1979, bedroom
1979, bedroom

1970’s: bedroom: Swirling carpets and bright, bold, patterned curtains, a candlewick bedspread and sky blue-painted walls.

This painting of my bedroom is from my ‘A’ Level artwork: dated 1979.

The folds in the curtains, the shadows, the light, the patterns and colours  must have caught my eye.

I painted what I saw – and this is how I saw it.

Working in oils, each painting took ages to dry.

This was  definitely not the right medium for detail:  brushes too thick, paint too cloying.

At the time the painting was all about capturing what was in front of me. It was about looking, understanding and interpreting a scene from my everyday world.

This was never about ‘the decor’. It was about  losing myself in the process  of painting.

Although clumsy in execution, the painting is authentic and real. I certainly didn’t set out to glamourise my lifestyle or home. Or the very small bedroom.

Forty years later the painting  speaks volumes: about where I lived, about my mother’s taste, and about the ‘70’s.

Design choices were  more limited than today.

At that time ( pre-internet) all aesthetic decisions were  based on what  was available locally in the shops – and what we could afford.  

People were proud of their homes and kept them nice,  but they did not show them off in the way that we do now.

Interior design and home decorating generally was much more low-key.

These were very different times.

People had bigger families and so we had no expectations for an en-suite, a dressing room, a utility room or even single occupancy bedrooms.  

A bedroom was somewhere to sleep – perhaps to do homework, store books and clothes. We did not entertain our friends here.  

Back then, very few people would have had a TV in their room.

Decorating was important – but it was more about ‘refreshing’ a room. That involved spring cleaning: re-organisation, re-evaluation and a whole lot of clearing out.

On a small scale that might just be a  new bedspread… or curtains… or carpet. Once the carpet  was set everything else was chosen to match.

Every bedroom in the house was considered separately, when expenditure allowed.  When each individual bedroom carpet met on the landing the colours and patterns sometimes clashed.

But, that was how it was.

It’s hard to say how long the bedroom would have looked like this. It is a snapshot in time.

I know from a later photograph that the curtains ended up in the kitchen. I assume not long after this we also replaced the blankets and bedspreads with  a duvet/continental quilt. That was one big step to ‘modernisation’.

As we  left home, my parents would have had more space, more money and more opportunity to keep each room looking nice – or for ‘good’ for visitors.

I suspect I painted this all in one evening. It looks a bit rushed.  I might well have got a bit bored – or lost – somewhere within all those swirls. 

For some reason this painting has survived – a forgotten record of a place and a time.

It is not a ‘treasure’ or a work of art, but for me  it triggers deep memories of space, place, family and home. A safe place in turbulent times.

Until I came across this painting again I had not thought about this period, or this bedroom. I had forgotten about the decorative elements and colours of this space that I lived with for so many years.

Then it all came flooding back.

And it felt nice.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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