A New Beginning in a Familiar Place


On resisting the urge to be idle with our interiors
and making our homes happier places to be.

For months now, my boyfriend and I have been using an ironing board as a coat stand. It’s propped up in the hallway with four bulky puffer coats dangling from the legs, meaning we have to remove them every time we need to iron. It’s ridiculous and annoying, so why not just buy a coat stand? Because if we bought a coat stand, it would mean investing in the relationship with our current rented flat, and we fell out of love with that long ago.

We live in London’s desirable Barbican Estate but our flat is the size of a shoebox, the landlord’s carpet is roughly half my age and let’s just say I never want to see it under a microscope. The lack of natural light affects my mood and the surrounding neighbours only seem to do DIY or slam their doors between 11 pm and 2 am. After five years with nowhere to store towels and occasional infestations of drain flies in the sink’s waste disposal unit (as repugnant as it sounds), we’re itching for a change, but we work in London and we can’t afford anything better, so that’s that.

I mentally divorced myself from this flat some years ago. Like a petulant child who won’t tidy their room, I’ve been self-sabotaging my potential enjoyment of home (and there is a lot of potential) by refusing to spend time or money making the best of the situation. It felt like a waste of effort when we were about to leave. Except, I’ve been threatening to move for at least three years and all that time, we’ve been using one very blunt kitchen knife, because a new knife is what I’ll buy to finally celebrate moving.

After Christmas, something changed. I still want to move but I’ve also decided I want to buy a new knife now. I’ve been waiting for something better. Waiting for a new start rather than making the most of what we have. Life is far too short for idling – especially with something as important and emotive as home – and so I’ve decided to treat this flat as if we just moved in. A new beginning in a familiar place.

I’d left all of the geraniums in our balcony planters to wither and die in what feels like a symbolic move, now I’m planning some ornamental grasses for spring. I’d taken the art off the walls last year to dust and didn’t see the point in putting it all back again. Yesterday, I took a few pieces to the framers to spruce them up and I’ve rehung the gallery wall above our sofa. It’s astonishing the difference five paintings can make, especially when you rent, and the space isn’t your own.

I’ve put a weekend aside to repaint our scuffed hallway, I’m watching several rugs on eBay to make our bedroom feel cosier and I’m planning a wall of storage for the towels and sheets that sit crumpled on a chair. We bought paper-thin curtain panels when we moved in and the flat has always felt draughty and noisy because of them. Five years on, I’m ready to replace those. I've also invested in a few timeless vases and lamps for corners that always felt unloved. Everything I’m buying, we can take with us when we go.

I might find somewhere new to rent tomorrow, we might move next month, but that doesn’t matter. I’m seeing our home through fresh eyes and there are so many ways to make it a happier place to be. Starting with coat hooks for the wall.