lifestyle

"F**k you open plan. I want a 'good room'."

Kate Hunter

By KATE HUNTER

So the other night I wanted, as a privilege of my middle age, to sit on my couch and watch the The 7.30 Report. Not a lot to ask, you’d think.

But I couldn’t because there was TOO MUCH CRAP ON MY COUCH.

The crap comprised of (but was not limited to):

• 1 x iPad

• 1 x laptop

• 3 x sneakers

• 2 x socks (not a pair)

• Approx 40,000 freaking LOOM BANDS

• A hairbrush

• Wimpy Kid Number 45

• A Barbecue Shapes packet (empty)

• A mouthguard

• Three felt pens (lidless)

• The charger for something

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I lost my shit over the crap.

‘Take it all away!’ I yelled. ‘You have a rumpus room! You have bedrooms! That’s it. You are BANNED from this room. From this moment on, it shall be  ‘THE GOOD ROOM.’

Mike and Carol Brady had a good front room. No wonder their lives were so orderly.

‘What’s a good room?’ asked my youngest. And the silence was stunning.

There, my friends is what I believe was the reason for what is wrong with society today – the loss of the Good Room.

Our grandparents had a Good Room. Mike and Carol Brady had a Good Room. No wonder their  lives were calm and orderly.

After I left school, I worked as a nanny for a family in the south of England who had a Good Room so good it was called ‘the drawing room.’  But no one drew anything but the curtains in that room. It was a crayon-free zone, a tranquil haven where the cushions were always plump and the carpet clean. Sometimes the parents would eat their dinner off trays in the drawing room, watching Michael Parkinson on telly while chaos reigned throughout the rest of the house (I wasn’t much of a nanny, but thanks to the Good Room, I don’t think they noticed).

In a Good Room, children were generally welcome, but only by invitation. And only when clean and not eating anything. This meant visits were rare.

A Good Room was a place for conversation and books. Maybe a glossy magazine or a broadsheet newspaper.

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There may or may not have been a television in a Good Room. There was always a couch, and several chairs with no rice cracker crumbs beneath the cushions. There was a coffee table for, who’d believe it – COFFEE. Or, after dusk, perhaps a gin & tonic – placed on a coaster. There were no coloured flower-shaped plastic plates from Ikea in the Good Room. No plastic cups. No Tetra Paks.

What happened to this parental oasis?

I’ll tell you – Swedish people and modern architects. Suddenly, sometime in the eighties or nineties, these two groups (and I don’t know what it is about the Swedes, they invariably take the concept of sharing too far – the Smorgasbord is another example) decided walls were nasty and doors undemocratic. The family should be as one, at all times. And the kitchen should be at the heart of the house – a control centre from which everything can be seen and heard. It was called ‘Open Plan,’ and we all went nuts for it. Me too, especially when my kids were little.

Thanks to Ikea, there’s no such thing as a good front room anymore.

What it meant though, in effect was we gave our homes over to the children. There were no borders. The ‘rumpus room’ was not enough to contain their wild wild rumpus. They claimed all territory and mothers and fathers became refugees in their own homes.

The architects offered, by way of compensation, the ‘Parents’ Retreat,’ to which parents could scurry like rats on a sinking ship. I rail against this, and I sense the tide is turning. Parents reclaiming their homes. I predict the return of the Good Room.

My friend Marni has 3 daughters in primary school and against all odds, she maintains her Good Room. It’s no parent’s retreat. It holds pride of place in the centre of her house.

“My Good Room is a neutral zone, like Switzerland. There is no kids’ crap in Switzerland. If I see dirty socks, school shoes, iPods, random toys or loom bands creations, I pick them up and hurl them over the border into France (Grace’s room), Germany (Taylor’s room) or down the stairs and east into Italy (Rose’s room). World peace ensues and when I sit down in Switzerland, admiring the view and sipping a nice glass of wine.”

Marni is an inspiration, and so far, my Good Room is intact, but it’s constantly under threat. I found a hair band yesterday.  I fear the battle is either lost or not worth it.

What style of fancy interior design would you go for?

Do you have a Good Room?

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