost 2), I noticed the different colours of their soft skin – mocha, latte, milk chocolate and beige – my very own Dulux Colour Chart. I didn’t design them, but I co-created them – they are beautiful, they are safely housed and they match.

Shankari Chandran is a recent returner after ten years in London. Formerly a social justice lawyer Shankari chronicles the day-to-day of her family’s return in her blog.

How do you style your home? Does your family dictate what it looks like – or is it the images in magazines?

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