Sir Charles ‘Chatty’ Chatterton is the raffish, six-times-married, long-serving MP who recently stepped down as Assistant Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. Now we are delighted to announce that Sir Charles, with his bulging contacts list and exclusive address book, has agreed to become TCW’s roving social and political columnist. He handwrites his dispatches in his flawless copperplate, and they are transcribed on to computer by his longtime aide, confidant and general factotum JOHN ELLWOOD …
I HAD come to Highgate to interview Tara Popodopolous, the renowned interior design guru recently commissioned by her friend Carrie Symonds to oversee the redecoration of the flat Carrie shares with her fiancé the Prime Minister at Number 11 Downing Street.
Tara welcomed me to her exquisite mansion with a beaming smile. As I was beckoned into her spacious living room, I immediately picked up references to those great interior designers Elsie de Wolfe and Le Corbusier. In the air there lingered the familiar fragrance of one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina candles.
I was quickly overcome with wonder and serenity.
Tara was on the phone to a Tech billionaire who wanted his country retreat styled in the manner of the Versailles of Louis the Fourteenth. I could overhear her explaining that 17th century chintz was rather passé, but the young tycoon seemed adamant.
Tara had only just returned from collecting her twin girls from primary school. Stheno was practising a complicated Chopin piece in a neighbouring room, whilst Euryale was working in the conservatory on her design for a nuclear fusion power station.
That morning Tara had spent time on one of her other jobs – that of managing director of an environmental charity devoted to the welfare of bandicoots.
I asked Tara how she and Carrie had met. ‘At school we were both members of the Tufty Club, and we competed in collecting the most number of badges. Even though I had many more than her, we remained friends and kept in touch even when I went to Geneva to study interior design.’
Tara went on: ‘In Geneva I discovered that I had a real talent for making and designing peg bags, and on my return to the UK I set up my own peg bag business working from my bedroom.
‘Within a year, my peg bags were to be found in all the great houses of Europe, and I became known as The Peg Bag Queen. Building on that success, I branched out into other household essentials such as handmade silk cushion tassels.
‘With the help of my husband Pablo …’ – a gold medal triathlete who now works for an investment bank – ‘I expanded, and now my company, Tara Interiors, employs 20 people.’
Tara described her first impressions of the decor at the Downing Street flat previously occupied by Theresa May: ‘I could scarcely believe my eyes. It was a John Lewis nightmare to which had been added cheap prints from Home Bargains, including that one of the face of a woman of colour, photographs of garish Mediterranean doors and walls, and a pair of table lamps with bases styled as kitten heels. How anyone could spend more than two minutes in that room without vomiting, I’ll never know.’
Tara has met Carrie several times since to discuss the redecoration.
‘We agreed upon a laid-back, breezy style with an eco-conscious vibe, where the palette, accents (with RikRak, needlepoint, ticking stripes, etc), bestowed a sensibility which consolidated the foundation of the classic, preppy style, in tune with the zeitgeist beloved by eager young professionals such as Carrie and Boris.
‘We discussed knurled Pelham wall lights, Lotus Palmette Egyptian linen, Halma Man tables, Raspberry Paw curtains and Bunny sofas made from Dianthus chintz silk.’
Tara was churlish when I asked about the costs. ‘Of course, I wouldn’t charge anything like my normal fee – suffice to say, off the record, it will be far less than I will be charging the geek I spoke to earlier from Silicon Valley!’
My host had to dash for her daily 10K run before she wrote another chapter in her soon-to-be-published bible on her first love, entitled: Peg Bags: A World of Beauty and Harmony.
Before her busy day was over, there was still the need to host a virtual dinner party for clients in various parts of the world.
I left to the sound of Chopin’s Étude in G# minor, Op.25; No.6 wafting melodiously down Courtenay Avenue, interrupted by a small explosion from the rear of the Popodopolous’s house.