If you’ve been watching the BBC’s recent Home That 2 Built series, you’ll have learned two things: the seventies were a decade best forgotten, and that a chesterfield sofa never goes out of fashion. It just confirms what we’ve always known we guess, and that’s that fashion is temporary, but class is permanent.
The BBC Two series took a nostalgic and amusing look at its lifestyle output archives to see how it fared as the tastemaker to the nation over the last 50 years. The conclusions …? Well, mixed is probably the best answer to that. What we like to see in our homes and gardens has changed beyond recognition during the decades. The same could be said of what we serve up on our dinner plates too. The only thing you could say with any degree of certainty is that throughout much of the period, taste was ‘lacking’ to say the least. No amount of clever editing or lingering shots of Charlie Dimmock’s water features could disguise the fact that throughout much of the last 50 years the nation’s taste was decidedly dodgy. Thank goodness for the classy and tasteful chesterfield sofa, it probably the only thing that managed to save the day.
The four part retrospective series on lifestyle charted the rise and fall of lifestyle programming from the 1960s post-rationing middle classes with money to spend and neighbours to steal a march on right through to the money-no-object, devil-may-care attitude of the 90s and early noughties. The series plotted the progress of what once had been fashionable in cookery, gardening and home décor, but was no longer fashionable any more. From Fanny Cradock’s petit fours to Laurence Llewelyn-Bowden’s boudoirs we got to see the good, the bad and the appalling. The one constant throughout the five diverse decades, the one shining beacon is the sea of excess and vulgarity was the good old chesterfield sofa. It brought class to proceedings and proved beyond doubt that there’s no substitute for pedigree. It looked equally at home in the modernistic space-age sixties as it did in the back-to-basics noughties when sensible people finally reined in the worst excesses of the nineties.
If the BBC decides to repeat the exercise in another 50 years’ time, what do you think they’ll find? Well, we’ll no doubt have gone mad for makeovers once again. We’ll also probably have finessed our food once more and reinvented our gardens. But the one thing that probably won’t have changed is the chesterfield sofa. The next generation of Jilly Gooldens, Diarmuid Gavins and Linda Barkers might persuade us to alter the way we look at wine, gardens and interior decoration when the property market next builds a head of steam, but they won’t change our opinion on classic furniture. In 50 years’ time our love affair with the chesterfield sofa will still live on.