Getting a cleaner had been on my mind for a while. The usual reasons, the place was bigger than I could manage, I was busy as always and really wanted to invest in creating my ideal home. Asking around, a new good friend recommended the cleaner too me, so I asked the cleaner round for an informal coffee to see if we were a good fit. I did wonder if we should meet first on neutral ground but with the reference from my new friend and the nature of the work, it seemed best to just invite her straight round to my house this first time.
To be honest I’d wanted a cleaner since I’d bought my house. It was such fun doing the place up, my own little Victorian London terrace with space to stretch out in, all my equipment, a couple of spare rooms I could rent out for additional income, or just use as storage or even wardrobe. A space to make plans in and base my life. I’d done it all properly, saying to myself if you buy quality, you buy once. Some things were imported and others picked up here and there at auction or department stores. I really do have some beautiful items; guilty chintz to sleek mid century. Feeling like the place was kind of done, or as much as it could be, it made sense at this stage to build in some maintenance to what I had already.
It’s just what you have to do, to build in these maintenance routines. You do it with your career by keeping your social media and website fresh, you do it with your body with gym membership, hair, nails, products; you do it with your clothes and of course with your food. I envision I’ll get a gardener at some point – but it’s about valuing yourself, your labour and insisting of self respect in that sense. Jerry Hall never leaves the house without red lipstick and a new pair of stockings in her handbag, she is so retro but I love that old school glamour. Preparation and maintenance. When you work in or adjacent to the creative industries there’s a lot to consider in terms of personal branding. I have so many potential prospects that really appreciate detail, and so many close personal connections to retail, this really informs how I visualise and realise projects like my house.
I instantly connected with the cleaner, we were about the same age and she was sweet enough. I wanted to kind of talk her through my vision, help her understand where I was coming from and the kind of home I was trying to create. When I moved in the R&D really started. Pintrest accounts, mood boards and fabric and paint samples sent over so I could tie it all together conceptually, and with the decorators. The whole process was kind of documented on Instagram and just folders of digital photos I’ve kept. It’s good to keep these to revisit, seeing the process again gives me a sense of achievement. A driving visualisation was of me in white dungarees, with maybe just a black bra on underneath, half way up a step ladder with a roller in one hand, paint on my bare arms and maybe in my hair; looking back over my shoulder straight into the lense. That moment, in a house I had bought by myself, for myself. Sure I’m lucky, but I’ve also worked hard to get to this point, and I think if people are jealous – then it’s probably because they are intimidated by a woman who is independently financially secure.
I told the cleaner what I wanted:
I want to see the bare floorboards of the entrance hall flooded with the blue and green light at dusk through the stained glass front door, and be hit when I walk through it with the scent of fresh flowers and ecological floor cleaner. The carpet of the stairs ahead of me will be spotless and fresh. All my coats and shoes will be arranged in the storage under the staircase into allotted cubbie holes and onto hangers, except for any leather or fur jackets or coats which should be returned to the appropriate wardrobe upstairs. All glass in framed artworks, photos and mirrors will gleam and bounce the light around. Room perfumes will be replaced weekly with energising seasonal scents. My houseplants will be dusted lively bright greens, the Orchids thriving from weekly steams in the bathroom and fresh cut flowers will be delivered and replaced in the living room and my bedroom regularly, roses and irises being my favorites, and selections including tulips and daffodils in spring months.
In my living room I need the sofa cushions to be completely removed, hoovered, fluffed up and replaced so it looks as close as possible to how it did on the shop floor when I bought it. Same with the arm chair and extra scatter cushions. I envisage that the cleaning will be thorough, to the level of a good hotel or a boutique retail environment. This means totally removing objects and furniture to clean under and around them, and using specialist products designed for each individual surface where possible, wiping down the skirting boards and dusting and hoovering cornices and the tops of the curtain rails. I’m hoping that by having this base level of upkeep, and from a skilled cleaner, I can then focus on arrangement and display at a new level; for example organising my record collection and book collection by the colour of the spines or alphabetically. I’d like to get some face out shelving too to showcase new or favourite books and records. I want to have a pile of laundered and pressed wool blankets in an oversized wicker basket ready for snuggly movie nights. I want it ready for a photoshoot at any moment. I want it like that washed out out light in Air BnB interior shots, and the fish eye lense, such a sense of space, no clutter, just key items. When I Instagram interior shots from my house I admit I do tend to use a filter, something like Nashville or Lomo-fi and that’s not because its dark in my house, it’s to create coherence across my photos because most of them are taken in direct sunshine when I’m travelling.
The kitchen is quite simple, it’s just got to be totally clean. Everything completely spotless and everything with its place, I don’t use it so much so it’s more just surfaces and block colours.
What’s really important to me here is my bedroom and my bathrooms. I want to feel like I live in my own personal boutique design hotel, I don’t think I’m quite there yet; I follow quite a few inspirational hotels and spaces which are giving me ideas. Huge hand woven antique Mexican textiles as wall coverings, a statement bedframe, an Arco free standing lamp or even a repro Breuer, at the moment I’m into these kitschy pastel dyed sheepskins. My bed would need to be made up professionally, everything square and perfect to show off the bedding, linen and bedspreads, ideally the cleaner, ..you.., will get a feel for the linen I have and also the flair to put things together, or we could talk through some combinations. Clothes all need to be put away in the appropriate place, hung or folded as they are in the shop – simple really, just a case of learning how to fold items and paying attention to the way they are hung and hanger design, etc.
Ok, bathrooms! I got the roll top bath because it’s such a focal point, and always gets a WOW, but otherwise I’ve just kept the room incredibly simple. I have a few self-contained houseplants, simple good quality fittings, dimmer switch, good storage to avoid clutter and key items on display. Only by best, most beautifully contained products, perfumes and lipsticks styled on a spindly dresser. I want to feel really glam in this space; candles. I’ve been known to hand wash and hang my silk lingerie in here, like Carrie in SATC, but I love that kind of soft focus white enamel/ballet pump pink blush silk/candle light/Chanel in glass bottle atmosphere. Do you remember Holly Golightly’s roll top bath sofa? Or take it further, Vasaline on the lense, Carlo Molino’s Polaroid’s, almost trashy, I guess that whole Lana Del Rey/Pricilla Presley, sixties chiffon baby-doll, but without the air thick with hairspray and cigarettes, the shagpile or wood paneling. I’m looking for one of those theatrical oversized No5 bottles set on the side, probably Ebay.
So my house is kind of my hobby and hobbies can be expensive, but then it’s also an investment at the same time. I feel like you ..get it.., which is great because I’m very sensitive to people’s energies especially if they are in my home and I’d never assume someone has any less of a rich and complex interior life than I have.