House-hunting

Just been househunting (Friday). Went to view three properties, with a view to finding somewhere better than the current hole[1].  Wasn’t sure if I’d make it, having spent Thursday flat out in bed with a cold, but getting out of the place and drinking lots and lots of fluids sustained me pretty well, and it was only on the homeward journey I felt like collapsing.

The first viewing was at Bovisand Bay: a flat comprising the upper floor (of two) plus attic in a substantial and attractive older house. This is an exceptional location, set on the steep hillside rising straight out of the sea and right on the southwest coast path, and with fantastic sea/cliff views from two rooms. Opening the windows, one can also hear the roar of the sea.

Entering the flat is a little disappointing: there’s a hint of shabbiness in the entrance hall and stairwell, and space to keep bikes is limited (I’d be hard-pressed to accommodate more than one full-size bike, unless the occupant of the other flat is happy for my to keep it in the shared entrance).

Inside is again a mix of very nice and slightly shabby. The best room is the kitchen-diner-livingroom, with a very substantial and nicely-fitted kitchen, a good breakfast bar, and decent living area with sea view. The worst feature is the uninspiring laminate floor, which is shared by the entrance hall and back bedroom. The back bedroom would, I think, have to become my office, which is a little suboptimal because it’s also the room with en-suite shower room. The other front room is very nice, with a pleasant fitted carpet and the very best sea view. It would be great to have as a sitting room, but would, I think have to serve as main bedroom because of the biggest disappointment: the attic room. Though a decent size, it has only a velux window, no view, and fails to inspire me as a candidate for main bedroom. Also in the attic is an uninspired but presumably practical main bathroom.

The flat is generally well-modernised, with a condensing gas boiler, fully double-glazed windows in good nick, etc. All in all, interesting, but not quite what I’d hoped from the brochure.

The second viewing was a cottage in Brixton. Not such an exciting location: more a conventional cottage in a village. It’s advertised as “furnished or unfurnished – landlord is flexible”, and I could be tempted to retain some of the landlord’s furniture – particularly the lovely bed, wardrobe and other stuff in the main bedroom. It also has the advantage of small/basic shops and a pleasant pub (I went in for a cuppa tea and – more urgently – to use their gents) within the village, so no need to jump on the bike just ‘cos I’ve run out of milk for my tea.

It’s hard to know what to say about the cottage. There’s a lot to like: like the flat it’s well-modernised, yet retains bags of character, like the beamed ceiling in the main room, the latched doors, and lots of nooks and crannies. The kitchen is good, though smaller than the other place. And there’s a separate utility room and a good garage with bags of space for bikes and other things. The three bedrooms are unsurprising: at the front a main bedroom and a small bedroom (well, OK, they’re all rather small, but YKWIM), and another (which I guess would have to become the office) at the back. And a decent bathroom.

But against this, some serious drawbacks. The front is directly on a semi-main road, and all the back windows are tiny. That’s not so bad downstairs, but it leaves too bedrooms that tend to be too noisy, and a third with inadequate window. And the main room itself felt inordinately gloomy: one really shouldn’t have to turn the light on at 2pm, even in December!

The third place was the most unusual: a flat in a genuine Stately Home, owned by the National Trust. Saltram House is set in its own grounds on the east side of the Plym estuary, and the distant roar of some of Plymouth’s biggest roads was all around. Unlike the others, this is (long) walking distance of some of the big shops, and it’s a far shorter bike ride than the others to the city centre.

Entering the flat, it quickly became clear that the inside is a class above the others: the theme is space and elegance. From the generous entrance area (ideal for bikes and other things that want storing), up the stairs to the long L-shaped corridor that links all the rooms. A big and elegant lounge, three bedrooms of which two are very attractive while the third is less exciting (high window, no great view) but still perfectly adequate, and any of them could serve as office. Even the bathroom is incredibly spacious, though alas it’s only equipped with the very basics (bath with shower over, basin, loo). I was less keen on the kitchen: the ample space is not so well used as in either of the other places, and there’s no space for my upright fridge-freezer. But it’s still perfectly adequate.

But this is a seriously high-maintenance house. There’s no gas, only electricity supply, and everything about the place screams inefficient usage. From the big, single-glazed sash windows, to the builtin cooker with ceramic hob (yuk), to the huge water tank with immersion heater supplying the bath, to the night-storage heaters (if I should ever use them). Add to that the quirks of the NT whereby I’d have to pay for existing carpets(!), and the fact I’d need more furniture in all that space (not to mention new worktop-height fridge and freezer), and all that elegance doesn’t come cheap!

[1] not such a bad flat in itself, but far, far too noisy, and in this season filled with soot and carbon monoxide from someone’s defective coal fire.

Posted on December 21, 2008, in housing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Went for an afternoon out to Plymouth today and had a walk around Saltram estate. Flat looks good from the outside; couldn’t see in of course. Immediate surroundings pretty quiet despite large numbers of well-behaved visitors, but could hear the nearby A38 traffic. The walk confirmed my view that foot and cycle access is good. Fabulous duckpond on the doorstep. This one would be my choice (the flat, not the duckpond!).

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