Whether it's a single bedroom in halls at university, moving into your first flatshare or the moment you were handed the keys to your own front door, everyone remembers their first homes. Here, Kate Watson-Smyth of the award-winning interiors blog Mad About the House shares the story of how she found 'the one' - a house on a hill that became her first real home.


'We were arguing all the way up the hill. Another wasted evening flat-hunting with the prospect of finding something, anything, appearing to retreat ever further into the distance.

It wasn’t like we were looking for the house of our dreams. We just wanted a two bedroom garden flat. In common, in turned out, with most of the rest of the first-time buyers in London.Our search was complicated by the fact that we were living in west London, working in east (both of us were journalists at The Independent which was based in Canary Wharf in those days) and hunting in north – we had set our hearts on Crouch End.

I had lost count of the number of poky, damp and ruinously expensive places we had seen. The ones where the second bedroom was barely a single: “but it will make a fine nursery” said estate agents fixing us with their beady calculating eyes. The ones where the garden was accessed via the bedroom - it wasn’t quite a dealbreaker, but it wasn’t quite ideal either. The ones – most of them – with no bathroom window, which invariably led to the unmistakeable aroma of damp towel. The ones where the roof terrace was a tiny sliver of balcony with a dodgy-looking railing and a view of nothing in particular.

We had been looking for months and we were tired and cross and the prices were rising all the time. On this particular evening I had arranged to see two flats and to make it more bearable, booked a table at our favourite Crouch End restaurant to give us something to look forward to. Then an estate agent rang to say that a third flat had just come on the market and we really should see it. I added it to the list with a weary sigh. It would probably just make us late for dinner and even crosser.

We finished work and trekked up to Crouch End, already convinced it would be a fool’s errand. It went as predicted. The first place was covered in stone cladding and had uPVC windows. All eminently replaceable – if you weren’t on a first-time buyer’s budget. The second had a very pretty garden that led out from the bedroom. I didn’t fancy guests having to traipse through our most private space for a sneaky cigarette.

I made him agree to come and see the third option. It was at the top of a long hill that curved steeply at the top. We were unfit – hours at the office or commuting across London left no time for the gym. All the way up the hill, he complained about how awful all the flats were. I tried to pretend that stone cladding or the impossible dream of an eat-in kitchen weren’t the end of the world. My determination to find the best in everything pissed him off even more.

We arrived at the top of the hill, hot and, if not bothered, definitely peevish, and rang the bell. The door to the street opened and behind the owner we could see the open door to her flat and smell the rosemary she was chopping in the kitchen. Twenty years later, he still thinks of that moment whenever he uses rosemary. I still think of it whenever I see a battered leather armchair; there was one just visible from the hall.

We walked in and hardly dared breathe. The tiny hall had doors leading to a large sitting room and a good-sized kitchen which led, in turn, to a small conservatory that had been built into the side return and had just enough room for a table for four. The owner’s husband appeared from the sitting room clutching a small baby girl.

“This is it,” I said. “We’ll take it.” I had to be persuaded to even see the rest of the flat. I just knew, from the moment we stepped over the threshold, that I was home. We did see the rest; the two double bedrooms that were roughly the same size, the pretty 40ft garden, the bay window in the sitting room with its sanded floorboards and high ceiling. It was, it turned out, the flat of our dreams after all.

My husband maintains it was the rosemary. For me, it was the view from the hall that sealed the deal.'

Follow Kate @mad_about_the_house and find her expert advice on all things interiors on her blog Mad About the House

Soho House 40 Greek Street

Our first home opened 25 years ago at 40 Greek Street.