When former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in 2014 and fled in disgrace to Russia, astonished members of the public toured his 340-acre Mezhyhirya estate outside Kyiv, gawping at the half-tonne gold-plated chandeliers, replica Greek ruins and private zoo. If only the British public could do the same as former British PM Boris Johnson is booted out of Downing Street, where Johnson and his wife Carrie spent more than £200,000 on a luxury renovation of their official residence at Number 11.
A leaked copy of the invoice obtained by The Independent shows that the couple spent hundreds of thousands of pounds at Soane Britain, the furniture company co-founded by luxury interior designer Lulu Lytle. The bill includes items plainly necessary to the running of a country, such as a £3,675 drinks trolley inspired by one owned by ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, two sofas costing more than £15,000 and 32 metres of silk curtains in a teeny little fern frond pattern. Very chic and absolutely in keeping with a prime minister who ushered his country into a recession, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The “Wallpapergate” scandal exploded in 2021 after former advisor Dominic Cummings claimed that Johnson had asked Conservative donors to foot the bill for the expensive refurb. (The Cabinet Office only has a £30,000 annual budget for renovations, or around the annual salary of a nurse in the NHS.) Part of the cost was picked up by Conservative Party donor and life peer Lord Brownlow. After the scandal emerged, Johnson was ordered to settle the bill himself, including those paid for by Brownlow.
But enough about that: What does the furniture actually look like? We matched up the items on the receipt to ones on the Soane Britain website. Here’s our judgment on the Johnsons’ interior design choices:
Espalier Square Wallpaper: 10 rolls x £225/each, costing £2,250
Here are some other things you can buy for £225 that isn't a single roll of wallpaper consisting of green squares: An all-inclusive holiday to one of the Balearic Islands. Five tickets to Abba Voyage. One of those flat-faced kittens. A personal video call from Chewbacca from Star Wars. Or, some different, nicer and cheaper wallpaper.
The Nuryev Trolley: £3,675
You can almost guarantee that the Johnsons bought this and exclaimed, “Wow, how retro!” as they piled their wine subscription bottles onto it. This is the sort of thing that they would purchase to add a bit of “edge”, something completely unnecessary to roll out and flaunt when they have guests over. Because really, who needs an entire drinks trolley in their house, let alone one that costs over £3,000?
The Dryad® Rattan Leighton Table - £3,675
It’s like they both saw the Millennial Apartment bingo card and interpreted it the worst possible way. Rattan itself is vile, and the green accenting is genuinely headache-inducing. The makers of this table must be trolling rich people, as it honestly resembles a piece of Animal Crossing starter furniture, and not in a good way.
The Aten Hurricane Wall Lamp with Candle: 2 x £1,775/each, costing £3,550 in total
Why is it that people in the top one percent of earners insist on decking their houses out with items that look like they belong in plague times? The USP of this wall light is that it was “hand beaten by Cornish coppersmiths”, which I can only take to mean that it was repeatedly punched while being made. “Hmm, hand beaten, you say? Then I must spend £3,750 on it.”
Scrolling Fern Frond Fabric for Curtains: 32m x £100/m, costing £3200 in total
To be fair, choosing the right curtains is never easy. Go too dark and you risk making everything look goth, but too light and the sun still streams through. Which is possibly why Boris clearly just gave up here and went for the red version of these curtains, which have a “looks like it’s from the Urban Outfitters home section but actually costs the price of a small shire horse” vibe. When in doubt, throw money at it.