When you get the opportunity to design a home, it tends to be about the practicalities – the space available, potential restrictions on materials and style of building, needs versus wants, and of course – cost. Rather than being practical, I thought I’d talk about those aspects of homes I’ve seen in the past which have stuck with me.
My last significant hunt for a dream home happened around 25 years ago when my ex and I started looking for our third home together. My daughter had grown up and left home, so we were looking at what could be our final home. I drew up lists of what each of us wanted – and didn’t want. As those lists weren’t a terribly good fit, we applied weighting to each item on the list, and allowed for each of us to have one veto. My ex, as a massive sports fan, decided that a dish for connection to satellite TV was his “must have” and so its lack would be his veto. I cannot recall my veto now, but we both freely vetoed anywhere which wasn’t suitable for our much loved cat.
My ex longed for a big house. To him, big equalled success, whereas to me big equalled more housework. Not a man who was handy with either a hammer or a vacuum, I knew it was all coming my way. To be fair to him, he acknowledged this as a fair cop, and so we set ourselves to finding an apartment in a converted old building, while only considering standalone houses where they offered a little something out of the ordinary. Despite seeking to limit our daily work commutes, there were a significant number of properties in the running and we did a lot of looking.
The first aspect which I realise I’ve added to my memory bank was a house we rejected on the basis of its unsuitability for the cat. What made it interesting was the walled garden. There was no grass whatsoever as the entire outdoor surface was brickwork, and it was surrounded on three sides by brick walls about 10 feet high. While accepting the cat flap exiting direct onto a busy road (with no pavement/sidewalk) made it unsuitable, I filed away that walled garden. I mentally tore up sections of brickwork and laid paving slabs for ease of walking about and furniture placement, as well as planting multiple climbers to soften those high walls. I added a few huge planters (either half barrels or terracotta pots glazed in Mediterranean Blue) containing Acers and Hydrangeas, with possibly a couple of holly bushes for the festive season, and a raised block for me to plant herbs to use in cooking. There was something about that walled garden which spoke to me – time spent outdoors, fire pits and chimineas, privacy and peace, not hours spent watering or back-breaking gardening.
The second “bit” of a property that I fell for I call the garden room, although I’ve no idea if that’s the correct term. An old house, redeveloped into apartments with a large common garden space, the apartment we looked at was at one end. We rejected it on the basis of the living area being way too small, and the car parking too random and haphazard, but off the master bedroom was this lovely space. An old door tucked away behind a curtain led to this lovely room. Fully covered, with walls up to half-height but no windows or door, it led out onto the garden. Being on the rear corner of the building, it was beautifully private, and the light and fresh air flowed through. The floor was covered in terracotta tiles and, while not suitable for fires, I was charmed. I saw cushions and blankets, a place to read which felt out of doors yet was shaded, and I was certain I could identify a suitable heat source for the colder months.
And yet… the place in which I’ve felt most at home was in no way a dream. A one-bedroomed apartment with rubbish electric heating and rising damp, it was where I felt safe, snug and secure. My first time living alone at the age of 50, I had sufficient space for my big dining table, desk space for home working, enough room to accommodate my small book group if we all squeezed in, and a little covered patio to sit outdoors even when it was raining. I loved it and would have bought it in a heartbeat, despite its drawbacks, if it had been available. It taught me that home can be found within you – a feeling of being safe, of contentment, and of having what you need.
There are a lot of practical things I could add when designing a dream home, but – in truth – I’d be content with only a fraction. Location really matters. Near the sea would be lovely, with good rail and road links as well as local shops. Lastly a park or a seafront for strolling in the fresh air. All I really need is space enough for Himself and me – and our growing collection of camera kit 😉
Are there “bits” of homes you’ve seen which have stuck with you? If you already have your dream home, what makes it dreamy?
© Debra Carey, 2021