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Home Is Where The House Is

Author: Lauren Coleman

In the past we’ve featured property articles on choosing period vs new and compromising on your home wish list. Today we’re joined by reader Jess who wrote to us about a dilemma I think several of you have faced; dream location or dream home?

There truly is no place like home. But where is home? Is it the place where you live or the house that you live in?

For as long as I can remember I yearned for the most beautiful character property. I would sway between the romance of an old granite cottage to a period Victorian terrace, both with roaring log burner, of course.

I have lived in Falmouth for most of my life. Voted by The Sunday Times readers as the best place to live in the UK, it is not really too much of a surprise to find that the house prices have been increasing pretty quickly. We lived in an ex local authority house for the first few years so that we could get on the property ladder, it was nothing special but it was close to the town and we planned to move before we started a family.

Fast forward to eight months pregnant and the move finally happened! Just in time, we found the dream house. It was a detached romantic granite cottage with not one, but two log burners, a stunning kitchen with Belfast sink (goals), sunny garden and utility space, it was perfect. The only small problem was… it was in a village 20 minutes from Falmouth. And I didn’t know this village. Still, I convinced myself I could manage without the beaches, the bustling harbourside town, my friends and a place where I could enjoy a coffee within walking distance. The short version? I couldn’t. The pretty Cornish village turned out to be basically a main road. It also had really bad damp, a rat infestation (which I discovered when I found my Miniature Dachshund eating the rat poison the previous owners had left lying around) and no parking. But the worst part was that I didn’t know anyone, the village had a very different feel to Falmouth, I had a newborn baby and felt incredibly lonely. I tried to socialise but found almost everyone in the village was elderly and it wasn’t what I had fantasised that village life would be like. I missed Falmouth so much.

When we were offered a part exchange on a shiny new build property back in Falmouth that was a five minute walk to the beach we jumped at it. The house was in the dream location, we signed the paperwork immediately. We feel so lucky to live in such an amazing location but something in me still yearns for that character home. I know I should have learned my lesson but I started hunting again. Here’s the problem, I will be unlikely to find my dream home in Falmouth because the houses here are so in demand. To put it in perspective, the new build “box” we are living in costs over £100,000 more in Falmouth than anywhere else in the country.

And then there’s the schools to think of. Our square box (I mean ‘current house’) is close to all of the schools we would like to consider for our daughter and I know that has to take priority. But did I mention it has no character?

I find myself thinking I can make something of it. I can turn it into a wonderful home. I can use paint and plants and I’ve put shutters in which do look lovely. But then I open the shutters and remember I am overlooked by about 50 other houses, as is always the case on a new build estate.

When 4pm rolls around I wander to the beach with my husband Jake, the dogs and our little girl, we enjoy coffee on the sand and then wander around the lake, it is blissful and all moments from our front door, I know how lucky I am but I don’t think I will ever truly be able to settle. But what if I move and end up in the same predicament? I mean obviously, a bit of damp is to be expected but I would need to be realistic about how much work needed to be done and whether we could afford to actually live the life that comes with owning a character property (after all, there is no 10 year guarantee or handy site manager popping in to remedy the issues on an older building). I know for definite that I can never live on a main road again and I can never ever not have parking, it’s on our must list.
Perhaps I have to just be realistic about the fact that the perfect home is just that, a fantasy. I live in a wonderful house that many people would love to live in and I sound so ungrateful but I just feel torn and confused about what to do.

So my dilemma is, do I move out of the town where my heart belongs to find the dream home in a nearby village? Or do I stay in Falmouth, close to the beach and in a home where in five minutes I can be feeding the ducks with my daughter but knowing that I will never have my character dream home or a utility room or the woodburner I want to curl up next to?

Do I choose the dream location or the dream home? I would love to hear how other people have managed with this dilemma. Should I stay in a place that I love and try to create a new build home with some kind of soul or should I move and create a home that is what we crave.

Yours faithfully,

Rightmove Addict

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64 thoughts on “Home Is Where The House Is

  1. Falmouth is gorgeous! I grew up on a farm in the countryside and now live in a Manchester suburb. Our house is not the beautiful stone cottage I always thought I’d end up on but actually I think the lifestyle living here allows me suits me much better than I think, particularly with young children. Every activity and shop you could need is within 5-15 minutes drive, including countryside. I don’t think I would be as happy as I think I would be if we sold up and moved. Yes we could buy a bigger, prettier house if we moved out of the area but really it’s the day-to-day life that is most important to me at the moment (mat leave again, but usually part-time working plus childcare)

    1. Hi Starlet,

      Thank you so much! I know you’re right. It truly is the little things that I think I would miss. I definitely have gotten used to being just a few minutes walk from the beach and the lake! Thank you for commenting.

  2. Last year I bought my first home completely 100% with my heart for the right house. It’s in a village that I knew nothing of but was in the county I’ve lived in most of my life. I live in a 2 bed terrace that is 120 years old, not only do I not have parking, I live in a row of 6 mews so I park on a main road and walk down an alley so essentially my house is always a good 1-2 minute walk from the car…. it’s not that bad but for some reason it always rains on bin night!
    It sounds mad and it is, my parents literally think I’m insane, having always lived in new builds but I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else now. I have friends who have bought new builds and as lovely as they are they just aren’t places I personally could consider homes.

    I am fully accepting that as I get older things might change as I currently live alone and can be very selfish with what I want. I knowing my home isn’t for everyone but whatever happens now I think I will always go for the house!

    1. Hey Rebecca,

      Your house sounds wonderful! It’s a tough decision isn’t it? I couldn’t imagine myself in a new build either, I wonder if that is the problem? Maybe I need to give in to the house and try to make it more like home! Thank you for taking the time to reply, these comments are really helping me to think!

    2. In my first beautiful Victorian flat, I had to somehow get a wheelie bin from the back patio of our block, down a flight of stairs to the front! Definitely a heart over head buy.

      1. In our last place we had no side access to the back garden so had to take the wheelie bin through the house! These are the things you never see on Instagram!

  3. Hi Jess
    Your story resonates with me! Having lived literally in a city centre for about 12 years, it was a massive shock to my system when we bought a new build in the ‘burbs. I was used to all of the things you mention – brunch on the doorstep, bars and clubs within walking distance and just the cool atmosphere of urban life. It couldn’t be more different now, but after a long (and I mean about 18 months!) period of thinking we’d made a massive mistake I am starting to value the difference pace of life that the new area offers. I can’t be as spontaneous now and if I want a vegan brunch I need to make a real effort to get it – but the space my new house has given me is amazing. And I put shutters all over my new build too!! I’m a firm believer that you can inject character to ‘the box’ – it just takes time. I hope you find a compromise that works for you X

    1. Thank you so much Lou, I love that shutters make all the difference (it technically IS a character property once you have shutters, right?) I definitely think I need to investigate adding character to my cookie cutter (but clean, warm and perfectly located!) home. After all, it’s down to me to stop it looking so new!

  4. We couldn’t afford an old style property. And we suck at DIY. So I’ve found myself in a new-ish build in a suburban cul de sac which was never the plan! But we have a lovely safe environment for the children to play in, great neighbours and decorating is easy peasy. It is a little harder to add character and warmth – we added a log burner last year in a modern style. So
    We can still cosy up and get that wood smell through the house. It’s not the same as it being in a cosy cottage, but it works for us! X

    1. Hi Nikki,

      Oh that sounds like the perfect compromise! Lovely safe environment, lovely neighbours and ease of decorating are all now being added to my ‘stay’ list. I would love to add a woodburner here but when the survey man came round he said we could only really have it in our dining room. A woodburner in the dining room instead of the kitchen, would that work?

      1. Can you alter the room layout a bit perhaps? We have a woodburner in our living room, which is also our dining room when we aren’t eating in the kitchen. Consequently it is our “cosy” room, the place we retreat to in winter to snuggle on the sofa with the fire and watch some rubbish film. We rarely use the space the rest of the year as we live in the kitchen but it is lovely to have an excuse. Does your dining room have to solely be your dining room?

        1. I think so unfortunately yes, it’s built as a kitchen diner (not big enough to change the dining bit for a lounge area), basically 70% kitchen, 30% space for a table. These houses really are not designed particularly well! We could have it next to the dining table but I’m thinking we would never enjoy it!

  5. I just had this conversation with friends who live out in a little village about 30 minutes from town (and it is quite a drive too!). They have a beautiful listed cottage but I think it would be too far out for me. They are lucky in that their village is full of kids for their little girl to play. There is also a gastro pub and micro brewery! (How they got all this in a village of around 50 houses amazes me!)

    Their take on it is that when you move you have to commit To the lifestyle change that comes with it. They fully embraced village life, they drink in the local pub, buy food from the local farms, stock up on everything when they are near a town as they know everything is a drive away. Coming into town is like a special day out for them, not a daily occurrence, so really it’s like they don’t live here anymore. That means the distance from town doesn’t bother them.

    I think if your life is heading to the beach, wandering around town and walking home then location should take precedence. Moving away (no matter how far) involves a lifestyle change that you have to embrace to fully enjoy it and feel at home. You can totally give a new build a cottage vibe (and put a woodburner in too if you want!). X

    1. Thanks Casey, wow the village your friend lives in sounds amazing! Yes I think you are right about village life! This particular village had a corner shop and a pub, that was it! It was between two main towns so lots of driving which got harder after having a newborn. I have been looking at ways to inject character into a new build property so maybe that’s an option as we really do love where we are!

  6. We are having a similar dilemma at the moment.. we currently live in (and have just sold STC) a beautiful Yorkshire barn conversion with stunning views, but the schools around aren’t great – so now we’re looking to move to a better area, to a more expensive house which has no character and needs a load of work so our daughter has the best chance at school. It’s so difficult to put your heart to one side and try and think in the long term, especially when our daughter isn’t even 2! But deep down we know it’s the ‘right’ decision to make, and hopefully one day we can move back to a characterful property once schools done…… only another 16 years to wait!!
    Good luck.. I hope you find your happy place x

    1. Hey Andrea,

      Such a similar position! The schools really are amazing where we are now and I know it’s a sacrifice worth making. Our little girl is also not even two yet. I will start my 16 year countdown alongside you! Haha! Thank you for commenting and for the great perspective.

  7. It’s a tough one and controversially, perhaps one made harder by instagram and Pinterest! We live in a 1930s house in the suburbs. I’d grown up in the countryside and whilst I appreciate my mum’s village now, it was hell growing up. No regular bus routes, I couldn’t walk to see my friends or go to the shops. Part time jobs were hard to get and so on. Anyway, I thought I’d always gravitate to rural life and my husband also grew up on a farm but we fell in love with our current location. Great amenities, beautiful park on our road, butchers, greengrocers, library, doctor, schools and work within 5 minutes drive. Perhaps one day we will move to the sea when we’re retired (we go to Cornwall every year) but for now we’ve got a happy medium of a bit of character but enough for our daughter to grow up with too.

    1. Hi Rhiannon,

      You are so right! In my first draft of the article above (had to cut back due to word count!) I touched on this. I am definitely guilty of scrolling through Instagram and getting house envy and it’s 100% made me lust more for a beautiful character property (even though I know the reality is vastly different to the Instagram square that I see!) You sound like you have the perfect compromise, thank you for commenting and for seeing it from my daughter’s perspective – I never thought of how it must feel for a child growing up in a village.

  8. We’ve absolutely settled for new build in dream village (we can’t even get close to the centre which is the actual dream!!) We’d much rather have a lovely lifestyle here, than our perfect 4 bedroom house in another location. We’re realising not to rush things though. Our house is fine, we have enough bedrooms for now, and it means our mortgage isn’t big enough we can’t go on holidays and have experiences as a family. Which I think it ultimately important. We will afford the 4 bed one day. I think sometimes we all need to slow down a little – our culture is very much wanting everything now these days.

    1. Hi Karen,

      You are so right, we do want everything and I feel a bit silly when I look at what I have already. Everyone wants something different also don’t they? I have a 4 bedroom house, I even use one of those rooms for my clothes as a walk in wardrobe room! However, I dream of a porch area and a utility (seriously, I’m pretty much considering moving for a utility – which is madness!) And thank you for pointing out about lifestyle. I hadn’t thought about the fact that we can take holidays because we’re not in the dream home. I definitely believe in championing slow living, I read somewhere the other day your home will never feel right unless you actually give it some love. Maybe I should look at what my current home has already? A south facing garden, an amazing location, 4 bedrooms, a driveway, garage, great neighbourhood and did I mention it has shutters? Seriously though, thank you for your comments, I definitely need to appreciate what I have a little more.

  9. It’s a tricky dilemma that I think a lot of people face, but I think you’ve answered it already with the fact that you DID buy the pretty period property out of town and you hated it and moved back! Sometimes we always think the grass is greener and it’s hard to shake but you moved back for a reason. Does it have to be a choice between a period house out of town or new build in town? Could you consider something in between? I’d love a big house with character but realistically it’s not in budget and never will be, if I really wanted a period house it would have to be a smaller one with no parking and I don’t want that. We’ve bought a 1960’s 4 bed detached and I know 60’s / 70’s houses aren’t the prettiest out there but you get good room sizes and usually a good garden and a decent sized plot and they don’t tend to have the boxy feel you sometimes get with a new build. You can add character (including a wood burner!) and change everything inside. Like you say sometimes the perfect house is just a fantasy and you have to see all the positives in the house you live in now and remember why you jumped at buying it. And be prepared to look at alternatives that don’t fit the ‘dream house’ ideal because you might be missing other properties that have lots of potential! X

    1. Thank you Sarah, this is such a great comment. You’re definitely right. The village we moved to wasn’t the best village to be honest. We recently saw another amazing house in a little hamlet but it literally would have been such a massive lifestyle change. If we didn’t have a toddler we would have jumped at it. But yes, I am guilty of thinking the grass is greener. It pretty much does have to be a choice between period out of town or new build in town because Falmouth is just so expensive. And Falmouth IS amazing (I’m replying to you in the most wonderful coffee shop serenaded by seagulls) so I think maybe I should stay put and try to create some character. We can have a woodburner but due to the way the house is designed (good old new builds!) only in the kitchen diner but to be honest I might take that compromise! 1960s and 70s houses I find are often the best because they are so spacious and with lovely gardens. Thank you for commenting, I so appreciate it and am definitely realising the perfect house is most likely only a fantasy!

      1. I say go for the wood burner in the kitchen diner and do some redecorating to try make your current house feel more what you like in terms of interior decor! There’s no reason you can’t add things like picture rails and lovely fireplaces! We like a bit of period style too (sort of mixed with scandi!) and in our first house it was a 1970’s house but we bought a reclaimed Victorian fireplace and although it wasn’t functioning we filled it with logs and it looked lovely and added so much character. There’s all sorts you can do to make it more the house you want and make it feel like home. I think the trouble with new builds is that you feel you can’t / shouldn’t change them because it’s all, well, new! So it can end up feeling soulless and as you say, like a box. Get decorating! It sounds like a great house with loads of good points! And yes a utility room is the dream admittedly, we are extending to add one to ours! X

        1. Ooh also, you can have a fake chimney breast built in very easily, it’s just a wooden frame and plasterboard but it adds character! We did that too in our last house! X

        2. Great ideas! We are also Team Period mixed with Scandi! Maybe you can come and visit and decorate for me? Haha. Yes, it feels too new and risky to make changes (although we are about to add a very dark grey wall to our small north facing lounge!) we’re such risk takers! Ps we can’t add a fake chimney breast unfortunately (although I would love to!) because our room is too small so it eats into it too much! 😔

  10. I so hear you you Jess! We are currently in a beautiful Victorian semi 5 minutes from a cute town centre, river walks and only 45 mins from London and work. The dream. That’s what I thought! BUT we need more space- not having family nearby we often have then descending on us, which we love, but it does not work in our small house. Now we have a baby life has changed massively – we miss them lots more than before. SO we need to decide whether to relocate back to family (3 hours away and start again with friends and work 🙈 Which is Another long story ) or stay. If we do stay we need to get a bigger house which will mean saying goodbye to location AND character! Lots of thinking to do – so far I have come to conclusion that at the moment it’s the other things which are more important than the pretty, dream house. 3 years ago the idea of living on estate filled me with dread and it’s still not the dream, but life and priorities have changed and I guess the other benefits this offers us out weighs the negatives now. Plus our current old house needs way more time than we have available to love it. Sounds like you have lots of boxes ticked already, location, friends etc so you are winning for the moment – hope you enjoy the extra time (and warmth!!) a new build gives you! Next chapter we can get the character houses!

    P.S insta dream houses is so much fun and addictive – but I think there is something in the old “Comparison is the thief of joy” which of course I will be telling myself if I end up on an estate in not such a great location!

    1. Oh Kerry, this is so true! There are more important things than the dream house and having this discussion today is definitely helping me realise that. You are proof that sometimes the dream home doesn’t stay the dream home and, as you point out, we can have the character home in the next chapter.

      Insta homes are so addictive and that comparison quote couldn’t be more apt. My husband is always quick to remind me that behind the perfect sofa by the woodburner photo is the damp wall that we wanted so badly to escape! Haha. He never lets me forget that the little temperature egg for our daughter in her bedroom was permanently on ‘blue’ in our cottage and we never even knew it could turn red until we moved here, we were so cold all of the time! Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post!

      1. Yes to the blue, unhappy faced baby monitor!!! And secondly you summed it up for me- the dream house changes!

  11. What a great, honest article! We had the same dilemma and in the end the location won out so we’re currently in a 1970s bungalow (which came complete with orange and brown patterned carpets and a full avocado bathroom suite)! BUT…we’re in a lovely friendly community, have a huge, secluded garden, a fabulous school for my little one when he’s old enough, and some beautiful coastline and fabulous fields and woodland to explore all on our doorstep. It’s essentially the lifestyle I want for the littlies growing up, so I guess for now I can live with a characterless building. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to afford the house prices here for the dream period property home too, but for now I shall continue to battle the wood burner issues (quite literally – I bought a beautiful old burner at auction which we’ve just discovered can’t be fit as there’s no flue adaptor in existence to link the old world and the new apparently!)
    I have to say though Lauren, if anyone is making the best of a new build it’s you – I must confess to saving some serious inspiration from your insta account for how to get some character and style into this square box of ours! x

    1. Thank you Kirstie, it’s been an internal struggle for so long that I thought other people must be feeling the same way and wanted to write it down! Some of the things you have written here about location really ring true for me – a friendly community, fabulous schools, coastline, fields and woodland, is is definitely the lifestyle I want for my daughter. And it doesn’t mean it’s our forever home but I am feeling like perhaps I need to give it a chance, we haven’t even painted the walls (hangs head in shame).

      I laughed out loud at your avocado bathroom suite, we have relatives who I think still have that same bathroom now! Anyway, I’m off to snoop on Lauren’s house, I didn’t realise she had a new build! I do have a crush on Lisa’s though and that is making me think maybe a new build DOES have potential to feel homely!

    2. Ps I know someone else who had a woodburner dilemma similar to yours and they turned it into a garden woodburner, like a funky chiminea I think!

    3. Hi Kirstie, the original part of our house is 1850s so not quite a new build! Admittedly though there’s several new bits which have been added on in the style of the old 😉 x

  12. This is such a timely article for us, everyones comments have been so useful. We are currently looking at moving from our 2-bed Victorian terrace (its got very small with a 16 month old and number 2 on the way!). Decision not so much over house or location but just location…2 houses found, both similar in style and size but one is in the suburbs, near to good primary school, transport links, childcare, family, the head house. The other is in a lovely rural village, but 40 min drive to family, 15 mins from schools/childcare, no transport links, would have to drive everywhere, a definite heart location where the children can have their (my) dream childhood. What to do?!! Unfortunately I think head is going to win and we’ll have to resign ourselves with the dream rural barn conversion in 18 years time…!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Wow, it really helps having it turned on its head and seeing your question. When I look at it written down from your perspective I’m like, totally move towards a good school, transport links, childcare/family/support network. I’m so glad the comments from others have helped you, thank you for helping me! As others have mentioned, we can always have the character property in the next chapter!

  13. Hi Rightmove Addicts… I haven’t hung out here for a while but as always as soon as I do, there is an article that is bang on where my head/heart/life is at (spooky spooky, Rock My Peeps!!).

    We are, as many of you, in the same damn situation. My husband and I met in London. He is from Chesterfield, I am from Cardiff – so there isn’t a simple ‘let’s move back home’ solution for us. We lived abroad for 6 years before moving back to the UK when I was 7 months pregnant and bought our first house in an area neither of us knew. The house was, and is perfect *if you haven’t got a lot of stuff*! A 125 year old cottage – 2 up, 2 down. Looks like a choc box house from the outside. On the inside it looks like a scene from a pinterester’s worst nightmare. With a 20 month old daughter, we are massively feeling the squeeze and have succumbed to having a bloody ikea storage thing in our lounge, propped next to our beautiful character fireplace full of toys, books, stickers, paints, the list goes on… (at least i have styled it like a boutique toy store).

    We can’t accommodate friends or family (all our family are 3+ hours away) – which is a killer as my husband and I have always been hosts… always the ones to open the doors and have the pre-parties/after-parties at our place. In our hearts of hearts, we want to be the destination for Christmas, annual summer BBQs… we just get so much from hosting. We can’t even manage a game of thrones viewing *gathering* comfortably as can’t sit more than 4 people in our lounge. Sorry this comment is already rambling…

    So what do we do. We looked in to extending, but the compromise was too big (a downstairs bedroom and still no 4th bedroom for guests, and still no host space). We live in the beverly hills (i say that tongue-in-cheek!) of the UK so the 4 bedroom house that would tick the boxes (guilty – yes of course it is the Victorian villa type house) is not currently an option. I am building my own business – which isn’t currently making as much dollar as if i went back in to the corporate world, which would mean we had more cashola to get the big mortgage… but entrepreneurship has so much more potential in the long run to give us the lifestyle my husband and I want for our family.

    We don’t have history in our current location (my husband didnt even see the house or the area until the day we moved in!), but I love it and feel like I have set some roots here. My husband is less attached as he hasn’t had the time that i have to get to know the place (whoop to maternity leave/trying every single coffee shop and brunch hole in a 20 minute radius!) – so now our conversations are monopolised by “do we uproot and leave Esher and move…” he is keen on Hertforshire (Kings Langely, Hemel Hempstead) – gain we do not know this area from Adam (who is Adam!?) as Mr Right Move suggests we can get a lot more for our money up there… schools are equally as good, travel in London (MUST for jobs) is equally as good, but it feels like starting ALL OVER AGAIN (which is absurd as both of us are keen to move abroad again, which would be starting all over again on steroids) – as you can tell by this enormous outburst of a ramble – my head is ALL OVER THE PLACE! And it is hard to prioritise… the whole thing seems insurmountable!

    HELP!

    1. Bloody hell Nicola, this sounds stressful. My outsider perspective is: you defo need more space and ideally you’d like to stay where you are. Can you compromise on character of property in the short term, get the space and be able to host (giving you lots of joy) then in some years time when your new business is making you millions, buy the larger character home?

    2. Hi Nicola,

      Goodness, we really are in very similar positions, I was also heavily pregnant when we moved to this rural village we had very little knowledge of. And ours also looked like a choc box from the outside! I laughed out loud at the thought of toy storage next to the fireplace – we also have an (almost) 20 month daughter! It’s so difficult isn’t it? I also run my own business (I say ‘business’ lightly, I’m a copywriter so very much a freelance lifestyle) and this is key to how I live and the quality time I get with my daughter. So like you, this means mansions are a little out of the question (fellow Beverly Hills resident). I really can’t advise you (as look at the mess I’m in!) but what I would say is that I wouldn’t give up my self-employment or time with my daughter for anything which means part time hours and creative work that I’m passionate about are vital. And since I write on the beach most days or walk the dogs in local woodland and fields for inspiration, really I think my location is paramount to me too.

      I’m coming to terms with the fact that I live in a new build and reading and replying to all of these comments is so cathartic. I know that all of the things that truly matter I have. Does a utility room and a woodburner really matter that much? (yes actually if I’m honest but in the scheme of things, I won’t remember that looking back whereas I’ll remember that I wrote on the beach every day and chased my daughter around the lake!)

      I hope you come to some solution and sorry I can’t be of greater help. But if I were you, I would move because as you say, in your heart of hearts you want to be the host of all of the important life events. And life is about family at the end of the day isn’t it? A dear relative to us passed away a few weeks ago and she always said “it’s a home, not a house” when I visited her. Although her home wasn’t what you would call ‘stylish’ (she was in her seventies), it truly did feel homely and full of love with her children and grandchildren visiting day and night and lighting the place up. And that’s what makes a home homely at the end of the day isn’t it, family? On the plus side, it’s good to hear someone as confused as I am!

    3. ahh big decision. I am no help (see my post above!) but think if you have made friends once maybe you are the sort that can easily do it again so don’t let the fear hold you back! (she says as she is not sure she can take her own advice!)x

    4. We were in exactly the same position three years ago and I was living about a mile from you and couldn’t bare the thought of settling somewhere else. But we had two kids in the tiny box so had no choice. We spent every Sunday going for drives to villages to find somewhere we liked. My tip is go west if your family is Cardiff so places on the train from Paddington. Lots of beautiful villages still along the Thames with the same types of networks you are making now. Btw I cried when I left but v happy now (took about a year!) x

  14. Hi Jess, great post, thanks. We ended up buying a much newer property than I ever wanted to buy (early 80’s) but the location was perfect. The positive it that structurally it’s very sound so the work we need to do is just cosmetic which is a big plus considering how expensive ‘just cosmetic’ work is – new bathrooms anyone?! We had fallen in love with the most stunning period property in a village I lived in for a few years when growing up and I absolutely adored everything about it (particularly the walled garden) but our offer wasn’t accepted. I still yearn for it but in hindsight, it needed SO much work, it would have been impractical both in terms of time we could commit and financially. I think you’ve made the right decision – ultimately you could be in your ‘dream home’ on paper but if you’re unhappy, what’s the point?

    1. Hey Sophie,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Ah yes, structurally sound! Another point for the ‘stay’ list. I’m dubious as to how sound our cottage was! You are so right about cosmetic work (my husband didn’t take it very well when I told him how much the paint was that I wanted for our lounge, so God knows how he would have coped in our period property where we received a £6,000 quote just for pointing to prevent damp!). We also fell in love with a home that ‘got away’ as we just couldn’t sell ours in time, I also think it wasn’t meant to be as it needed so much work. We were footloose and fancy (child) free back then! You are so right about the dream home on paper but happiness taking priority, thank you!

  15. Ah the constant dilemma. We live in a TINY shoebox in London. I grew up in the countryside with no buses and a school that was a 40 minute drive away (thanks parents). Oh and I’m an only child, so no readily available playmates and few little people around to play with (and none I could visit without transportation). Having said that my childhood was lovely, and I understand why my parents made that choice and I would love to give my daughter (and any future sprogs) an experience in the countryside as well. We have decided to stay put for the moment, for all the convenience reasons others have said (playgroups, cafes, good transport etc etc), it is fantastic for life with a small person, and we have lots of choices for local schools many of which are walking distance. We are also very lucky that our shoebox does have period features so it feels charming even if we can hear our neighbours walk up their stairs. But ultimately we want to move to the countryside, while being commuting distance to London for jobs. The wishlist (period, beautiful house with loads of space, near a village with facilities, good schools on a fast train line to London……..) requires some sort of lottery win however and annoyingly my numbers haven’t come up (yet!!). I still check Rightmove every week though just in case 🙂 Compromise is definitely the name of the game, your location sounds beautiful and I really do think for little ones location is a good priority so that you can make the most of it all, dreams can definitely wait a few years.

    1. Hey Annie,

      Glad to know I’m not the only Rightmove addict! I think you’re right about compromise and we really do live in the dream location, especially for kids. Someone visited our home recently for the first time and walked around saying how wonderful it was which made me feel a bit sheepish. I guess we get used to our surroundings and can sometimes hanker after more! But if I had a porch area, a utility and a woodburner I would probably still wish I wasn’t overlooked or attached etc, at what point is enough enough? As you highlight, thinking about the small people is important and for her, she has made friends here, she is part of an incredible nursery and has the beach and the countryside at the end of the street, I’m sure a utility room won’t mean much to her! Perhaps I should try to commit to this home, wean myself off Rightmove and give this house a chance.

  16. Great post! I’ve really enjoyed reading everyones comments.
    We lived in a new build flat for 9 years in a Somerset town and then when I got pregnant we put it on the market as we needed more space and really wanted a garden.
    I wanted to move to one of the surrounding villages to a nice character property. We looked at lots of houses in lots of locations and ended up settling for another new build, on the same estate as our flat! We found we could get way more for our money and I was close to friends and within walking distance to parks, shops, baby groups etc.
    We both love that with a new build, you just move in and it’s instantly live-able! A blank canvas to make your own mark and its all shiny and new. We are both awful at DIY and so a ‘project house’ would never be a good choice for us! I do still lust over period properies on Instagram though!

    1. Hi Katie,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, yes it IS a blank canvas and I think where I’ve gone wrong is that I left it blank. I know I will feel more homely if I inject some colour and feeling. I think lusting over period properties on Instagram is pretty standard, haha. It’s the woodburner I miss the most!

  17. I don’t know how to say this without sounding ragey at any one; it’s more a rant against this ideal home/search for perfection culture in general.

    The lady who wrote this post, has not, in my opinion emphasised ENOUGH how lucky she is and how her perceived problem (not having a character property) is really not a problem at all, just a somewhat vain pre-occupation!

    Does anyone else find Instagram and Pinterest make them feel like what they have is not enough? The writer has a family, a brand new home and she lives somewhere she loves. How wonderful is that? She also had the opportunity to live in a period property which she thought she’d love but didn’t, due to location. Luckily she was able to change her mind and move back to Falmouth. Once again, very fortunate.

    The answer is, like many, she and her husband will need to work, save and wait until they can afford what they want in the location they love. That’s life!

    Why do we get ourselves all worked up about the house we live in? It needs to be clean and tidy, warm and full of love. Aesthetically pleasing is a nice addition, but not necessary. It’s almost like the type of house you live in is an extension of who you are…an outward show to the world that you have an interest in or liking for period property or modern design.

    I wish the writer the very, very best with resolving her house decisions. But I feel her post raises some bigger, important questions for me.

    Do we focus too much on the visual? Is it because of our involvement with and use of visual heavy social media?
    Do we lose something here I.e. are we missing out on valuing what cannot be captured in a picture?

    Maybe we should spend more time accepting and valuing what we do have; accepting what we may like to change but shall choose to live with; and really just focus in on our lives and enjoy the moments, rather than whipping ourselves into frenzies over not having the “perfect” looking home.

    ‘Home’ is a feeling more than anything else, after all.

    1. Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you so much for your comments and please don’t worry about sounding ragey, I’m a little bit ragey at myself! Your points are all totally valid. The only thing I will say is that although Instagram fuels my passion for a character property, it is not about the look at all, it is all about the feel. The truth is, I’ve never felt at home here and I thought if I had a character property I would feel settled. When I moved I did feel settled in front of the woodburner with the granite fireplace, it felt really calming and just as I envisioned home feeling. What ruined it was being lonely with a colicy newborn plus all of the period property dramas (damp, rat infestations etc).

      I have been very fortunate indeed and I’m sorry that it hasn’t come across that way, I truly do know how lucky I’ve been. And as I’ve mentioned, perhaps the perfect home doesn’t exist? One of my friends candidly asked me if maybe the issue is not feeling at home in myself rather than the house being the issue, food for thought. But I don’t want a ‘perfect’ looking home, goodness knows I could achieve that easily in a new build home and I have many friends who have picture-perfect new build homes (someone I know lives in an actual show home) but that is not what I’m after at all. I just want to feel at home, settled. Of course, some things I would like for practicality – a porch so that I can bring the pram indoors when it’s raining (not so fun leaving it outside the front door whilst rushing in with my toddler) or a utility – somewhere for the dogs to sleep and to hang up wet leads so they don’t drip on the kitchen floor and to stop my daughter trying to lick the dog bowls (true story) but overall I am trying to FEEL at home. I am however very guilty of looking at Instagram and seeing the pretty character pictures and imagining life again next to the woodburner. I’m aware that most of it is fantasy but I do miss a woodburner, something about looking at fire is soothing to my soul. Thank you for commenting as so much of what you have said is true and I think we do focus too much on the visual. But if I wanted a pretty house, I could achieve that in a heartbeat and for me, it is definitely deeper than just that. I am sorry if I have come across as ungrateful though because I do really know how lucky I am.

    2. I could not agree with you more. I don’t understand the obsession either! I know people who have quadrupled their mortgage for the ‘perfect’ house, but now cannot afford holidays, day trips or meals out with their young children. Surely it’s more important to create lovely memories rather than spending so much time on this obsession. I’m pretty sure children don’t remember a fantastic log burner from their childhood? It would be great if people could just slow down and appreciate all the goods things they have.

      1. Hi Jessica,

        Thanks for your comments, I can understand your sentiment. I am not advocating getting a larger mortgage or more debt, simply feeling at home somewhere versus a superb location. I don’t think the log burner will make my daughter’s childhood any better, that would be for me, it makes me feel much calmer to be around fire, nothing to do with the aesthetics of a log burner, I just feel relaxed watching the flames (and for me this is about actively pursuing a slower way of living). I also would never deprive my daughter of fantastic experiences in exchange for material goods so I’m sorry if it came across this way, but I do want a home that I love.

  18. I know that my heart is with location when it comes to home. We are in a two bed Victorian terrace and there are times when I would kill for normal square rooms instead of awkward alcoves and narrow doorways, but a brand new build would feel very bland in comparison. Having a choice of three parks to walk the dog, only being 20 minutes walk from the city centre, and an hours drive from the Peak District, and a small shopping centre with a proper butchers and grocers etc also in walking distance makes it the ideal location for us, but parking is a nightmare and the walls are horrendously thin!

    My personal view is that houses can be worked with but the the convenience or peacefulness of the area, and thus your peace of mind can’t be changed. I’m a big believer that things will fall into place and in the same position I would advise a friend to stop looking for something better and to just be for a while. Give yourself proper space to settle and clear your head of what could have been – there were good reasons for moving. Hope it all works out x

    1. Hi Claire,

      Thank you, such great comments. You are absolutely correct that houses can be worked with whereas an area cannot be. Even though I loved the features of my village home, the location is more key than ever. Especially since we bought it as a couple but then became a family – a child really has changed everything. Your advice sounds spot on, I think I plan to do just that, come off Rightmove for a while (delete the app) and just settle and commit to making this as much of a home as possible and seeing if we can feel at home here. It’s interesting that you say the walls are thin – I’ve never lived in a Victorian house (only a cottage) and I imagined it to be thick walls, they are quite thin in new builds also (well, ours at least) so I can stop thinking that it’s a plus point to move to a Victorian home for that reason!

  19. I understand what you mean. There is a fine and hard to define line between achieving an aspirational/good looking home and a home that feels good. Of course there is also some considerable over lap too. For example; wood burners are really fashionable and covetable at the moment, but they do also add warmth, comfort and, as you say, can make you feel calm/soothe the soul.

    I don’t think you are ungrateful at all and I know we are all guilty of wanting more; it’s the culture that we live in that cultivates this attitude and propagates it. I just want to always question it so we don’t passively go with the flow, always “aspiring” and never knowing the satisfaction of contentment. It’s also that there will be people reading this, I am sure, who are just desperate to get on the property ladder at all. This of course does not negate your difficulties at all, just lends a sense of perspective for all of us.

    Perhaps for you, it may be the most cost effective option to invest in a few cosy, characterful elements in your new build and make the conscious decision to actively value the positives of your current lifestyle (No time and money being frittered away on house repair and upkeep, a buzzy, beautiful, family friendly location).

    If after a few years this doesn’t feel enough, then you will know that the answer is to find the “dream” home with the possibility of a location compromise.

    As for me, I’m taking my own advice-loving my home. It’s not ‘characterful’, period or new build. It’s a tired sixties build-totally untrendy but it has a spacious enough garden for my children and a quiet town location. I love it and I know it’s about the memories we make here, not the features of the home, that are what really matters to me.

    1. Thanks Charlotte, that’s true. I think if I can be close to the ocean and close to fire I feel relaxed. I can be next to the ocean in minutes so one out of two isn’t two bad and I have candles! We are guilty of wanting more (myself included) and you’re so right about getting on the property ladder, it’s so difficult, I’ve forgotten how much we struggled (not to mention the compromise of a house we bought! If I was speaking to that version of me now and I told her she would be living here in 10 years time I wouldn’t have believed myself – this is a dream house in comparison to that. I definitely need to be more grateful and this is a good reminder of that.

      I am totally sold on investing in some characterful elements to the new build. I’m not sure what these need to be, I don’t really have an eye for it but I’m purchasing some wood-effect flooring as I think what I miss most is feeling tactile and surrounded by natural materials. I’ve also brought some plants in which has been a total game changer already. I think it’s often the sixties builds that have the most potential – all of the space and the opportunity to turn into something with your fingerprint on. Thank you for being involved with the discussion and helping me put it all in perspective.

  20. We’ve literally just been through this decision process and exchanged on our new house last Friday! We love character too but couldn’t afford it in good condition in the location we liked. We tried to compromise on location but it didn’t feel right. We also tried to compromise on the period, but hubby really wanted Victorian or Edwardian. I was willing to look at 20s and 30s but they didn’t feel right to him. It’s what we’re both used to and what feels like home. It was so hard to get a balance of all our “wants” with schools and amenities too. In the end we got our Victorian house, but compromised on condition (it’s structurally sound but needs modernising) and garden, which is small but big enough for a BBQ and a run around. We have a park, a common and playing fields nearby so felt like it was a compromise we were prepared to make. A friend lives nearby with a mahoosive garden and I keep joking that maybe we could rent a portion of it!! We also did get lucky, houses of this size in this location and price do not come up often so we had a battle to get it (7 other offers!!).

    Ultimately you’re not going to get everything and it sounds like you made the right compromise for your family. The house sounds ideal for your needs now but maybe it’s just not your forever home. Although it may be a blank box that might mean you can go for it a bit more in decor and like others have said add character with a log burner, textiles, statement mirrors/lighting. Once you have children your priorities change, they have to but you can always dream and ogle on insta….

    xx

  21. Hi Agnes,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is so tricky to achieve that balance isn’t it? You are definitely right about compromise, your Victorian house sounds like a lovely home. As for me, writing this has been so carthartic and helpful, I have decided to stay here and as you say, add character through decor.

  22. I’m going to stick up for new builds, love ours. brought it when it was 10 years old so there are established plants and trees put in by the previous owners, a house down the road has opted for ivy over the house which looks great. The place is neatly finished, warm, multiple bathrooms so no more asking if anyone needs the loo before a bath.

    We’ve been in 6 months and I’m thinking some changes to the fixings to take it away from the standard finishes that builders put in and makes them all look the same. Eyeing up a fancy radiator in the hall or lounge.

    I can’t see myself going for an older house any time soon, after taking down ivy and 3 rooms worth of textured wallpaper, discovering a false chimney breast extension put in to accommodate the worst plaster cast and sprayed mottle fire place and the various other DIY – not quite bad enough to fix with an overhaul, I was very happy to leave the long garden that rose to a level where you could see over the house for our current one. Even though I’ve made it sound horrible, I still love that house.

    If I moved into a character property I would want the dishwasher space and modern finishes. I’m very happy to admire at them from the outside and visit other peoples.

    1. Hi Jenny,

      Thank you for sticking up for new builds and making some fantastic points! Ours doesn’t have established plants and trees, it is very much a strip of lawn but you have given me hope that we can turn it into something special. Haha so true about multiple bathrooms, we have 3! One per person! I would love to know what type of radiator you’re thinking of? I’m wondering if we can put an old school column type radiator in or if that is a tad strange in a new build! And yes, a very valid point about the integral dishwasher etc, I do like the clean modern lines of our kitchen here. Thank you for shining the light on the stuff I’ve glossed over that actually makes for a great new build home.

      1. This is the type I’m thinking of,
        http://www.diy.com/departments/terma-winchester-horizontal-radiator-metallic-black-textured-h600-mm-w990-mm/1454353_BQ.prd?DR_C_ST_IM
        Haven’t decided between a low or high one. there are some very nice cast iron ones as well, I don’t think it would look out of place. It would be something the neighbors don’t have and starts to make it more your own, especially if that is the aesthetic you like in older buildings.

        Garden Centers do great pre-planted tubs that will put a bit of colour into the garden straight away. I’m starting to get pots for the patio which are making outside more mine as well as a few strawberry plants which I was gutted to leave in the last place

        1. Oooh yes, that is a bit different! I’ve also been eyeing up some school style column radiators but not sure if that’s a bit much on a new build! Great tip re garden centres also, thank you!

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