On April 28th I moved into a new home – just a street away from the old one, but a world away in terms of calm. I love living in Camden – I can’t envisage moving to any other part of the city, but the tourists, goodness there are a lot of tourists. I think I read somewhere that Camden Market is the third biggest tourist attraction in London, and goodness don’t you just know it during the summer holidays and at weekends.
Parkway, my old street, thankfully was mainly used by those walking to the Dublin Castle, Regents Park or to London Zoo, but it still meant that the front door of my building opened directly onto a main thoroughfare thronged with cars and people at all hours of the day. And don’t get me started on the Boris Bike rank directly outside which meant I haven’t been able to park – or be picked up – outside my house for five years.
I absolutely loved the character of my old apartment, with its pretty period detailing, clawfooted bath and glass walled dining conservatory, but it had many, many drawbacks for an ex-fashion editor with a lot of clothes and shoes, who worked from home, and writes and photographs recipes. It had no easily accessible storage space, not even an under stairs cupboard, or a place to keep a vacuum cleaner or an ironing board.
I put up shelves everywhere, over lintels, in the kitchen and in my office. So everything was on show, and it drove me demented, from the wine racks balanced precariously in a corner of the kitchen, to the vintage metal trolley piled high with crockery because the kitchen cupboards were too narrow to take my plates, platters or soup bowls. Shoes were perched in the hallway on a built-in bookcase, and the nature of the conversion of a Victorian building into flats meant that the front door opened onto a wall so visitors had to creep sideways into the hallway, avoiding burrowing their faces into the coats hung on that wall.
My living room was effectively my office, with no sofa, just desks, work stuff, and bookshelves, so I have watched TV in bed for the past five years. Not exactly a hardship, but I cannot tell you how nice it will be to have a dedicated sitting room again, AND a separate office (the tiny spare room – just big enough for a single bed, but even better when a bed is swapped for my shelves and desk). And I have my own front door! It makes such a difference not to have to worry about disturbing neighbours with deliveries – or myself – or the dog, and to be able to have things like my own doorbell and a key safe.
And – wonderfulness of wonderfulness, there is a garden. Quite a big one too, for Lettice to play in, and in which I intend to host lovely al fresco supper clubs this summer.
Of course, it all needs work – the garden in particular needs a lot of love – weeding is desperately needed, and I must find a garden table, chairs, hanging baskets and, very excitingly, a barbecue. I don’t own any living room furniture, so a sofa, rugs, coffee table and armchair are on the list. (I’m stalking online retailers and Ebay auctions religiously.)
I’ve sold nearly all the pieces with which I arrived to friends and on Ebay – all the big storage from my office and conservatory that was previously out of sight is a bit too functional for this place, and I’ve sold my beloved Herman Miller Aeron desk chair to Chloe and swapped it for a lower profile and Ebay-sourced Eames Soft Pad instead which will take up less room in the small bedroom that I have turned into an office
And, although there is SO much storage – an airing cupboard AND a coat cupboard in addition to twice the kitchen storage space, everything is configured differently to the last place, so I am having to think hard about how best to dispose of all my possessions inside the various cupboards. So far there has been an awful lot of buying of storage solutions from IKEA, Amazon and Argos and my electric screwdriver and I have become very well-acquainted.
Meanwhile the unpacking continues. We dealt with much of the low-hanging fruit in the first two weeks – unpacking the shipping crates, and the obvious kitchen and bedroom stuff. It’s the bags and boxes of random detritus and last minute packing that is driving me nuts. I only found my toaster yesterday, and I still haven’t located my favourite hairbrush, but I am confident that by the time I host Briony’s hen day in a month exactly that there may even be a sofa for people to sit on. Mainly I’m concentrating on re-organising all the stuff we originally unpacked just to get it out of the way so that the flat feels like it is deisgned for my life.
The bathroom is my least favourite space – it’s very basic with not enough storage, and a shower that is just a tap hose attached to the wall. But there is a separate loo, which is great for visitors. If I had the money – and the time – this is the first thing I would rip out.
This will be my office.
The sitting room, with a door to the garden
The hallway, with coal hole and airing cupboard (coat cupboard hidden behind)
A corner of the L shaped kitchen – great gas hob!
There’s a lovely view of the garden from the kitchen, and another door onto the garden – perfect for entertaining outside, as no one will need to access the garden from the kitchen. I’m also very pleased that there are hardcore lockable security screens on all the windows and doors so it’s very safe and secure.
And, of course, there’s a coal hole – before coal was banned because of the vicious, blanketing fogs that would cover London in the last century, London homes were heated by coal. The coal merchants would deliver it to smart London homes by the simple process of lifting up the round, metal discs that were embedded into the flagstones and tipping the coal down into underground cellars built specifically for the purpose. Mine is rather damp – it’s not tanked, and there’s a humidifier on 24/7, but it’s an admirable place to keep my wine, polycarbonate suitcases and sundry possessions that won’t be affected by the creeping moisture.