I have lived in this funny old house for ten years yet I have never known how long I would be able to stay so I have never felt inclined to splash the cash and decorate.
Times change however and for the first time I have secured a guaranteed two year tenancy on the property.
The house is a three bedroom semi with original features. One original feature is a windowless, door-less 'conservatory' which obviously did not fare well during the second world war.
The French doors are also original, they probably were original during the French Revolution before being shipped across the channel on a rickety raft. They are drafty and rattle in the wind, they have age spots all over the window panes, an antique dealer would probably love them.
When I moved into the house all the windows, keyholes and air vents had been covered in plastic sheeting and taped up.The back door had not been used at all for years and years. The garden was a jungle.
The bathroom was covered in mould and had an avocado coloured suite.
The kitchen comprised of a few sticky pine cupboards and gaps where appliances should have lived.
I have been very happy living in this funny house because here I am free.
The first time I opened the back door, after having spent ages stripping off layers and layers of plastic and sticky tape, I found myself greeted by about seven fat pigeons eyeing me suspiciously from their perch on a window ledge of the 'conservatory.' Not one of them flinched. They seemed to stare at me in unison before looking at each other as if to say, 'Ah, she's harmless, let's just stay put.' Which they did. I struggled through bindweed, ivy, poo and stinging nettles to reach the door ( non existent)
out into the garden. It was a cold, damp February day, I decided to leave the garden until the spring.
I left the back door open in an effort to air the house.
I went around the house removing colossal amounts of plastic sheeting, bubble wrap and sticky tape and at last the house could breathe.
I went back downstairs to find two pigeons parading up and down the hallway. I tried to shoo them out but they flapped up and away up the stairs. They sat on the banister staring at me for quite some time before swooping down and out of the now opened front door, not before shitting all over the hall carpet.
That evening a fox sauntered in to have a look around, it actually looked affronted when I shooed it out with a broomstick. This house needs a broomstick, I realised that early on.
That was the beginning.
The garden is forever overgrown with bindweed but it is a lovely space, there is an ancient apple tree, a couple of mulberry bushes, a beautiful mature and magnificent Japanese acer , the colours of which are breathtaking, a fledgling acer which I planted and lots of unidentified other foliage.
The house, my funny old house has been transformed into a Chateau. I love the French style, shabby chic. It's a minimal house, the basics are all I need and all that I want.
The 1930's infrastructure that hadn't really been tampered with over the years provided a good template for decorating. Picture rails and dado rails, deep skirting boards, ancient embossed wall paper,old wooden internal doors and the original fireplaces provided me with the basic look and I simply enhanced it. It's been really hard work but I am so pleased with myself, my old furniture that I have collected over the years suits the house perfectly.
Of course a visitor might not understand my vision. There are no shiny surfaces or black and white lines. The bathroom suite is still avocado but is so old fashioned it now looks fashionable again.
Bedside tables are small towers of old Vogue magazines.
A retro radio stands pride of place in my little kitchen, incongruously blaring out indie hits on Radio X.
There is a broomstick in the garden and a horseshoe in the 'conservatory.'
Mr Fox sits under the apple tree.
All is well.
|Coco Chanel. Oil, based on photograph by Cecil Beaton.|
This painting hangs in my hall.