It is nearly a year since I wrote about the one that got away – the house we were never going to buy, but which I could happily weave a lottery-win fantasy renovation around.
More recently, I had a far more surprising and emotional experience whilst browsing local Rightmove: my old house, my own little house that I bought myself, was there – 6.5 years since we closed the door on it in December 2012.
I have walked past it, of course, and seen that they changed the curtains and repainted the door (pillar box red, initially – ouch! – and now tasteful pale green) – but I always wondered how it would look inside. And now I had a chance to snoop.
Dear old house; it had once been the tattiest house on the street, with wonky windows and missing gutter and the shrub growing out of a drain, and I had coaxed it into being a nice respectable tidy house – but no amount of fancy dressing could hide that it was a plain little box of a terrace, no fancy fixtures like cornices or ceiling roses or original fireplaces.
But what’s this on the estate agent description? – ‘numerous original details’? What could they be? The bannister rail? The internal doors? Already that slightly baffled me. And ‘late Victorian’ – well the house was built in 1905, so yes, Queen Victoria was pretty late by that point, I seem to recall.
Back to the house – I was pleasantly surprised to see the living room looking much as it did, my shelves and cupboards exactly as I left them, the only change was the chimney breast picked out in plum colour.
Awkward corner to the left of the chimney breast is still awkward – I squeezed the TV unit into there anyway, in a space that didn’t quite fit. Lovely shutters that I spent all my money on still look lovely. Nice to see it looking cosy and welcoming just as it was in our day.
Having started this blog after I’d done the bulk of the renovation, I missed the chance to do a proper Insta-story mega renovation diary. No swipe to reveal the ‘before’.
So indulge me whilst I do a bit of compare and contrast with the house as I inherited it and left it….
Here is the same room ‘before’ – same cupboards, same shelves, awkward TV unit, different sofa, baby. Before before, in 2008, it was all peach walls and navy blue wallpaper borders, I kid you not.
The kitchen was another story altogether….
These two photos aren’t mid-renovation. This is the actual kitchen I lived with for a year and a half. Bare walls was where cupboards had been ripped off to install a boiler – the boiler beforehand was a back-to-back 1970s affair behind the gas fire in the living room, so for my own safety I had that taken out soon after moving in, as ‘avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning’ had to take priority over ‘making it look nice’.
The order of stuff that happened after I moved in (May 2008) was:
Replaced broken gutter
New front door
Fresh paintwork around front windows and tiling on bay window
(All of which meant the house no longer looked like the shabbiest on the street – even though it was a wreck inside, I wanted it to be presentable outside)
New boiler and radiator installed in living room
Wonky bedroom floor straightened out
Bedroom and living room cupboards and shelves built
Bedroom carpet installed
Turned box room into bathroom
Gutted ex-downstairs bathroom and knocked through into kitchen
Installed new kitchen, new hardwood floor across entire ground floor, new downstairs loo, new patio and flowerbed, new back door and windows.
New carpet and wardrobe in spare bedroom.
New stair carpet and spare hardwood floor used on upstairs landing
Ran Out of Money.
2010 – lived in house
2011 – used money present from grandmother to finish doing up garden
2012 – had baby, sold house
Quite an epic journey, all told.
Here’s the kitchen as it was, properly lived in by me, and full of clutter. Very quickly ran out of storage space, as always seems to happen in every kitchen I’ve had, but it functioned very well as a kitchen, apart from the crappy washing machine, possibly one of my worst ever purchase decisions, and the useless under-counter lights which broke easily and were near-impossible to replace.
Here’s the kitchen as it appeared on the estate agents site now. Much the same, so nice to see the tiles I chose still in place – I loved those tiles – and the (old bathroom) windowsill full of plants, just how I imagined it might look back in 2007 when it was a wreck. Looks like they’ve added in some extra shelf space above the sink which is eminently sensible. I can’t fault that.
Here’s the garden once we’d finally finished renovating. It was such a short time we had it ‘done’ before we moved out I’m sad I didn’t enjoy it more – hardly any photos of peak summer 2012 when it was fully planted up and full of flowers.
Too busy taking photos of a baby that summer, which is fair enough – though I do have a couple of photos of my beloved roses.
Finally, I did take a photo on the day we moved out, Dec 2012:
I felt like I was handing over a fairly low maintenance courtyard garden, mostly patio, good storage space – but evidently not low maintenance enough, the new owners have ripped out most of the plants and put in AstroTurf. I could cry. I guess this is what people with small gardens want, small boxes with no plants that they don’t have to worry about or spend time on.
Not even going to share the photo, it’s too dreary entirely. I just have to hope Albertine is still blooming behind the new fence they’ve installed at the back. She would have been very prickly to remove.
There’s also the small matter of the asking price – they’re making potentially 200k off mostly my hard work and a bit of painting and tidying up by them. But then it’s also 6 years of property market nonsense which has potentially gifted it to them. And perhaps it will never make half a million – we shall see.
I spent maybe 2 days feeling sad about it, and thinking more about the old house than I had in years, but now, a week on? Well, it’s not home now, here is home, this house, this garden, family, all my happy things and memories.
But still I think of the work I did, the effort, the money I earned and saved to put into it, the fact every choice made and mistake and idea was my decision and mine alone – all unrecorded on Instagram or this blog – and I think I did this. I set out to renovate a house by myself, and I did it. And then I sent it out into the world, and now it will be someone’s new home, new paintwork, new flowers planted perhaps, new families growing, new memories. Life goes on.