by KATE HUNTER
We moved house a month ago.
We didn’t go far – a kilometre as the crow flies, a few minutes as the schoolboy walks, into a house that’s a million miles from our previous home, stylishly speaking.
That house was a stunner. An architectural gem. The floors were West Australian Jarrah, the colour of burnt rubies. The cabinetry gleamed white and clever timber walkways linked the bedrooms. A double storey void opened up the heart of the house. The living room swam into the kitchen and out to the garden. It wasn’t a huge house, but it was the kind of place people asked to be shown round when they came over for a barbecue. Pictures were on the architect’s website and yes, in magazines.
Our new home is on the flip side of the design coin. It’s unremarkable in every way. It doesn’t have ‘great bones,’ or ‘incredible potential.’ There is no ‘street appeal.’ It’s just a house with not quite enough power points, a dodgy extension and a terminally unfashionable terracotta tiled rumpus room. The bathroom is by Bunnings and it has no built-in anything.
We’re happy as pigs in mud. Or clams. Whatever is happier.
Because I realised, after 7 years, I’m not as stylish as I would like to think I am.
It was a slightly upsetting realisation, but ultimately, a liberating one.
In our stylish house, we were a bit scared to do anything to it. If we wanted to hang a painting, we consulted the architect. Every light fitting, door handle, toilet roll holder was carefully chosen. My daughter couldn’t Blu-Tac a Taylor Swift poster to her wall and the Brisbane Lions doona cover my son craved would have spoilt the whole entire look.
We needed to get over ourselves, clearly. And I needed to be honest with myself. Because it wasn’t the architect’s fault – I wasn’t talked into anything. I was all for the open spaces and the clean lines that were totally at odds with my slovenly nature.
I thought a stylish house would make me a stylish person. It doesn’t work that way. I just became a stressed person, wondering why my house never looked the way it was meant to. It’s my opinion that unless you’re the tidy type, bordering on obsessive compulsive, open plan is over-rated. So is white. Because, ‘clean lines’ only look clean if they are kept tidy.
I’ve realized I’m a lid-off-the-butter, crumbs-on-the benchtop-kinda-girl. And no matter how much I wanted to have nothing except a bowl of lemons on the table, it didn’t happen until the house was all styled up, with a For Sale sign out the front.
We were sad to leave, and there were tears as we walked through the empty rooms for the last time. Saying goodbye the backyard was the biggest wrench – it was beautiful in a wild kind of way, with twisty trees meant for climbing, and a creek at the back fence that sometimes roared but mostly trickled.
My kids are lucky to have had a backyard like that. But times change, I told them, just like Mum’s mind.
The new house has a backyard too, and kids in the street and parks and trees and laneways to explore. They’re growing up and what’s over the fence has increasingly more appeal than what’s inside it.
The blow has been cushioned by the purchase of a pool table for the rumpus room. Cleverly (not stylishly), it can also be used for ping-pong and air hockey. The kids’ rooms are poky but have been brightened by acres of Taylor Swift and Brisbane Lions posters, Blu-Tacked without a thought to what might happen to the paint.
My husband is walking around with a cordless drill (suspect he wants a holster for it) looking for places to make holes without permission or thoughtful measuring, and I suspect he’s having an affair with Maureen, who works in bathroom fittings at Bunnings.
I’ve got nothing but admiration (well, a little bit of envy) for people who live stylishly, effortlessly. But I’ve admitted that’s not us and we’re happier, if a bit daggier for it.
Kate Hunter is an advertising copywriter with over 20 years experience and one Gruen Transfer appearance to her name. Kate is also the author of the Mosquito Advertising series of novels. You can buy them here.
Have you lived in a house that didn’t suit your family? Are you too daggy for your own stylish house? Or is your house too daggy for stylish you?