This Must Be the Place: Putting Down Roots – Finally – As a First-Time UK Home Owner

Chapter Six: The Everything Room
(It’s a Man Cave! A Music Hub! Guest Quarters! It’s Also a Floor Wax!*)

So far in this series on the thrills and spills of property ownership, I’ve tackled such sexy subjects as sump pump maintenance, storage shed de-cluttering, and bath towel symmetry. And readers have responded by staying away in droves! Just kidding, air kisses for my core group of beautiful masochists who have stuck with me as I’ve nattered on about DIY and decorating minutiae. I humbly request that you indulge me again for this latest effort, a rather giddy love letter to my favourite living space in the Portsmouth pad that the spouse and I have called home since late 2019. Huzzah! It’s the upstairs sitting room!

That’s what we like to call it anyway. And it may be a slight affectation on our part because it makes the layout of our cozy two-storey maisonette seem grander than it actually is. “Oh, you’re looking for the upstairs sitting room? Why, it’s in the east wing, across from the billiards parlour and down the corridor from the conservatory. Watch out for Colonel Mustard and his candlestick.” Truth is it’s just the second of the flat’s two bedrooms, but the hubby and I have jazzed it up for other uses, hence the fancy re-brand. (If you’re good, I might tell you all about our downstairs sitting room in a future post.) When we first toured the property, this well-proportioned room grabbed our attention with its high ceiling and a row of four tall casement windows. The potential of the space was a key selling point – we envisioned it as a cool multimedia den that could also serve as comfortable guest lodgings. After we moved in, we set our minds to making that vision a reality. It took a while and for sure there were some headaches along the way. During the first several months, the room was an uninhabitable dumping ground for unpacked boxes, piles of winter coats and duvets, and clusters of household items that we hadn’t yet found a place for in the new décor plan. Then for one long, noisy week it was a tarp-draped building site as a carpenter installed floor-to-ceiling wardrobes along the far wall. And don’t get me started on our heated encounters with fussy furniture movers who balked at lugging two successive sofa beds that we’d ordered up our stairs. Suffice it to say swear words were uttered. One work-shy mover suggested that we consider beanbag chairs instead, a super idea if we were decorating a suburban rec room in the mid-1970s. We were third-time lucky with the department store John Lewis, who delivered a mod blue Scandinavian sofa without complaint. And if anyone at John Lewis wants to send me a voucher for this shameless plug, they can email me at dugoutdiscs@gmail.com.  

But by relying on our savvy styling instincts – and, okay, that carpenter and those JL delivery guys, plus a professional painter that I neglected to mention – we were able to transform the space into the fetching multi-functional lair it is today. It’s a TV room where the hubby and I retire to watch any film starring Judi Dench or Bill Nighy, or ideally both, on our 48” Panasonic. (I’ll just say it – The Third Best Exotic Marigold Hotel needs to happen.) The sofa converts to a generous double bed that can easily sleep two guests and perhaps even three, should we ever play host to a throuple. (Hey, you never know. Once the COVID restrictions end, I’ll bet people are going to get up to all kinds of uninhibited shenanigans.) The built-in wardrobes hold most of our clothes now, so I refer to the room as my “gentleman’s dressing chamber” whenever I’m feeling extra classy. It’s been my writer’s study where I’ve penned these very posts on our ancient-but-still-reliable Toshiba laptop. And it’s been a refuge where I’ve hidden myself away to ponder my self-worth after checking the page views for said posts. Ah well, perhaps my genius is destined to be underappreciated in my lifetime. Like Mozart. Or Carrot Top.

But the room’s most important function is that it’s our tune lounge, baby! Just inside the door we’ve created our home’s music hub, complete with a boss-sounding stereo, vinyl storage, simpatico art prints and a nifty record-shaped rug. (We keep our CDs within easy reach on shelves in the wardrobes.) The stereo components had to be compiled from scratch, over time, given that we left our beloved former system behind when we moved from Canada to the UK due to the differing electrical currents. The new system was ready to rock when the spouse gifted me with the final component, a pair of primo Dali speakers, for my most recent birthday. He’s a good egg, that hubby ‘o mine. During the various stages of lockdown since then, I’ve spent hour upon hour chilling by the stereo, contentedly communing with our record collection. Such as it is. Turns out moving from country to country and continent to continent, not to mention some questionable decisions I’ve made along the way, has been rather rough on the old music library. Click here to read “Where Have Albums Gone? Confessions of a Reformed Record Collection Robber.” It’s a tearful tale, I’m telling you!

At least now the beleaguered collection has a fixed address. After years of being dragged here, there, and everywhere, it is at last ensconced in our upstairs sitting room for the foreseeable future. Maybe this is the real reason why the room is my favourite – it contains the most tangible symbol of the end of a long nomadic chapter in my life. It’s been a hell of a trip for me and my records to get to where we are now and hopefully we’ve finally found our forever home. Or maybe the reason I love the room is less philosophical and it’s simply because it’s where we keep most of our man cave toys. If we could squeeze in a vintage pinball machine, I’d never leave! Oh, to experience the synchronistic bliss of listening to Love Gun by Kiss on the stereo while playing Bally’s 1979 Kiss-themed arcade classic! Sadly, there isn’t quite enough square footage to accommodate this dream without forfeiting a substantial item that’s already there. Obviously, we’d never get rid of the music hub, and the TV with its stand and the wardrobes are essentials as well, so that just leaves the sofa bed. But where would our guests sleep? Hold on, I just had a brain wave: We turn that now de-cluttered storage shed into a glamping hut for visitors. Problem solved! I wonder if John Lewis delivers pinball machines…

*Not an actual floor wax. Please do not attempt to wax your floors with our sitting room.

[Blogger’s note: I’m an American expat living in Portsmouth, England, with my British-born spouse. We moved to the UK together a few years ago and stayed in rental accommodations for a time, but eventually the property bug bit us and we purchased a place of our own – a first for this fifty-something vagabond. Here you can read about the adventures in decorating and DIY that have followed. Check back soon for the next installment in the series!]

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