The Ideal Home Show is responsible for launching the microwave (1947 since you ask), and (in the 1950s) the first fitted kitchen. That was back in the days when the Queen used to come. This year the Home of the Future contained inhalable vitamins (with the dubious name of Le Whif), taps that dispense fizzy water, scales that tweet your weight, and a bath with built in tv and fridge.
Otherwise the show remains a reassuringly familiar (I mean, innovative products are great, but we wouldn’t want our homes to be too radical would we?). The star attraction, the Show Homes, are Victorian (the Coronation Street House), Georgian vernacular (The Prince’s Foundation house) and Scandinavian log kit (the Open Plan Living house). Nothing by Zaha Hadid then.
There’s plenty of middle class porn to be had – Little Greene paints, locally made chorizo from Bath Pig, brightly coloured garden cushions, garra rufa fish pedicures at £10 a nibble… and a certain amount of horror – gaudy new grandfather clocks (surely any self-respecting middle classer will have either inherited their grandfather clock or picked it up form that nice antique dealer in the Suffolk village where they have their holiday house), ornate ceramic candlesticks (all handmade! the stallholder chirps, as if this somehow gives them artisanal status); outdoor hot tubs larger than the average London living room; and chunky marble and chrome furniture quite similar to some sold in the shop at the top of the Walworth Road.
Sadly, the homewares demos for which Ideal Home was once famed (back when women took housework seriously) are now relegated to the darkest recesses of Earls Court. In a corner of the Ideal Home Show that time and TV makeover shows forgot, regional door-to-door sales men (and the occasionally woman) cling to the hope that someone might buy one of their high performance mops, plastic sushi makers, miracle cleaning agents, or labour-saving salad choppers. If someone had been demonstrating a SodaStream, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
It’s easy to loose a whole day wandering the aisles, and not just because it takes so long to find the escalator to the upper level and then back down. But there’s only so many times in a day that you can hear the phrase ‘a carpet really dresses a house’ or ‘the kitchen is the heart of the home’ without wanting to drown Linda Barker in a vat of muted-hue lead-free paint or smother her with own scatter cushions. I probably exited just in time.