10 OCTOBER 1998, Page 65

Country life

Whiter shade of pale

Leanda de Lisle

New Labour, new decor. Pelmets, reproduction furniture and chintz look altogether too Thatcherite, and now we're poised to decorate the hall I've decided the whole thing is going to be done with lights and different shades of white paint. Cool Britannia is coming to Market Bosworth and while the back of the house is going to retain its shabby chic the front is going to look like .. . a restaurant if I'm not very careful. Cutting-edge designers design for public buildings and urban flats, not this sort of place, which is full of large domestic spaces and owned by penny-pinchers.

Being crafty, in the way my mother brought me up to be, I wheedled my way into two trade fairs in order to research how best to integrate 1998 with 1750. My press badge read The Spectator, while Peter's read, Husband of . .. , which ensured that he was ignored while I was fawned over by people offering transparencies for my arti- cle. At 100% Design, everything was mod- em modem with some fantastic ideas for showers, which of course we are not allowed in the countryside. Our last attempt to have one installed produced a sad dribbling affair, put in by a company who claimed anything else would hurt our skin.

However, I did see something which might make a coffee-table for the drawing- room. A company called Fusion Glass Design had sealed autumn leaves in plates of glass and I wondered if it mightn't be cut- ting edge and countryish. A small floor-cov- ering company called Amazed went further in bringing the outside inside, with topiary effect, crop circle and Zen garden carpets. In their view their maze carpet was perfect for children, who 'love to trace the paths to and from the centre with their toys'.

But, at several hundred pounds a metre, I felt we should stick with our old friends at Chamwood Carpets in Loughborough when we come to replace the nursery floor- ing. The staff are unreconstructed Seven- ties men who allow smoking in the showroom, disapprove of trendy rush mat- ting, will relay good bits of your old carpets down stairways and replace the rest with something that costs under IS a metre. We love them, but I had to dismiss them from my mind. I was at this fair to seek out the bold and the beautiful. At least for those areas of the house that are safe from model paint, glue and blue tac. To the right of me were lava lamps, to the left tubular steel. That wouldn't go with elaborate gilt frames, would it? Not for the first time, I envied the ex-con Lottery winner next door. He could afford to have some design- er tell him what to do. Perhaps he has. I'd love to peek through his windows, but I've hardly dared go outside since I saw three of his lean alsatians outside the kitchen win- dow this morning.

The second fair we visited was Decorex at Syon Park. The big story was that the major fabric companies weren't there and had put out rumours that 'no one' was going. However, it had its usual cocktail party atmosphere. There were miles of vel- vet cushions and mirrored lamps, but Peter was strangely drawn to the leather floors and tables. I chanted 'red wine, red wine' whenever we saw some, but being an artis- tic sort he takes the view that good friends should take second place to good furniture, and the phrase 'suffer to be beautiful' can be an order as well as a personal motto. I returned home bowed, but unbroken.

We may not run to being able to have the whole professionally decorated, but we have invested in Mark Sutton-Vane who moved on from doing laser shows for rock stars to architectural lighting. I now know the hall will look fantastic almost completely empty, which will save a fortune and leave plenty of space for hunt balls. My in-laws are hosting a celebration of 300 years of the Quom this year, while we have the Atherstone. Plus go New Labour, plus c'est la mime chose.