What makes a house a home?

The last time I lived in a house that felt like a home was in 2005. Four years  earlier, having finally escaped from the long term, controlling relationship with my children’s father, the kids and I moved into a scruffy, quirky Victorian house and made it our home. It had once been a sweet shop and had last been decorated in the 1970s – the geometric wallpaper in the hallway was going to be the first thing to go but I quickly grew to love it. We moved in with very little furniture and acquired bits from Freecycle, charities and generous friends – it was not so much “shabby chic” but “shabby shabby” but we were comfortable and we loved our humble home. Over the next four years that house was a warm and happy home for us and there were plenty of tears shed when we left.

Our next house was that of my soon-to-be husband when we moved 60 miles away and into his home. With hindsight, it was one of many mistakes that contributed to the failure of the marriage; I should have insisted on a fresh start for this new family unit in a new home for us all. Instead, we struggled to find spaces within it to call our own, and I never felt that I belonged there, not properly.

Less than four years later  I admitted defeat with the marriage and the children and I moved into a small 3 bed terraced house four miles away. The move was done in a hurry and our choices were limited, both by budget and location as I needed to stay within the area for the sake of the children’s schooling. The house we moved into had the potential to be a home, I felt, but would need some work. We settled in quickly … but three years on it still feels like the house we live in rather than our home. I can’t put my finger on why we’ve failed to make it feel like ours – we’ve stamped our mark on the place as much as we can, but something about the featureless structure and the complete lack of character in this building leaves me cold.

So what is it that makes a house a home? Is it the building itself? The people? The furniture? The decor? The motivation for moving? Or all of those? Or something else completely?! I think it’s a combination of things in this house’s case. It’s a very plain square structure with few (if any) unusual features. The decor is typical rental property – not quite magnolia on the walls, but pale neutral cream, green 1980s carpeting throughout. The house came furnished, so we have a sofa and chair we didn’t choose, a table we didn’t choose, beds we didn’t choose. It’s near on impossible to get nails in the walls so I haven’t been able to put up pictures, other than on the couple of hooks already there. I tried to work hard on the garden when we first moved in but the conditions – a slope, a huge overhanging tree – don’t work for me.The one redeeming feature is the wall to wall shelving, but shelves can only be a novelty for so long!! And I wonder if our reason for moving has played its part …. ok it was a fresh start for us, but as the result of a catastrophic error that I made. I wonder if , in true “L Shaped Room” style, choosing such a bland and unappealing house was in part some punishment on me for failing to make a success of my marriage?

I always promised the children  that  this house was a stopgap and we’d find somewhere more homely as soon as possible. The restrictions on budget and location are still valid and though I’ve looked at a couple of places, nothing has come along that’s been advantageous for all of us. Yet the urge to move, to find a true home, has grown stronger and stronger as the  months have passed. Visits to a new friend’s house have increased the urge, as she lives in a small but perfectly formed house that is very much a reflection of her and one of the most homely homes I’ve ever been to.

So why am I writing this now? Well, a potential home has become available – a thatched cottage four miles down the road. From the estate agent’s pictures it’s quirky and full of character; it’s no bigger really that where we are now but it has features that to me would make it a wonderful family home. It really appeals to me on every level (other than that it’s in the same village as my ex-husband and his family!) and despite my better judgement I can already picture myself there. It’s in the right location for the children’s schooling to be unaffected and it’s even within budget. (Have a look here!)

So … we’ll see. Tomorrow I’ll book an appointment to view, and I’ll hope not to be disappointed. It’s been a long three years with a house rather than a home. It’s time to move on.

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