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A View from St Giles’

Katharine Rumens muses on the virtue of minimalist crockery vis a vis its more flowery cousins

Katharine Rumens Rector, St Giles’ Cripplegate


t’s best to avoid the fluffy bits of newspapers; they are bound to pour improvement on some aspect of your domestic harmony which, hitherto, you’d been content with.

Take crockery – that’s the stuff that sits in cupboards and grows in piles - handy for eating porridge out of or offering round fancy crisps and olives in when you have company. A neutral design statement one would have thought.

Not so: there’s far more to crockery than merely being a handy container for porridge and crisps. My supplementary weekend reading informs me that it has become “a low- impact way to experiment with pattern.”

Another low-impact

experiment with pattern would be to weave a lampshade from recycled soap wrappers and bits of jam labels; but no-one asked me. We are offered a solemn exercise for the cautious: “If you want to start slowly, ceramics are a great way of experimenting with chintz.” Had you considered an aspirational riot of floral busyness on your cups and saucers or were you looking for an even lower- impact statement? Are you ready to exchange the sublimely elegant monochromes of your sugar basin and soup tureen for humble scenes from village life? These flower-strewn patterns can be identified by their botanical names: ‘Blue Cottage’ ‘Yellow Cottage’, ‘Pink Cottage’ ‘Run- down Cottage’ and ‘On-the-ring road Cottage’. They mostly all look the same: closely planted rose bushes and narcissi, with a sprig of forget-me-not. Here more is more. Well, I suppose it does save the bother of having a place in the country. Your bucolic yearnings on a plate as it were: a weed-free garden and no need to get anxious about who’s going to check the pipes in cold weather. So, as the aesthetically enlightened, let’s celebrate that “chintz is back again in style.” Let us bow to the winds of fashion and who knows? We might find that chintz really does


complement concrete. Overnight we become the envy of our artistic friends and acquaintances who have not yet stumbled upon floral art on the side plate. We are told how to go about this

bold experiment in maximumist living:”Mix patterns and colour and cover any surface that takes your fancy” which is such sensible advice: it prevents unnecessary effort being expended on surfaces that never did take your fancy.

The counsel grows

bold, “Interiors have been grown-up and conservative for too long”....all that living with “bland minimalism” has been bad for us. We have repressed the hedgerows of our youth and denied the daffodils in our DNA. Come back clutter and banish blandness.

Investing in this floral lark,

however, is not for the economically minimalist. Research reveals that a jug with blue flowers is £45; a plate for cakes is £54; have an accident with the teapot lid - that’ll set you back £16. You will now have to consider the cost before embarking on a good ding-dong row. Flying china with flowers on is a luxury.

It’s time to prune prices and search out high-street thrift. (This, as we know, is a seaside and alpine plant of the Plumbaginaceae variety.) I charity shop. I find it stiffens the sinews to work with a budget of £2 per item. My most recent non-purchases have been a set of very pretty (French?) dinner plates; a snip at ten for £10 in Barnados and a virtually complete Mason’s tea service for £25 at an undisclosed outlet. Minimalism isn’t bland, minimalism shows strong- mindedness at work. My friends take different approaches to low-impact experimentation.

On the one hand there is the one

who liked everything to match, which is fine if you can be bothered. It seems to me that you crawl your way up the collection and finally get the very last finger bowl stand and both sorts of

sugar bowls. There is great rejoicing which, some time later, is followed by a hairline crack in a cup. At this point you discover it’s discontinued. You embark on a campaign of sourcing replacements with plates now costing £120. And I thought a replacement bus service was fraught with inconvenience.

On the other are antique- hand- me–downs with the chipped saucer and missing slop basin. I once made the mistake of admiring what I thought was a pretty tea set. I commented in a low-impact way how pretty it was. The owner then unburdened herself that it had been a catastrophic experiment even to bring it into the house. The tea set had had an unhappy past. She would have to sell it – bad vibes and all. She did not want to put unhappiness in her cupboards, or drink the cup of someone else’s unhappiness. I had not set out to unleash unnecessary misery but it becomes problematic if we discover that our low-impact experiments were bullied in the warehouse or suffered neglect in the shop. The language of flowers is all very well, but being blandly minimalistic has definite attractions.

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