Part 2: The Old Place (A renter’s adventure into making a house a lifetime home)

Part 2: The Old Place (A renter’s adventure into making a house a lifetime home)
April 9, 2018 admin
Block of flats


A bit about the old place and backstory to our move.

Read time: 4 minutes

The major malfunction of our last place was simply lack of space. Ours was the kind of studio flat where you could be in the ‘bedroom’, ‘kitchen’, ‘dining room’ and ‘living room’ without ever moving from your (only) chair. For a sense of scale, the only internal door was to the bathroom, the kitchen had no oven and our bed doubled as our sofa. We couldn’t really have people over – it was kind of a ‘one in, one out’ policy. We had even developed our own cooking style, for which we coined the term ‘the slow and blow’, using a slow cooker for tender insides and a blow torch for external crisping rather than the more traditional oven.

Don’t get me wrong, we loved this place. Great location, affordable, and our first proper home together. And my, oh my, was it warm. Nestled in among the hot water piping under the stairs of the building, we had free underfloor heating. Wondrous for a cold-blooded creature like me and completely amazing in the winter. Somewhat unbearable in the summer however.

In the two years we lived there we also got married, giving it an extra je ne sais quoi for us emotionally. It also meant we had gathered a fair few lovely presents on top of the general detritus of life, which seems to gather without you even knowing how, which we had hidden in every nook and cranny. You couldn’t look behind a cupboard or shelf without finding an unexpected vase or chess set lurking unceremoniously, waiting to be given its moment to shine atop a beautiful and uncluttered coffee table or sideboard. Expecting we wouldn’t stay there for long (we were quite surprised when 2 years passed) we had also kept all our packing boxes and had them wedged between anything and everything. Come December 2017, we realised we had officially used the last space available when, I kid you not, you could only open the front door halfway. It seemed it had come to a point of move home then, or possibly never leave the flat ever again.

Birdseye view floorplan

Our love of cheap rent and each other had made this flat work. That, and the fact that we are both lucky to be pretty physically fit since the flat had necessitated some increasingly bizarre acrobatic acts to make the space work. These workarounds had made complete sense when we were living it every day and seemed completely normal (like moving a bunch of cushions and a giant beanbag from the bed to the one arm chair every night to sleep, and then back again the next morning to live; or balancing precariously on a stool to open a window; or creating a limbo across the flat with a power cable every time I worked on my laptop; or taking your life in your hands every time we took burning hot food from the microwave that was fitted above head height.) I am sure many of you also do similar things and it is just what you have to do. And it is all fine if you have decent agility, coordination and strength. But the madness of our own living situation came into stark relief when while we were there my husband broke both his wrists in a cycling accident and it became a tad tricky to navigate our home like this. This kind of thing must happen to people all the time – luckily for us it was only temporary – but you never know what is around the corner. It is only when something unplanned and unlucky like this happens that the inappropriateness of your living situation is thrown into stark relief, but, somewhat troublingly, you are then little able to do anything about it.

So after deciding enough was enough, doing our sums and checking that we would be able to afford it, we went flat hunting over Christmas. I won’t go into the stress of doing this: dealing with estate agents, organising viewings, paying exorbitant admin fees (you all know the score). We were lucky to find a place that ticked most of our boxes (after seeing some real shonky options – I cannot believe that landlords are allowed to rent some of these things, but don’t get me started on that) and we moved in February 2018. Actually only a few minutes down the road from where we were before, but a world away in terms of space (you’ll notice our old studio pretty much fits entirely into our new living room!). We are now the proud tenants of an unfurnished one-bedroom 1960s flat in a block in North London. Not exactly the dream house, but it’ll do nicely for us. 

Birdseye view floorplan

Part three coming soon, when I really start getting to grips with the practicalities of making a house a lifetime home. I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read so far and what you would like to see me cover. Please also feel free to share these blogs if you know anyone who might be interested. Thanks for reading 🙂 

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