I’ve lived in rented accommodation for almost the entirety of my adult life. From student halls to questionable flats, and cosy house shares in between, I’ve moved from place to place over the years, with mixed experiences.
I’m currently residing in my sixth home in the city of Southampton (my seventh if you count the place I sub-letted for the final few months of my Master’s). This is by no means an uncommon story; they don’t call us millennials Generation Rent for nothing. You’ve heard it all before.
Of course, renting life comes with many issues. Paper-thin walls, mice and mould problems to name a few classics. Of course, there’s also the joy of living somewhere decorated by someone you’ve never met and who, most likely, doesn’t really care what the place looks like; so long as it brings in the cash.
While there are some people who work magic on places they don’t own – you only have to check Instagram for dream rental makeovers to see what’s possible – and landlords who do take great care over the locations the let, you mostly have to put up with what you get. You can’t be picky.
I’ve had some luck with my interiors – the black iron fireplace in my current home is wonderful. But let’s face it; magnolia paint isn’t everyone’s taste, brown carpets seem to be a landlord’s go-to floor covering, and there’s often paint *everywhere* from quick fixes and patch-ups. Don’t get me started on the damp, and the fact that there are never shelves, cupboards or pre-approved picture hooks. There’s nothing like a characterless room to make your home feel even more temporary.
I long for the day that I can do what I want to a place; paint a feature wall, expose those wooden floors and promptly cover them up with a fancy rug, and live somewhere that, in all honesty, doesn’t transport me straight back to being a student, when basic living quarters are almost, sadly, a given.
Now that we’ve spent the large part of a year inside, I’m becoming more and more aware of its imperfections. It’s hard to ignore them when they surround you all day, every day.
The decor is classic ‘rough, grey carpets and magnolia wall’ rental chic. We have a curious wall of mirrors bequeathed to us by the previous owner (you do get used to it, and it makes the living room look bigger – but it’s a bit…porny). There’s a weird glass wall separating us from the downstairs neighbour. Our kitchen is cramped and battered with faded worktops used by many other tenants. There’s stuff pretty much everywhere.
It’s not all pretty – and it’s certainly not perfect. But it’s home. It’s pretty decent compared to past places I’ve lived. It’s warm, safe, and comfortable on the most part (though extra space wouldn’t hurt!). There are some decent-sized rooms and some decent decorating. We’ve managed to control the mould. It’s really not all bad.
While we’re all seeing more of the inside of each other’s homes on our screens, it’s more important than ever to be honest, accepting and non-judgemental about the places we live in. Everyone’s tastes, means and options are different. Much like we’ve started to open up about our diverse bodies, make-up-free faces and mental health struggles, homes also come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s time to embrace that.
Show me your washing-up piled on the draining board, scratched work surfaces, well-used hobs and threadbare carpets with questionable stains. I want to see your dingy lighting, chipped bathtubs, and bending bookshelves stacked haphazardly with novels and everyday ephemera. Give me storage systems that would give Marie Kondo a hot flush; smeary windows in the background, and clutter all over the countertops.
I long to see a shelf that isn’t perfectly arranged; a wall that isn’t covered in an expertly-curated gallery of art; a kitchen with tiles that they’ve never quite got round to replacing.
I love seeing a little evidence of a place being lived in; a sense of the slight chaos of home life. Gloomy make-shift offices. Rumpled curtains. Half-finished paint jobs. Recycling piled up, waiting to be taken outside. Toys, everywhere. An unmade bed.
Shout out to the average homes; the ‘one day I’ll get round to that’ homes. The lived-and-loved-in, scuffed and spilled-on, ‘it’s not fancy but it’s mine’ homes.
One day, I’ll have an armchair in a corner or bookshelves of my own; an organised, dedicated desk space; a plant in the corner that isn’t just about clinging to life; a carpet that isn’t a shade of beige. A shiny, pretty kitchen.
But even then, it won’t be perfect. But it’ll be mine.
And aren’t these imperfections what truly make a house a home?
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