Friday, March 21, 2014

The four houses that got us to where we are today...


Although I tend to steer away from writing long blog posts, I recently read a great post about a fellow blogger's journey to their dream home and thought now might be a great time to recap on our own (not entirely smooth) journey to our current house renovation.

Jim and I married in 2007. When he proposed we were both living separately in different military accommodation in Germany and though we knew he was due posting, we don't know when or where.

Sometime between getting engaged and getting married we found out Jim's next posting was to Alberta in Canada and that we were going two weeks after our wedding.

We knew nothing about the house we were getting and the first we saw of it was when we arrived in the taxi outside. Our first married home was a privately owned house in a condo in the town of Medicine Hat. It was pretty big inside with lots of nice (and unexpected) bonuses like a dishwasher, electric garage door and walk in wardrobe, but it had very little outside space and it was 50km from the base where we were both working and where the majority of the British Forces lived. Also despite Jim's fantasy of being emerged in "a real Canadian community" the few neighbours we met were all retirees!


For the first few weeks in this house Jim and I worked totally different shifts and commuted independently to and from the base. I would come home several hours before him and sit in an empty house feeling miserable (and occasionally crying) or walking the empty streets around our house. Quite quickly we (and by that I mean me!) began to talk about moving to a house on the base, but we were told there was such pressure on housing that we would never get one. Thankfully they were wrong....

So six weeks after we had arrived we moved again...


Our new house was right on the corner of the village with a huge garden, white picket fence and a deceptively large interior. Although it looks like a bungalow we had a huge basement which accommodated a laundry room, our bedroom, a bathroom and a cinema room. It was cheap to rent, always warm (even at -40c) and close to work and our friends. We had great barbecues in the garden in the summer and equally good fun in the winter. I really loved this house on so many levels. The only downsides were mowing the HUGE lawn and the fact I used to envy our neighbours who lived in the prettier weatherboard houses, so you can see where that particular fascination of mine started! Indeed it was while we were living here that we bought our current house in Sussex and began to dream of transforming it.

In August 2009 we left Canada and moved to Cyprus to house number 3, and this was what was waiting for us when we arrived...



The houses had been built in the 1950s and save for the addition of double glazing, they had not been touched since. Though a part of me loved the novelty of the blue formica kitchen when we arrived, by the end of our time I hated it with a passion. On the plus side we had sea "glimpses" from our bedroom and a beach moments away, but the downs were many. Our garden was untameable. Over-run with weeds in winter and a dust bowl in summer. The house was almost always too hot or too cold as it had no air-conditioning and no central heating and temperatures in Cyprus would fluctuate from just above freezing to +40c. The green carpet (an MOD special the world over) was hideous and the original 1950s bathroom and plumbing was awful. Though it looks good in the photos, don't be fooled I was trying hard to make it look good!

After another two years we were off to Northern Scotland and I had mixed feelings about living in a modern house on a large housing estate... 


After Cyprus this house felt quite luxurious. An en-suite, four bedrooms, central heating, a utility room and neutral coloured carpets. In truth the house itself was pretty good, but despite its location surrounded by hundreds of houses it was also one of the loneliest places I have ever lived. I hated the penned in feeling of being able to see into my neighbours houses (and for them to do the same) The house had dark window frames and though it faced east/west it also felt quite dark inside a lot of the time too. In truth I'm probably a little harsh on this house because I spent a lot of short Scottish winter days pacing around it with a very young baby whilst Jim was in Afghanistan, but by the end of 2012 when we heard the news that we were heading south, I was delighted to leave and incredibly excited to finally be taking control over our housing.

And so we arrived in Sussex at the end of January 2013 to a house with lots of potential and lots of work needing done. A few days later we met with our architect to discuss ideas and an entirely new journey began to transform this...


into this...


We are now 3 weeks in and the house is slowly taking shape. If you want to follow our journey, click on the link below to add to your Bloglovin feed.

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37 comments:

  1. What a journey...and such different places! The transition from the Cyprus house to the Scottish one looks like an enormous change in terms of style and space...and temperature!!

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  2. Fascinating... Apart from starting out in Germany (3 years for Ian and 9 mos for me) and two postings in Halifax, we spent our time moving every 2 - 3 years all around Ontario. I should do up one of these... we have bought six houses and rented 3 more. No wonder my furniture looks like it was thrown around North America!

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  3. Such an interesting post and great photos. I look forward to future updates on the home plans! :)

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  4. Love reading this! A great tale of housing.

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  5. Wow what a lot of travelling! I can definitely see shades of your previous houses in the new design and I think it's going to look amazing when it's finished!

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  6. we have moved 4 times in 6 years and its becoming tiring as we are about tomove again, we were totally comfortble where we are now and thought we could live here forever but moving from a town to a country side village with a population of only 150 its very lonely and imiss being able to talk to freinds and family eseciall as we now have three extra ones so therefore have no space here no more , best of luck with the renovtion x

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  7. What a collection of homes, all lovely I love the picket fence!

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  8. I love this post. It is so interesting to see where you have lived.

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  9. This is such a great post - I love the photos and detail. What different properties you've lived in! Hopefully when you've done this one up, it will become your most special!

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  10. I love the look of your planned house - beautiful. We've been thinking about how to change the look of our house for ages. It's in a great location and has lots of space but it's just not a pretty house. I'd love to do something like you're doing.

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  11. It is lovely to look back and remember places/homes which have been important in your life. The new house looks beautiful! x

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  12. Those blue cupboards in your Cyprus house - my auntie has exactly the same in her house in Larnaca!! I remember them as a kid going on holidays there, and the last time we went, 5 years ago, she still had them!

    good luck with your house re-building/modelling it looks like it is going to be AMAZING!

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  13. Wow! Good luck with your renovation, I look forward to seeing what it looks like when it is finished x

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  14. That must have been really tough being on your own with Theo whilst Jim was away. I never felt that from reading your blog at the time, though. Your new house is going to be so awesome!

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  15. What a journey you have been on with some very different houses along the way! Your new house looks like it is going to be amazing! I hope it all comes together quickly and you can settle in your new home.

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  16. This is my first visit to your blog. By its title, I expected not to be able to say much as I am blind and can't see photos for this reason. I however love to read your story about the foru houses that got you where you're now. I understand you wanted to move away from house #1 (by the way I love the town name), and I would feel lonely in house #4 too.

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  17. I'm looking forward to seeing your house build progress. I have moved about 14 times in the last 20 years (lost count somewhere along the way), so that is a post I'm never going to write!

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  18. Loved this post. It's one of my regrets that I didn't take more photos of our house back home in the UK before we left for Canada. We still own it, but I couldn't say if we'll ever live there again. That was my dream house; we'd just completed a HUGE renovation when the Canada opportunity presented itself. It took me a long time to get over leaving it. I still tour it in my mind and have the odd weepy day, usually after visiting a homewares or DIY store *sigh* I wrote about it here if you're interested...
    I Have A House: http://expatlog.com/2012/05/09/home-garden-renovation/

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  19. Your new home looks like it will,be fantastic. Really interesting to see how houses are so different to one another!

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  20. Wow what a journey you have ahead of you - I cannot wait to see what your home looks like in the end. x

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  21. What an amazing photographic record of your journey across the world. Love the way the houses are different, and marvelling at how neat and tidy your child's room is!

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    1. That might be something to do with the fact I took the photo before he was born! ;-)

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  22. What a great journey and a lovely new home. One day I hope we can say the same

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  23. You've moved around haven't you? It's interesting to see your past and present houses. Do you think you will stay there forever or move again?

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    1. I hope we'll stay here for a long time, if not forever!

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  24. What a journey you've had! As a fellow serial-mover I thought I was the only one with tons of photos of all the houses we moved into before and after and with every change :)
    I really liked your story, and the plan of your new house. Good luck with the building!

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  25. What a journey! Good luck for you guys with the new house ;) Me and my OH also found a house. Now all the paperwork stuff with bank and solicitors started but hopefully we get there!

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  26. Great post - really enjoyed following your journey and having a nose into your life! Sorry you were so lonely.
    Your dream house looks amazing and i cannot wait to see more! I have always wanted a front porch to sit on!

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  27. Wow you've moved around a lot! These are all lovely homes

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  28. Wow this is awesome to read, absolutely loved this post and seeing the different places you've lived. Can't wait to see how your plans with this house develop

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  29. We've moved around quite a bit, too, although not quite so far-flung as you! I love the plans you have to transform your house--I'm a massive sucker for porches you can sit out on, but that would look rather odd on our current house. Must catch up with your renovation posts!!

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  30. Can't ait to see your new house, looks like it is going to be amazing

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  31. Wow what a journey, it's great to see how you've gone up the housing ranks :) Your new home looks like it will be beautiful! x

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  32. Wow, What a journey!
    I hope all will go well and according to plan

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  33. Amazing journey! Now I really want to do ours ha. It must've been so difficult and lonely. Well at least after all that you now know exactly what you do want and I can't wait to see the finished house. x

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  34. Crikey: the photos of your house in Cyprus have taken me back to a childhood on base in Cyprus in the 80's. I shouldn't be surprised that nothing has changed!

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