British Isles Homes

These comments are based on surfing airbnb, our stay with our friends, and the flat we’ve let in Edinburgh. Really expensive homes (and even some that are not) will have differences. But most homes seem to have some similarities that are a little different from the US.

Homes in general:
Most people live in flats (apartments or condos). Most flats are purchased, even many of those rented out are owned by individuals rather than a large company.

Very few detached houses exist, except for those that are very old. Many of these have been converted to flats, such as Thorndon Manor, near where we stayed in Brentwood, Essex.

Homes are generally fairly small.

Our friends live in one of 5 homes that used to be stables for Thorndon Hill Farm. These are not separate, but share walls. In California our friends lived in a 2500 square foot home, while theirs here, fairly spacious, is about 1200 square feet.

They have high ceilings in some places. The second bedroom’s ceiling is slanted up to about 15 feet. The second bathroom and the part of the main room that is adjacent to those rooms also has a high ceiling. However, their ceilings also slant down to less than five feet on the other side.

The ceilings in the flat we sublet are 8-feet tall throughout. It is a very recent build.

Heat and air:
Coming from Texas is a bit different from New York, for example, where many homes and most cars don’t have air conditioning. So while the differences in heat and air are differences for some parts of the US, they are not for all of them.

Most buildings and vehicles do NOT have air conditioning, which is not limited to the UK but extends to most of Northern Europe, so I knew this already. They don’t expect to need it as, presently, the summer high is expected to be 84 and usually they don’t need it, although the summer that temperatures got into the 90s tens of thousands of people died. (2003 was the hottest year on record since 1540.)

Radiators are present in all buildings, even new ones. They are often used even in the summer months. DH turned on the heater twice in June!

Most windows here open. They are the only way to get a breeze.

None of the windows here have screens, so if you open them, the bugs come in and, if the windows are large enough, so may other animals.

Our friends’ living area has no windows that open. They do, however, have three sets of French doors that are only four feet tall that open. Since they reach the ground (and our girlfriend is always chilly), they don’t open those.

Living room:
Our friends’ main room, often what is referred to as a great room in the Carolinas, has their living room, dining room, and kitchen. The flooring is differentiated only in the kitchen, but the ceiling beams also create a “divide” feeling for their dining room.

Most living rooms, as far as I can tell, are one room with the dining area and kitchen attached.

The main room in the flat we are renting has the kitchen on one wall and the “dining room” is a two-foot round tall table with a single stool. (The second is in the closet.) There is no differentiation between the dining and living room in terms of flooring, though the kitchen has plastic tiles (not even as fancy as linoleum).

Washing machines are in the kitchen. Most folks don’t have dryers and just hang their clothes on pegs (clothes pins) or on their radiators or on their movable drying racks.

The clothes aren’t soft like ours, dried in machines, but there are launderettes (laundry mats) around–or you can take them to the dry cleaners.

Most apartments have their kitchens brought in by the folks who live there.

Refrigerators in general, as in the rest of Europe, are significantly smaller than American fridges–at least the ones I am used to. I suppose our very small fridges might be the same size. Many older, smaller flats have the larger US-dorm refrigerators.

The flat we are letting in Edinburgh has a fridge that is about three feet tall on top of a freezer of about equal height. They are both the width of one-half of a side-by-side refrigerator.

It is common to have a flat without a dishwasher. That’s fine. We haven’t had one in our home (of 3 years) until January of this year.

In addition to not having dishwashers, however, kitchens in the UK only have a single sink. You can’t soak your dishes and then rinse them in separate sinks. And the sinks aren’t very deep.

Older buildings don’t have closets, unless they’ve been added. Wardrobes are common.

Beds, called “double beds” here, are double beds, and the same size as ours in the US. These are the most common beds here.

Mattresses like ours are available, but more common are mattresses that are similar to futon mattresses. Those who have “real” mattresses note them on airbnb.

Fitted sheets are standard for beds here, but flat sheets can only be purchased in sets of bedding.

Our friends live in a recent remodel of an old stable. They have a very large master bedroom, an en suite bathroom, and a large walk-in closet. It’s very American style. The second bedroom has no closet, but has enough room for a small bookshelf and chest of drawers (or draws, as they say in England).

Bathrooms are not large and don’t have built ins. (Obviously really expensive houses would have these, but it appears that most do not.)

Some of the tubs are only tubs. I have not seen any bathrooms with only showers, though probably very small flats might have these.

Our friends’ master bath has a tub and separate shower and is as large as a small bedroom. They have a second, fairly large, bathroom, with no built ins except for the toilet, sink, and bathtub.

Closets seem to be a fairly recent feature.

Both our friends’ home and our flat are new (either from renovation or build).

The flat we are letting has a large closet, about half the size of the bathroom, in the foyer area. It also has a wall closet with sliding doors in the bedroom. It is the length of two doors and about 6 feet in height. One shelf is installed over the hanging rack.

Instead of a coat closet, there is a small wall-mounted board with four hooks attached just inside the door, much like we installed by our back door for coats and leashes.

Our friends’ home has a large, walk-in closet in the master bedroom. This is the only closet in their home. Shoes taken off at the front door are left on the rug there. Coats are hung on chairs in the dining room.