She bought the house she could afford, not necessarily the house she wanted. Its main advantage was its proximity to town. She couldn’t afford to run a car, and being able to walk just a short distance to work was a great saving of both money and time.
The house was a perfect size for one person. Luxuriously spacious, compared with other places she’d lived in the past, but not excessively enormous. It had three bedrooms, a compact bathroom, and separate toilet (how posh!). The kitchen was a decent size, big enough for a table on one side. The units were not to her taste but they were sturdy enough. There was even a separate dining room. The sitting room was not very big, but it would be adequate for her needs. The worst thing about it was the horrible, dark colour that the existing owners had painted it. Brown. It was like being inside a box.
In fact, when she thought about it, the whole house was quite dark. Dark curtains at the windows, and dark colours on the walls. Wallpapers too old-fashioned to belong to the 21st century, and paint that no-one in their right mind would have chosen. The vendors had no obvious signs of mental impairment other than their choice of décor, but she seriously wondered why the estate agent hadn’t suggested that the house would have sold more quickly and at a better price if they’d invested in a few pots of white paint. Still, apart from the hard work ahead, it was to her advantage that this little house hadn’t attracted an earlier buyer prepared to do a deal at a higher price.
She made her offer, and within three months the house was hers. Coming in for the first time on a bleak February night to an empty, shabby house she seriously wondered whether she’d done the right thing. She couldn’t even figure out how to get the boiler to light. But with that problem solved by a friend, she felt a little better. She’d spent all her money on the house, so she knew she’d have to renovate on a strict budget. So she took a deep breath and thought about where she should start.
She decided to tackle the bedroom where she would sleep. The dark, floral wallpaper came off with hardly a protest. Having filled the cracks and put up lining paper she chose a warm shade of yellow called Passion Fruit. She bought it on impulse, mostly because she liked eating passion fruit. But when she opened the tin and tried a dab on the wall it looked a bit too dark. Oh well, she’d opened the tin now, there was no going back. Surprisingly, when she’d finished it didn’t look too bad, particularly with the cream curtains she’d made.
The next task was the bathroom. The tiles were hideous, and the walls were a garish, cold sort of blue that didn’t encourage you to take your clothes off in cold weather. At least the bathroom suite was white and in a decent state of repair. She had to get a plumber in to change the taps, and decided on impulse to splash out on a power shower. The necessary plumber and electrician cost a whole lot more than the shower, but sometimes you just had to live a little dangerously and spend a bit recklessly. It took her months to tile the walls, she’d never tackled such a major project before. She went a bit wobbly in places, but if you didn’t look too closely it looked all right. And it felt worth all the expense and effort when she took her first shower in the completed bathroom, all white with a stylish tiled border in black and silver. Whenever she felt a little down over the next few weeks, all she had to do was walk into her lovely new bathroom and instantly she felt better.
She’d moved into the house with little more than a bed and a computer desk. Over time, she picked up what she needed from charity shops and from friends who were getting rid of things they no longer needed. Pieces of furniture she could mend and paint. In any case she was determined not to over-furnish the house. She hated clutter.
It took her just over three years altogether to renovate the old house and sort out the garden. It was only a small garden, so she paved it over completely into a sun terrace and painted the surrounding walls white. She created a tiled mosaic on the wall opposite the kitchen window. It gave a slightly Moroccan look to the garden. Week by week she invested in some nice pots and some plants to go in them. Sat out there on her sun lounger she pretended she was on holiday somewhere exotic.
Strangely, she bumped into the former owner shortly after she finished renovating.
“Oh, I’ve done a bit of decorating,” she said airily in reply to the enquiry how was she getting on. She had to bite her tongue in order to stop herself adding “You wouldn’t know the place.”
Coming home that day, she walked through the house as if showing it off to the former owner.
“See? I took down the three different patterns of wallpaper you had in this room. Did you put that border on with superglue? I took chunks out of the plaster trying to get it off. You probably think it looks a bit bare in here now, but I happen to like it all white. With just a few touches of lilac here and there. I often thought that your boy who slept in here must have had nightmares over the hectic combination of wallpaper, but perhaps he just didn’t know any better.”
Ah, that was the beauty of talking to yourself. You didn’t run the risk of hurting other people’s feelings.
Yes, the past three years had been a huge learning experience. She’d tackled tasks she’d never thought possible, and most of them had turned out well. Okay, the kitchen floor had proved that laying vinyl wasn’t as easy as it looked, but at least she’d been given the vinyl free of charge so it had only been a waste of time and not money.
Renovating the house had been very therapeutic, she decided. Now friends were asking her opinion what they should do with their houses, and one had asked her to redecorate her daughter’s bedroom. That would add a bit to her bank account, and there was a chance others would enlist her services. She’d taken her little house from darkness into light, and it had helped to build her confidence, harness her creativity, and get her life back on track. The dark clouds of the past had lifted, and her heart felt light as she contemplated the future.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015