London, Stay

The smell of the English

I have been asked how living at the new place was and how I liked the house. Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the smell of the new house. It smells English.

The unique perfume of mould mixed with a whiff of fresh paint is something that forever will be engraved into my olfactory memory as the smell of English houses*. It seems that rather than properly tackling a damp issue before putting a property on the market (rental and sales alike), landlords prefer to have a half-hearted attempt at gilding the matter with a layer of dulux.

Not long after we moved in, another scent started wafting through the air. Let me call it L’air d’Indesit or: burnt soap. For the unknowing (foreign) reader, Indesit is a brand that does 2 in 1 washing machines/tumble dryers. Now, whereas a regular dryer has a slightly bigger drum than a washing machine, this not-so-genius apparatus makes up (not really) for the lacking room with increased heat. As a result, clothes do not only come out so hot that you can barely touch them, smelling of burnt Lenor, but everything shrinks by about a dress size. In other words, the whole family involuntary went on the Indesit diet.

Odd smells and heat apart, the next thing that comes to mind is being CRAMPED. Our house (I am using the term house loosely) is about a third of the size of our old house. The kitchen is so small, I am tempted to yell ‘cabin crew seats for landing’ once I am done with the washing up. Also, the kitchen doesn’t have any drawers. Not a single one.

We are hoping to exchange on the new place (not this one, but the one we are next moving to) this week. I am itching to move, quite literally. This little house is gorgeous and all, but it’s bursting at the seams. Can’t wait to put the hard hat on and get the building works started.

*Please correct me if this is a phenomenon that purely applies to London.


  1. As an Englishwoman, I could be offended by your reference to our particular smell of mould but as a homeowner with previous damp problems requiring many Jo Malone candles being burnt 24/7, I’m willing to overlook it 😉 I’m having the same problem with our new (2nd owner) car – the previous owner was clearly a smoker despite lying and saying he wasn’t, and the aroma of Marlboro Lights wafts from the air vents every time we switch the car on. It’s gross and I just want to sell it as quickly as possible! Good luck with the next move! x

  2. OMG washer/dryers are an absolute no, no! I don’t know anybody who has had one that hasn’t gone wrong or ruined the clothes! Assume you are renting inbetween time, so good luck with the next move!

  3. It’s not a real English house if there isn’t a slight damp issue! 😉
    But no drawers?! Where does the cutlery go?

  4. Hmm, so do burnt chicken and a scented candle make my house smell American? 😉 Best of luck as you wait on the new house. I’m sure it’s trying to live in such a small dwelling, especially with a little one, although she’s probably seeing this as quite the adventure! (Mum and Dad, not so much.)

  5. Yeah you are right often English houses do smell slightly moldy and damp, even more so when people hang up towels etc in airing cupboards and things never get properly dry. Hope you can move in soon! Good luck making your new house smell sweet

  6. Think you’ve rather hit the nail on the head – ours mostly smells of woodsmoke though, at least it disguises a lot of other nastier smells though!

  7. When we moved into our current house we had to take up all the downstairs carpets because they smelt of dog, and dog urine had sunk right through. Yet when we viewed the house there was no sign that the owners even had a dog. The dog and the urine smells had been completely covered up.

  8. Ah the smell of mould! Yuck. And being cramped is not fun. But it sounds like you’re in this house temporarily. I’ll look forward to seeing pictures of your next project!

  9. Ha ha. Know what you mean. There’s a similar smell here in older homes in Chicago. Everyone has basements that are two thirds below ground level and they often have a dampish, musty smell. Plays havoc with my allergies too!

  10. It must smell like a New England house because I am pretty sure that smell of mold mixed with dust of ages is burnt upon my memory.

  11. Brilliant! I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard for a while. I know just what you mean.

    Oooh, and I’m really looking forward to the updates on the building work!

  12. Urgh, I hate that musty smell. Like when you rent a cottage in England it has that unlived in, damp, funny aroma. Is this your rented house? I love your moving saga that has gone on for years. I will be sad when it’s over 🙁 xx

  13. You are so right.

    There’s also a particular air freshener (a Glade plug-in perhaps?) which I associate with people trying to sell houses.

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