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You can't stay neutral in the home deco war

THE question on my mind ahead of property wizard Sarah Beeny's new TV series, Beeny's Restoration Nightmare, which started this week, is whether herself and developer husband, Graham Swift, manage to see out the show without finishing up in separate wings of the 30-bedroom house they hope to restore.

I'd have loved Sarah Beeny to have visited my own home in the days when TV stations had huge budgets and could afford to send property wizards to people's pads for a makeover.

I always thought of Sarah as a guilty-pleasure after-tea-with-plate-of-biscuits-on-lap watch, and would have relished having her in the flesh; but I would also have relished another woman telling my woman that her taste in all things decorative and DIY was crap. And way over budget. That last one would have been a howl.

The battle of the sexes, apparently, is at its most barbaric when played out in the arena of home decorating. And since the majority of us, burdened by negative equity, are stuck for life in the homes we are now in, redecorating is the next best thing to trading-up.

And each year of the past four in our devalued, now worthless box of a home, we have had that redecorating conversation that goes nowhere. I kick it off by mentioning the 'neutral' carpet in the toilet under the stairs, which was a bad idea and needs to be changed, just like the 'neutral' carpet running up the stairs, both festering and covered with footprints.


And I add that the man in the carpet shop warned us against 'neutral' colours for carpets in rooms where people walk, stand and pee a lot. And each year, that's as far as the plans get. Because I've brought another man into it.

This year there are new concerns. The white walls were probably a bad idea, too. Actually, they were a terrible idea. And not just the white walls in the bathroom under the stairs with 'balance prints' on them (okay, my fault); the white walls in the kitchen which are now speckled with tikka masala sauce etc (I'm a passionate cook); the white walls in every bedroom and the vacant white ceiling I wake up to every morning wondering whether I've passed away in the night.

And let's not get started on the wooden floors upstairs. I warned her. So did the man in the shop. It was the same shop we bought the neutral carpets in, actually. It has closed down since -- I wonder why.

The curtains -- neutral. The couches -- neutral. Bedsheets . . . neutral. Now don't get me wrong, I had a hand to play in some of this neutrality too. And I chose the neutral sandstone to pave the whole back garden. But the time for neutrality is now over. May the best man win. Okay, or woman.