Classic design by Ray

14th January 2000 at 00:00
Cassandra Hilland solves an NQT image crisis.

Friday columnist Gemma Warren's lamented her lack of "dinner party cool" a while back. She sounded desperate to "get it right" - anxious to speak, cook, and dress to impress.

Having gone through a similar experience when I started teaching, I can empathise with that awful realisation that your "home" is about to be invaded by "established" home-owning friends who will see your flat for the rented hovel it is. Cold, clammy panic sets in...

Gemma solved her image crisis by filling her flat with "interesting" bric-a-brac.

Three years ago, I had a similar problem. My colleague and I - both NQTs - had recently moved into an unfurnished flat.

Perfect place for a flat warming - except that we had no tables. Or chairs. Never mind how we would appear to our guests - where were we going to put them? Or the food for that matter?

Who could we filch a table and chairs from? Nobody had anything and we couldn't afford to buy. It wuld have to be called off.

With two days to go I told my sad story to Ray, our caretaker. Like a slightly grubby genie, he beckoned me towards one of the "huts". Inside was an Aladdin's cave of obsolete tables - from the days when students had wider desks with inkwells and drawers, and class sizes were smaller.

We got our table and the loan of six of those design classics - the moulded plastic school chair. I was a little put out by the "Dobson is a git" scrawled in Biro on the desk, but it's amazing what a power sander and a splash of antique pine varnish can do.

The chairs were swathed in throws and cushions. Finally, a selection of lanterns and our "best" tableware actually made the whole thing look - well, rather nice actually.

Best of all - one of the most style-conscious of our guests complimented us on our "lovely antique table" . Was it"auction or restoration?". "Restoration", we replied.

Cassandra Hilland teaches at a sixth-form college in Surrey

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today