Over the past few weeks, we have been in the process of moving from our home of 9 years to a new dwelling. Our move constitutes a travelling distance of only 20m. Not a particularly common circumstance in a renting arrangement, but the decision was made some time ago by the owner of the farm on which we live to demolish the existing 100-year-old farmhouse in preference for a manufactured house, with all the conveniences of a modern build – insulation, standard doorways, the absence of rising damp and mould, floorboards that don’t move with each step. These are all admirable qualities of a new building and I am sure that when winter greets us in earnest this weekend we will be especially grateful for the split system and insulation.
However, the old farmhouse had a soul and character of its own that no new build could ever hope to replicate. When we first moved onto the property, we could feel that the old home had had a happy and interesting life. It was a practical build with a hint of attention to beautiful details. We could tell its first owners were pragmatic, but not unfeeling people. It was a house of industry and practical application, and it was casual and unfussy of its demands on the occupants. It had a charm and spirit that was warm and calming. It disliked winter immensely but came into its own in summer when the breeze would blow through the casement windows billowing the curtains seductively, and you could gaze through the centre of the home and out onto the valley below. It had grandeur in its position atop a hill and its deep verandahs that looked out to the horizon.
This was our family home for 9 years and we truly loved it. I have genuinely grieved the process of moving. Moving through sadness and anger, anxiety and numb acceptance, we have felt deeply what it has meant to love and lose this old home. But it is not ours to make judgement on its future. We can do nothing but accept the change and try our best to move on in this new house.
New homes, particularly generic pre-manufactured homes, often lack dimension and character and require a huge injection of warmth to bring life to those stark and sterile grey walls. So that has been my focus these past weeks, to bring a feeling of warmth and a sense of home into this new space.
We have some beautiful old wardrobes and cabinets that fit right at home in the old homestead that I feared would look awkwardly juxtaposed against the lifeless grey walls. I wasn’t even certain that they would fit as new houses are often open-planned, which means fewer walls to place furniture. Fortunately, the majority of these old pieces do fit, perhaps not where I had imagined they would go, but still, I have managed to put these pieces to practical use and the warmth of the timber brings instant life to this space.
I am yet to hang the pieces of art and textiles that decorated our old home. That will be something I will play with over the coming weeks as I seek to make this house our home and our sanctuary. After all, the soul of a home comes from us, its occupants, how we live in and care for the space, the energy we bring, the laughter (and the tears and shouts too) that fill these walls, our very essence seeping into its fabric. In time, and as we bring life to this new home, it will feel more like ours, something we belong to, as opposed to a place we inhabit.