Now that I am looking for a new home, all the delights of planning and designing and DIYing are ahead of me. It’s my favourite part. I almost prefer it to actually finishing. Half way through a project, I invariably have a mini-meltdown over the dust; and not being able to find things; and not having somewhere to put something down; and the general upheaval. And, oh God, the MESS. I berate myself for having started the whole damn thing in the first place. I have never been in the fortunate position of being able to move out during a renovation but, you know, the finishing is always worth the inconvenience, the annoyances quickly forgot, so quickly that almost a soon as I finish one project, I long to start another.
This is also when I get to indulge in dreams of the perfect house, before the constraints of budget bring me sharply down to earth.
And this perfect house, what does it entail, money being no object? Well, for me, the perfect house stands within its own grounds, a park of some considerable size with mature trees and of course a walled garden and yes, let’s have a small lake or a large pond, or better yet a swimming pond. Why not? And a flower meadow… for the bees… and a cutting garden for of course I must grow dahlias. And definitely tulips.
A walled garden is just the thing nowadays. I visited the oval walled Kitchen Garden at Gravetye Manor last year and have longed for my own ever since. During lockdown, along with everyone else it seems, I tried my hand at growing vegetables. Well, tomatoes. The Boyfriend suggested cutting cherry tomatoes from the local supermarket in half, planting them in pots and placing them on the windowsill. So I did. Nothing happened.
And then, about three weeks later, as if by magic a seedling appeared, followed by another and then another. I was ridiculously pleased to discover that the seeds in those tomatoes are not just for show. I tended the seedlings assiduously, moving them from windowsill to windowsill so they caught the best of the sun. They grew and grew. I re-potted them. They grew some more. I put them outside the front of the house alongside my other pots as they were now too many and too big for the windowsills. They grew a bit more and promptly fell over. Stakes were duly purchased and deployed. Then the sun decided that really it had done quite enough shining for one summer and it was time to take a break. No tomatoes appeared. I was sorely disappointed but not discouraged. See, a walled garden, with a greenhouse, is the solution. That, and planting out earlier in the season but we’ll skate over that bit.
The house is approached by a tree-lined avenue – aren’t they always? And has a requisite number of outbuildings, as now I have moved out of London, of course I want to keep chickens, and have space for my studio and textile empire. I know nothing about keeping chickens and am only recently getting not to hate eggs. The Boyfriend is dab hand at an omelette and you know they really don’t taste eggy. He also says that home reared chicken tastes wonderful. I’m not too sure about that bit and have resolved to name them as a deterrent. Still I have a romantic notion about the chickens, particularly as I met such nice friendly ones with feathery feet at a pub lunch not so long ago. They weren’t on the menu. At least I don’t think they were. These ones were definitely alive… and so cute. Yes, you guessed it. I am a city girl. I am hopeful that the Cat can be persuaded that the chickens are not lunch. Given that so far Her Royal Grumpiness has only had success with a single suicidal mouse, I don’t think the hope misplaced.
Having sorted the grounds and the outbuildings, what about the house?
Well I am surprised to find that this is a bit more tricky for me to visualise. It must be old and have interesting architecture, with perhaps a turret or two, but what that looks like exactly I’m not too sure. It must have chimneys. I love a fire and although I know it’s not very green of me, I don’t think I’d be able to give up the idea of a wood-burning stove. There is something so very elemental about a fire don’t you think? I was fortunate to have one in my previous house, the house before the Flat, and I can’t tell you how much I loved it.
The house must have a necessary degree of dilapidation, but not so much that (a) the cost of fixing it up is exorbitant or (b) that it is in danger of falling down around my ears. I am in search of Cinderella before the Ball, so I get to wave my magic wand without the attendant guilt of undoing someone else’s idea of perfection, which in one case included a newly renovated bathroom in a dubious shade of purple.
It must have a kitchen, by which I mean a Kitchen and not a passageway with a cooker in it, and of course a back-kitchen or scullery as they used to be known; an interesting staircase; the requisite number of bedrooms but not so many as to unbalance the number of reception rooms; bathrooms of course; and a statement doorway with a spacious hallway behind. I have come to appreciate the need for a statement doorway on my travels and there is nothing worse than a poky hall. I’m with Lady Catherine on that one. Oh, and a lovely South-facing terrace for lazy summer lunches. Interesting interior architecture would be nice too. See, really I don’t want much.
Now that’s settled, the next step is planning its transformation… tune in next time for the second exciting instalment of (cue music) Andrea Does Up Her Imaginary House. [I wanted to think of a clever title, but nothing came to me…]
Bet you can’t wait!