x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

There are so many reasons why all white is far from all right

I spent time in hospital convalescing from a tropical disease about a decade ago and know that eventually the bare walls upset me more than the illness

A friend of mine confessed this week that if he had a choice he'd love to live in a completely white house, devoid of clutter, with minimal furnishings - only a bed and a chair. He was perfectly serious. While I can often relate to such simplicity, I know that it would inevitably get to me. You see, I spent time in hospital convalescing from a tropical disease about a decade ago and know that eventually the bare walls upset me more than the illness.

His world, however, is all about fashion and a white house is probably an antidote to the frills and fabulousness he encounters on a daily basis. I, on the other hand, require more visual stimulation, with the result that my house at times has turned into a revolving art exhibition. I "curate" my eclectic collection of prints, originals, photographs and vintage posters with the same care and attention as the National Portrait Gallery, while my poor walls bear the scars of nails inserted and removed to accommodate another change of plan.

Recently, I have been very tempted to forget the frames and buy into the latest vogue for wall stickers. While they were le dernier cri in Paris about two years ago (ie the avant-garde boutique Colette thrust them upon the world) it's only now that mainstream decorators and stores are catching up. Everyone from IKEA to S*uce stocks artsy vinyl stickers to add character to your walls. As a budget decorating accessory, they're hard to beat (there aren't many art works you can buy for Dh500), and they can become the focal point in a studio apartment or a funky addition to the kids' playroom in a bigger villa. It depends on the location and also your creativity.

What has stopped me is the fear factor. I was never any good at "sticky-backed plastic" when I was at school - my books all had bubbles in their see-through wrapping - and I acknowledge that I lack the patience to properly test things out with a template first. This is also a good idea for buying furniture, by the way. Measuring, cutting out and then testing where your proposed new furniture should go, templates avoid a wrong buy and have saved many of my more patient friends from making expensive mistakes. However, I digress ?

November sees a fabulous exhibition of wall stickers at the Dubai-based Traffic gallery, which has been organised by the Khatt Foundation and Mosaiques, a collaboration to promote young Middle Eastern artists (www.khtt.net). Called Project Mulsaq, almost 200 artists were asked to design Arabic-inspired wall art. The result is a colourful array of stickers which play on Arabic iconography and calligraphy. While I can't read Arabic, I have been told that the visual puns and wordplay are really good. What I liked most were the ideas of how to incorporate them into your life - from jazzing up a study to wowing your friends in the dining room.

It all reminds me of the late1980s vogue for stencilling. You couldn't enter a home in that era without being reminded of how creative the residents were. Aztec designs, curling vines and geometric patterns were stencilled everywhere. Making our mark on the world has often meant that we literally carve, paint or write on walls (whether legal or otherwise), and since time immemorial it has been man's objective to leave visual impressions.

Decorating trends reflect this. Murals were all the rage in the early 2000s with wallpaper borders a similar idea to break up the monotony of a plain white wall. It lends weight to my theory that we are not genetically programmed to live in de-cluttered and de-coloured spaces, and wall stickers (and multiple picture changes) are just the latest stage in our evolution.