Birds of a feather brick together
Building a house is something I never expected to do in my life and it's certainly something I will only be doing once!
It’s a once off kind of thing for me. With that in mind, I thought I’d be fussier about details but I’m not behaving too badly on that front, I hope. I just want to get it over the line. It doesn’t have to be perfect. We have our whole lives to work on that.
And if my fiancé is anything like her mother - which she is - the house will never be truly finished anyway, so why worry?
When it comes to building a home, I feel like things are rarely as final as they seem at first, which can be both reassuring and terrifying depending on your own temperament/domestic needs and those of the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with.
In our case, we’re fairly aligned on most of the important things, and where we’re not, it usually just takes a slight course adjustment (usually by me) to keep things moving along. Again, let’s just get this thing over the line and keep our eyes on the prize – a space that is truly our own.
That’s the most surreal element for me, the fact that there’s no landlord coming to scold us about overfilling the washing machine or not airing out the shower. There’s no lease to renew or damage to hide. If I get angry while playing FIFA and decide to throw the controller through a wall – that’s MY wall. It’s MINE to fix.
We can take risks with wall colours. We can be slobs. We can make mistakes. We can host our friends and family. It’s rare territory and I’d advise anyone building to take a moment to appreciate how wild of an experience it is and to avoid stress by remembering what’s in store once the final screw is tightened.
One area of planning in which my profound naivety has been repeatedly exposed is storage. The word is now tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. No decision can be made without first considering storage. Luckily, my fiancé is extremely storage conscious. Storage for what? Who knows? Just storage. I agree of course, but I also see a risk.
If a person is inclined to hoard things, a crime we have both been guilty of in the past, then I feel that having acres of storage space is just going to fuel that bad habit and suddenly our lovely, empty spaces will become packed with items we will soon forget we even own and will sit there for years causing invisible anxiety.
A compromise must be found. A list must be made of what is essential for the running of a house and storage must then be installed accordingly, with discipline and a calm head. Again, nothing is final and more can be added in the future. Oh God, is it possible to hoard storage itself? Storage.
I feel like the stakes (no pun intended) are highest when it comes to kitchen design. Where a living room or dining room needs to look nice and be comfortable, it doesn’t have many moving parts and not much tends to happen in there. A kitchen on the other hand is where a lot of very technical things are likely to happen and once a fitting is installed, it tends to stay put, making getting it right the first time crucial.
The kitchen is an exceptation to the 'things are rarely as final as they seem' comment I made earlier. You choose where your sink is going, you cut a hole in your counter, and you line up the water pipes – good luck moving that in a few years. The same goes for the oven and even the fridge. They pick a spot and they stay there for generations. That’s that.
This is probably why our most heated disagreements have centred around the kitchen.
Arguments so far include but are not limited to: how far the hob should be from the sink; gas or electric; double or single sink; fridge size; fridge placement; fridge design; cupboard placement; backsplash material and backsplash colour.
The list goes on, but we got there in the end and we’re happy with it now. Along the way, my fiancé tried to explain the 'triangle rule' to me which states that the cooker, the sink, and the fridge must form a triangle whose combined sides do not exceed 26 feet, or else something terrible will happen!
I have yet to work up the courage to ask if we managed to achieve it. That first spaghetti bolognese will tell all!
Second-hand v new
You learn things about yourself when you build a house – some good, some less good. For example, I used to be a snob when it came to buying anything second-hand. I don’t know why. As a kid, I remember always loving how precious and special something felt when it was being unwrapped for the first time, to know that no other kid had played with my Christmas Lego set or my birthday Bat Mobile. It was magic.
I liked things to be pristine and that followed me into adulthood. But something seems to have changed in recent years and now going out hunting for that perfect second-hand treasure is an activity I really enjoy. It’s all thanks to my fiancé who never had that hyper-sentimental attachment to things and for whom snobbery towards inanimate practical objects seems absurd. She’s 100% right.
We have saved thousands by going second-hand and it has allowed us to actually consider the quality of what we’re buying versus just focusing on the price. A used coffee table made with proper hardy wood with a few dents and scratches for €100 is now so much more attractive to me now than that pristine fake wood table going for €250. Sure, the flatpack looks nice and flashy and it functions fine, but it lacks soul and character, not unlike the Etihad Stadium. If you know, you know.
And then there’s the paint. Choosing paint is like choosing a career these days. There are too many choices and variations and combinations and textures. You think you know what you want but then you spot something else and you’re back to square one, not to mention the 50 new colours they’ll invent by breakfast time tomorrow.
Did you know there's now paint that looks like rust? I always thought rust was something you painted over! What colour will bring me ultimate fulfilment? What colour represents me as a person? What colour says ‘mid-30s but still likes to party’? What colour will set us apart from all the boring neighbours? Do we go for an accent wall? Which wall and what colour? How about some funky wallpaper? How about we just leave it white?
What? There are 3,002 different shades of white? Okay, deep breath. Nothing is permanent. With painting, you can always reset, at the cost of time and money, yes, but that safety net might actually grant you the head space to make the right decision in the first place.
Having said all that, I feel we will keep our walls mostly white for now but it’s a strange and pleasant feeling to know we can change it any time we like.
As for the bedroom, a mattress will do for now, and to be honest, I’ve always wanted to live out that Hollywood 'mattress on the floor in an empty room' thing. It represents humble beginnings and the ability to be content with the bare minimum.
To sum it up, compromise is key when building a home with your partner. You won’t agree on everything, but your final goal is always the same; to create a space within which you’ll forge a shared future come rain or shine. Four walls and a roof are all you really need – that and storage, of course!