From a tiny cottage nestling in the folds of the undulating Somerset countryside to a majestic 'maison de maître' in South West France surrounded by vines and sunflowers. They are both online for me to view. The first has my deeply loved and treasured oil fired rayburn in classic cream, the walk in fireplace and bread oven that I unearthed, my lovingly built wooden window seats. It was deemed 'uninhabitable' but I moved in with my babies anyway. Our beautiful London home had simply been walked away from, a legacy of over speculation during the 'Thatcher years'. I scutinize the interior carefully and note that all of the original features are still intact. The stark furnishings make me sad but years later I am still very much in evidence.
I move onto the extreme opposite, the discreet mansion that we completely renovated, again with hindsight uninhabitable, but breathtakingly beautiful also. The dream four oven Aga, the handbuilt kitchen, the restored wooden panelling that lined the wide hallways, the pool, the garden abundant with wild flowers. The present owners heavy stark furnishings and harsh colours make me shudder but years later I am still very much in evidence there too. Luckily I have pictures of how it used to be.
They are both unloved, unlived in and are not a home to any family. One is too small for todays families needs and is a holiday home and the other is too large unless you have a bottomless pit and is a loveless let for large groups. How strange then to think both were once thriving family homes full of love, parties, endless laughter, boundy dogs and steeped in memories but with plenty of tears shed in both. The houses despite being so incredibly different in size felt like 'home'. It was where you could express yourself, paint the walls whatever colour you chose, move the furniture around to suit your mood, build a wall, knock down a wall, cover it with a hundred pictures of your choosing.
You could plant only wild flowers in the garden of muted colours where butterflies could flit and dance and sit on your grandparents old wooden bench. You belonged, you had a sense of identity, security let you sleep gently at night, the four walls of the house wrapped themselves round you in the darkest hour and whispered silently as you blissfully slept.
Then one day you wake up and everything had changed. It has all gone overnight, at least it is no longer available to you so you must up sticks and leave it all behind. Say farewell to your friends and family pack a small suitcase and enter the unknown zone of 'house rental'. It is somewhere you can eat, sleep and work from. But here is the difference albeit a subtle one that only a few can understand and very few do. It will never be your home however hard you try. There are no decisions to be made because you don't own it.
This is the price you must pay when your heart has ruled your head in life. 'impractical', 'daydreamer', 'foolish', 'rash', 'brave' are some of the names I have been called when I've bought various houses throughout my life. In each and every one of them I nutured a dream and now they are stamped with my personality.
I am no longer the mistress of my own home, simply the master of my own destiny.