Saturday 16 December 2017

I'm doing my best to resist the lure of interiors magazines... for now


We got the keys last week and took the children to see the new house the next day. When I say children, I'm not being strictly accurate because three out of the four of them are adults, but they are still our children, and three-and-a-half of them are still living at home. So for the next few years at least, this will be their house too.

We brought along a bottle of ­champagne and some plastic glasses and made toasts in the drawing room, which has a beautiful marble fireplace, ­magnificent cornicing, and some fetching storage heaters.

Without its furniture and the paraphernalia of everyday life, the house looks bigger than when we last visited and the scale of what we have taken on is hitting home.

For my husband, an architect, this is all in a day's work and his calm is infectious. The pair of us are excited rather than daunted. I read during the week that pillow talk is good for marriages, although I'm not sure that our current endless ­backwards and forwards chat about bathrooms and kitchens and bin storage counts.

I am doing my best to be strong and resist the lure of the interiors magazines for the time being. There's an amount of practical stuff - roof repairs, damp patches - to be dealt with before I can disappear down that particular rabbit hole, although I am spending rather more time than is prudent on the website of Plain English, a company that makes beautiful kitchens. (Ditto that of La Cornue, where the ranges are works of art.) For the children, though, the reality of the new place is a bit of a shock. They have only ever lived in one house and, while it hasn't always been the spectacularly tidy show home that it is now, it has been warm and comfortable, the carpets have been plain, and the walls painted in 50 shades of Farrow & Ball.

The new house was lived in by the same family for 60 years. They hadn't redecorated in a long time. Some of the carpets look as if they'd be more at home in a midlands hotel c1970, and dark green gloss walls are certainly not for me.

But I've met people who went to parties there. They tell me that it was a happy house, full of laughter and good times, and that the hospitality was always generous. A friend says that she once rented a flat in the basement and that she has nothing but good memories. I love hearing these stories; each morsel contributes to the growing romance between us and the house.

When we bought our current home there were similar tales. A friend's sister lived in a flat on the top floor and a man who came to lay a carpet said that he had been born in the room that is now our kitchen.

In Julie Myerson's wonderful book, Home, she tells the story of her house in south London and all the people who ever lived there. I've been thinking about that a lot recently. I want to know more. But in the meantime there's a squabble about the allocation of bedrooms to sort out.

Sunday Independent

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