Home truths: the realities of a London house share

Basil plants and matching plates are frequent casualties of rowdy housemates

Basil plants and matching plates are frequent casualties of rowdy housemates - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In our new column Prudence reminisces about the raucous warehouse share of her twenties, and India ponders the short lives of basil plants

Prudence: is enjoying escaping house share living.

A few days ago I went back to the last flat I shared before I became part of a co-habiting couple a few years ago. The last remaining person I knew who lived there was finally moving out and so I went for a valedictory visit with a bunch of fellow former flatmates.

The space was a warehouse conversion where six of us lived in bedrooms that resembled nothing so much as stacked rabbit hutches with no windows. My artist flatmate had built them herself and, since hinges were beyond her, we had curtains across the entrances rather than doors.

There was no privacy, no natural light and a lot of noise.

Sounds like hell, right? In fact, it was a lot of fun and during the three years I lived there I enjoyed countless impromptu Tuesday night parties and hungover days spent cuddled up on the sofa, which a previous housemate had found on the street.

The rent was £280 per month, we seemed to be somehow off grid as we never received anyenergy bills and we lived together through all the highs, lows, drama and excitement you might expect from six 20-somethings.

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As I returned to my current home – a significantly more expensive two-bedroom flat which I share with only my boyfriend and our enormous book collection – I couldn’t decide whether or not I missed the old place.

In the end I decided not.

Sure, it’s rare that Mr Prudence brings home five semi-strangers from the pub for an after party, the wardrobe swapping possibilities are limited and his taste in rainy Sunday movies errs on the serious (have you ever watched a five-hour Holocaust docu-mentary on a hangover? I don’t recommend it) but having windows means we also have an amazing view, if I grow herbs on my kitchen windowsill nobody kills my basil plant, and my nice crockery and glassware stays in one piece.

There are several things that still feel like luxuries about living as a two. It’s the first place I’ve ever lived with a big enough bedroom for a dressing table, and no cheeky house-mates to come and nick my make up.

I’m still obsessed with my Bethan Gray dressing table, and get a kick out of sitting at it inthe morning to get ready for work.

I’m loving my vintage Romanian pottery bowls, which work for everything from pasta to ice cream.

I’m also loving that none of them have been broken the whole time I’ve had them. When I’m stacking the full set of eight in the cupboard I’m more than happy to accept that if I want raucous nowadays I’ll just have to leave the house.

India: her bedroom’s a haven in a house full of boys

I have now accepted my fate as the token girl in a lads’ house.

To be honest, the signs were always there. When I first met my now housemates it was in a pub and they insisted on buying me a pint.

In a rush to make my next viewing I drank it as fast as I could. My downing skills got me the room.

Now the only other girl in the house has moved out, presuma-bly to find somewhere less inclined to midweek house parties and more disposed to cleaning rotas, and been replaced by a third boy. In cele-bration we bought a ping pong table.

Socially, I couldn’t ask for a better living situation. We all come from different countries and different backgrounds but the four of us get on famously, have different enough schedules that there is never a queue for the single shower, and all like to get together of an evening and drink a few beers. Décor-wise however we are less well matched.

I dream of a well stocked bar cart in the living room, vintage glassware in the cupboards, framed prints on the walls and houseplants on every available surface. As it is, the furniture is a hodgepodge of stuff we found on the kerb, any drinking vessel has a short life expectancy and if university taught me anything it’s to never trust anyone with your basil plant.

Behind closed doors however it’s a different story. My room is my sanctuary but it’s small, just big enough to fit a double bed, a few feet of flooring and a built in wardrobe with the doors removed (for extra shoe space of course).

Budget along with space is a constant constraint, but I’m tireless in tracking down cheap alternatives in charity shops or patiently stalking the online sales. I love the dark wood vintage bar stool that serves as my bedside table, my brushed cotton bed sheets in a paint spatter print (reversible, so I can switch from stormy grey to chill out white), hexagonal shelves that honeycomb the wall and a windowsill filled with succulents.

It may be hard to avoid the feeling of living in a party in the common parts, but once I shut the door to my room I can almost con myself that I’m living like a grown up.