The yellow brick road.
If you had happened along our (one-of-these-days, fingers-crossed, dream-on-Sunshine) street one afternoon this week, you’d have passed a huddle of people sheltering outside the RW under dripping brollies. They would have been staring fixedly at two yellow patches on a wall and listening to someone talking in august tones about the benefits of traditionally slaked lime. You might even have cursed them softly for taking up the whole pavement and forcing you to detour onto the road. Amongst their number would have been someone under a golden umbrella with its handle fused shut with rust, making it necessary to hold it rather ludicrously at ear height. That would have been me. Adjacent, with a well-trimmed beard, a wicked ironical eye and a fully functioning umbrella (probably neo-classical), would have been Esteemed Architect. Also present were the other owners of the terrace, someone else’s architect, the Lovely Housing Heritage Officer (who is also believed to be an architect), and the Heritage Colour Expert (ditto). Uncle Tom Cobleigh wanted to be there but is not an architect and therefore felt obliged to send apologies.
We then adjourned rather wetly to a local meeting room which is still perfectly intact from the 70s, with a carpet so redolent of that era that it induced hallucinations if looked at for too long. There we slogged it out for a co-operative two hours in an attempt to find consensus on an exterior colour scheme for the terrace. Our deliberations were based on a comprehensive and lengthy report previously undertaken by said Heritage Colour Expert, which charted the colourific rise and fall of the terrace through the years. Left to the house owners, the whole process might have taken all of five minutes. “All in favour of yellow say Aye! All in favour of dark grey”… you get the gist. Well, actually, it might have taken six minutes on account of the view of the Opera House rising up between two buildings like a gently curving slice of carved moon, and so close you could see the scales. Actually, nacreous is the word that comes to mind. Oh! I am forever a groupie to that building.
However, things are always more complicated for Those Who Specialise, and so the ins and outs, the merits and demerits of traditional limewash, modern limewash, acrylic paint (shiver his timbers) and various assorted sundry etceteras were hashed and re-hashed exhaustively. We have ended up with what I believe is called an Interpretative Scheme which incorporates elements of the original, but is updated.
Originally, we were informed, the terrace was painted with traditionally slaked limewash, tinted with copperas. Or copper arse as Mr P has dubbed it, because he can be like that. You know the English – never miss a chance for talk of bottoms and so forth. Not that I can talk, of course. But anyway, think ochery yellow facade. Think, rather oddly, Tuscany. But the cherry on the cake was the fact (we were informed) that not only were the front doors painted in a faux oak, but the windows and architraves too. Also, if you can wrap your head around this as a decorative concept – the railings! What a sight for sore eyes that would have been. I think he was somewhat saddened when we opted not to reproduce such a piece of marvellousness, but some of us had already done our time in the 80s with the likes of Jocasta Innes. A bit later, there was mention of dark green, but thankfully that fell unheeded onto the magnificent carpet and disappeared in a purple haze of forgetfulness.
So what we will have is a modern limewash tinted with actual copperas. Dark grey woodwork and railings. Various bits and bobs of trim in a paler value of the yellow. The portico, for instance. If it has not fallen down. I did put my hand up for personalised front door colours but that too fell onto its face on the carpet. No individualism then. An outdated concept anyway, no doubt – very pre-pomo.
One curious and interesting thing to come out of the Colour Expert’s report (he is called Mr Donald Ellesmore, by the way, and all credit to him and I should say here that I have stolen – or borrowed – these photos from his report), is the hypothesis that most of the houses in the street were originally painted this ochre-y buff yellow, with faux oak everything elses. I find that quite an interesting thing to picture. Would it have been like coming out of one’s front door to perpetual late-afternoon sunshine?
Btw, I have a microscopic midge dive-bombing my face as I type this – all complaints to be directed there please.