What is the perfect space for you? How can you start creating a place like this in the spaces you already have at your disposal?
Where am I now? I am sitting with my legs stretched along the length of a sofa, my netbook balanced on my knees and bouncing as I type. I’ve retreated from the dining room (which is being tidied, loudly) and kitchen to the conservatory, which is below the reach of the wi-fi.
I have a pretty good view. Beyond some household debris (a broken office chair, a mountain bike, a Lloyd Loom armchair) is an open French window; beyond that, a trapezium of decking and a buddleia bush, and beyond that, the sea. I can hear grasshoppers, the waves swishing gently on the rocks, a seagull or two, someone shouting down in the carpark.
I’m reading Fame is the Spur at the moment, and the central character is being provided with a study – a rare luxury in the working class nineteenth century world he inhabits. His parents find him a desk, give him a chair with a cushion and let him light a fire in the grate; his friend puts in some bookshelves, and they make regular expeditions to a second-hand bookshop to fill them. There are red curtains and an armchair. Even in 2014 it sounds pretty good.
A space that is mine and mine alone is non-negotiable; it has been ever since I moved in with my partner. The current study is the best yet. I have a bookcase, and my desk and computer, and my pictures on the walls. There is a sofa bed to sit (or lie) on when I want to read, or think, or write long-hand.
What can I do in the short term to improve this space? I can buy a lampshade. I don’t usually look at the lamp, and the light is gentle enough that I don’t notice the absence of a shade, but it would be nice to have one. I can empty the three boxes that are blocking the space between the bookcase and the wardrobe. I can rearrange the books, so that the poetry goes into the study. I can put a tiny little plate next my keyboard, to hold the daily chocolate ration. I can remember to shut the door to minimise the likelihood of my being disturbed.
Improvements that require quite a lot of money, and possibly a whole new house: I’d make it a little bit cooler in the summer. (I’ve not been there in the winter, yet.) I’d swap my desk (which is really a dressing table) for one that’s less likely to do injury to my shoulder and upper back. I’d arrange for more horizontal space, so that I have a surface on which to write as well as to type and I’d have a pinboard. A chaise longue, or a day-bed – either way, big enough to curl up in or to sleep on. And yes, I’d have an open fire, or perhaps a wood-burning stove. A gas ring and a coffee pot. Heavy, red, curtains and a thick, comforting carpet. A window – a big one – that opens to the outside.
In the dream house my study won’t even be given over to guests. We could have people to stay every night of the year and I’d be able to carry on as if they weren’t there. I’d have magic mind-reading wi-fi that would only give me access to the sites I needed for research. There would be far more bookshelves.
I’d have a separate room for the more practical things, very light, with big windows and white-painted walls. A big press to keep fabric in, and one of those merchant’s chests for beads, every drawer labelled. A huge table that I don’t have to clear mid-piece. An Anglepoise lamp (I’ve always wanted one, anyway).
I’d keep this view, though. Who wouldn’t?