One of the nicest things about living in a modern family home is having fitted wardrobes and cabinets in each room. Today we seem to own and hoard masses more stuff – books, cds, pictures, clothes and bathroom products. I can well remember as a child having to keep my few pocessions in a box under my bunk bed. The shared wardrobe was purely for hanging my clothes and school uniform. We now have masses of room per person in the average family house. On every lifestyle property programme, the buyers demand a bedroom for each child, ensuite bathroom facilities to at least the master bedroom and separate untility room for the laundry operation. The interior design of houses has changed over the years to facilitate these needs. But houses have to get smaller as building land become scares and we need to preserve green belt and pasture lands. We are more conscious these days of our needs to downsize.
On a recent stay with relatives who live in the country amid lots of gorgeous stone and thatch cottages, I was very seriously taken with the idea of living in such a beautiful place. Just for a few years of dreamily romantic fun. Obviously I was persuaded not to do anything rash by my very smart companions. I did proffer he idea that I let my nice but overly large family house out and rent a cottage for a while. This idea did meet with more approval than the other. Then came the endless list of pitfalls. My current house would need totally clearing out from top to bottom; that would require repairs to the garage door wihich doesn’t up and over as efficiently – need to get garage door specialist in. Clearing 17 years of junk overload! I was recommended to engage a property studio to advise and redress my house, clearing as they go. To get it in first class rentable shape to allow me to indulge . . . . .
I was talking the other day with someone I used to work with some years ago – she and I were having a fabulous catch up session – what her family have all got up to and how my life panned out. We both bought our first homes in the same year. She bought a tiny 4th floor flat in town and my partner and I bought the middle one of a set of three victorian terrace houses. Her flat was small but immaculately finished – the vendor had really worked magic to make the kitchen a spacious as possible – a fold down table with comfy stools; integrated white goods behind cabinet doors and a bedroom with wonderfully modern fitted ensuite bathroom. Whilst we were reminiscing, she told me that the vendor had used the profits on his sale to start his flat conversion business. He’s still in business today and has an excellent reputation!
When you buy your first house, the temptation to go out and fill it with every conceivable piece of furniture that you like in the showrooms can be rather hard to resist. You see a very nice corner suite that won’t take up masses of room, then you see a matching foot stool or pouffe that would be useful because it stores stuff under the seat . . . . Then the bedrooms, do you buy a four drawer divan bed or enjoy the delights of an old iron bedstead with a new modern hi tech matress. These are questions that need sorting out before hitting the stores otherwise its very easy to come back having spent a fortune, with a mish mash of ideas all about to be delivered and no real sense of design or purpose. Going to one online site and looking out new ideas is a brilliant way to keep a hold in expenses and wild dreaming.
You can’t imagine these days being part of the 1920s and ’30s social scene where the need to follow social etiquette to the nth degree was absolutely critical. I have lots of dealings with a historic house that used to be governed by these very conventions. Here I am thinking of the ‘coming out’ ball held in 1876 for one of the daughters of the house I’m attached to. The father not only had his house extended to accommodate a small ball room, but upon finding out that a nearby palacial pile had added an even grander, bigger ballroom, he then had yet another built on at the back of his house. Ensuring the correct style of furniture – up to date for its day was also absolutely essential. It’s so easy these days to furnish our houses and be utterly relaxed about it whilst we choose from some of the best online sites out there today!
I currently help out as a volunteer in a country house – it’s been open to the public for many years but it has been applauded far more for the wonderful gardens which are world famous. Anyway, the house has been blessed with a vast amount of heritage lottery funding to enable them to open up the basement area which was the original male servants’ working and sleeping domain. There is a Butler’s Pantry with original work benches and huge storage cupboards. In the Footmens’ bedrooms there are beds and basic wardrobes etc. Although it is still spartan, I can’t help thinking these would seem like ultimate luxury for servants in the 1780s to 1930 period. The rooms in the upper house are set in different owner time zones and reflect differing fashions and tastes in furniture – that said, it’s all much more luxurious than downstairs with comfort and warmth very much in mind.
I do love wandering around historic houses and churches. In fact we used to plan all our family holidays to take in cities and towns with a good choice – no houses, no camping. After many years of this activity, it begins to feel very ‘same as, same as’ and I found myself being completely zoned out whenever I came upon a ‘green bedrom’ or another ‘yellow drawing room’. so it was with great joy that I came across the unexpected joy of finding a modern country house open for viewing. This one is so different from my usual choice – seriously modern with clean lines, no frills, stark architectural lines. I really enjoyed looking at each room setting which ranged from the late 1940s through to the end of the 1970s. The different decades reflected in the choice of furniture and furnishings – some bright brash colours. The monochrome dining room with matching chinaware and kitchen linens. Fantastic fun.
I have lived in my nice comfortable family sized home for nearly 20 years and it has been a source of constant joy with very little to get me down. When our family moved into this house just as it was finished being built – the paint just about drying on the walls . . . we bought a lot of the scandinavian flatpack furniture that was so popular in that time. It served us well and I still have much of it dotted around. My joy though a couple of years ago was to refurnish my main dining room and all the bedrooms. I decided that a little more classic furniture with some style was needed to give my comfort an oomph. I chose oak furniture throughout – the colour varies on each piece and the feeling of warmth is wonderful. I particularly like the lighter oak – nothing oppressive or heavy about my stunningly beautiful sideboard.
Now that Spring has finally decided it’s time it sprung, we are seeing a great rise in the number of folk getting their houses out on the market. There’s nothing quite like an early Easter holiday to get the decorator in us racing down to the diy emporiums and selecting paint sample pots, fabric swatches, new cabinet catalogues and even more exciting – new furniture booklets. I have recently helped a young relative make the big step up from living in a small and very conveniently sized starter home up to the dream home in the country. They had filled their dear little house with carefully chosen modular units from the well known scandinavian outlet – it was very effective for the purpose and they enjoyed 4 comfortable and easily mainained years. Now though they’re up for the generation change – only oak furniture with the right period look is being considered and it all looks fantastic.
Sometimes you just need to get away from the everyday humdrum. Taking a break in a country cottage for example can give you an instant lift. The cottage is more than likely going to be in a seriously gorgeous part of the country; the interior design and layout of the place will be old, characterful and full of history – and the more of that we can enjoy, the more our own little existence becomes worthwhile. I really do love living in a modern airy and very spacious detached exec property – it suits me well for the most part. Sometimes though I do hanker for the old, very ancient feel of a historic property. The interior designers of today have much work to do when they want to give more space for families – we own so much clutter now. The kitchen equipment alone needs space !