Today I had a thought…
Which of the many houses we have lived in, do I count as Homes? Sixteen years of living this global nomadic lifestyle and I’ve never really considered the short term rental places we’ve lived in, as Homes. They were merely giving us shelter, the in-between houses. Until we stayed in the black cottage mew at the seaside…
It’s now been three months since we moved from New York City to the United Kingdom.
More specifically, to the South coast of county Sussex (yes, the same county where Harry & Meghan are the Duke & Duchess), in the city of Brighton. A coastal city between the green countryside and the blue sea. They also call it ‘London by the Sea’ because the city of London is only a short hour away by train. Many Londoners made their home here and commute to the city or they have a coastal holiday home here.
It was a big leap again, this time without even having set foot in Brighton. Yep, never ever. I researched the internet on all the things we wanted and needed in this time of our lives. So the first time we ever came here, was in June when both our girls had to take long exams (Zoe) and auditions (Noa) to be accepted into their schools. That was also our physical start of a couple months long search for our next home. Starting from scratch in a brand new country and new city makes finding a home a big priority. We needed a base pronto - because after eight months of travelling with backpacks and two apartment moves in two years in New York, we were a bit tired.
We first stayed ten days in a hotel in two rooms. That meant we were getting to school in the morning from the hotel, finding new supermarkets and a laundromat from the hotel (with no refrigerator in the room; we made do with the window sill to chill our drinks and food), while having to deal with disappointed house viewings. All with the hotel as our base.
And so slowly but surely, our new lives had started.
The hallway in this photo was in the first house we viewed here in Brighton. It had this pretty tree wallpaper on the walls, but it was not the right location for us. Many more house viewings followed after this one. Countless hours of searching the internet and more calls to rental agencies were made. It all was tiresome, frustrating and draining of our energy. Houses here are going fast and the rental market is no joke. Luckily, New York had prepared us for this, so we stayed focused and kept searching.
In the mean time, while we were searching for the one, we found our next Home to stay. We changed our two hotel rooms for a sweet cottage mew in a cobble stone street near both schools and the sea. It’s part of two rows of little mews, which in the olden days housed horses, carriages and their food. But over the years they were made into residential and holiday homes.
And so a holiday home for many, turned unexpectedly into our Home number 11.
So what is it that makes a house a home?
We already were living in the cottage for a few weeks, getting to know our new city, the new British customs and a new school life for the girls (who made new friends right away - which made my mama heart soar with pride and comfort).
Perhaps it was the ease of the cottage layout or when the first friend stayed for a sleepover. Or did the house feel like our Home when the second and third friend stayed over? Was it when my mother came for a short stay, or our Dutch friends came to visit us? Or did we felt at Home when we came back from another quick trip to Amsterdam? Maybe when neighbours were making small talk and the local deli guy greeted us with a big smile?
For me it definitely felt like our Home, when we celebrated Noa’s 21st and Zoe’s 11th birthday in the cottage. The cakes and decorations, singing and small presents over breakfast - our own traditions mixed with their new friends coming over, made me realize that these emotional milestones were made right here, in the cottage house. It didn’t matter that we only lived in it temporarily. It was our energy and the feeling of belonging we carry with us, that made the sweet cottage our Home.
People make a house feel like a Home.
And yes, it helps if the furniture is yours, but none of the furniture in the cottage was ours - not the chairs, or cooking pots, nor the beds or towels - every single thing belongs to someone else. And yet, it felt like our Home, because we brought our own energy into the cottage.
Sadly, this weekend it’s time to say goodbye to our short, but significant chapter in the black cottage mew.
Because our persistence paid off and we finally have found our next Home!
It’s an Edwardian house with three floors and I’ll introduce her to you all soon. Yes, she feels feminine, with her ornaments and high ceilings. She even has fireplaces spread out over the rooms - which I truly hope will work...
In the mean time, I think instead of naming her house Home number 12, I might simply give her a name. Zoe already came up with The Vintage House, but first we need to get to know this house and sleep between her walls - starting this weekend. But, besides the new beds we ordered this week, it will be without any of our furniture, winter clothes, chairs, duvets or other belongings for awhile, because our boxes from New York were held up at customs and will not arrive for another six days, while also more boxes are waiting in The Netherlands…
So yes, we are in a temporary hiccup again, but at least we have found the one for us, in this new city we now call Home.