Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Cupboard of Two Halves. Flowers

A slight detour now… one of the doors from the hallway leads into the under stairs cupboard. This is only the second house we have owned with such a space, and I must admit it is quite generous. It is also further evidence of how the house layout has been tweaked. The door entering the cupboard seems to be a later addition, as once inside you can see that part of the wall is just plasterboard and there is another doorway which was the original entrance to a much smaller cupboard space. (sorry about the quality of the images, it is quite difficult to take photos in such a limited area). The original space is seen on the left of the image above.

The previous owners used the newer addition (seen above) as an office and had a computer and chair in here! We use it to store everything from a bike, typewriter (of course), printer, wine, paint, tools, wellies, ironing pile and much, much more! It is also home to the ironing board – which recently survived an 8 hour spell of the iron being left on accidently – I can certainly vouch for its fire-proofness!

I tend to iron in the kitchen, and the process itself is quite ritualistic – I always start with the easy items such as pillowcases, napkins and hankies, then progress to clothing, always leaving awkward items such as shirts until last. I never iron sheets or duvet covers. (but sadly I do iron tea towels). D only wears t-shirts, and sees ironing as totally unnecessary. His mother however was an obsessive ironer – she usually did it late at night whilst watching television – she had one on those ironing boards with a seat attached! it would not be unusual for her to still be ironing well after midnight, (they were a family of six). She ironed everything – including underwear and socks!
For me, ironing is done on an ad-hoc basis, I’ll sometimes iron just one item that I want to wear; or if the pile starts to teeter I will usually do something about it; (occasionally I arrive home to find that my Mum has popped in and decided to tackle the ironing pile for me – fantastic!).


  1. It's like a secret cavern. I wonder if most of under stairs storage spaces hold the same types of items - just glancing at the types of things you have in this space, it parallels my under stairs storage with at least half a dozen.(I also have exactly the same ironing board cover, another coincidence - and am so impressed with it's fire safety standards!). I think I may also have the same iron, though the turquoise version(!)
    Ironing is my favourite domestic activity, and I'm afraid I do have some of the same habits as D's Mum, though I don't iron late into the night.
    I have never seen an ironing board with a seat attached - am very intrigued!
    Am very interested in the previous owners using the space as an office, did they have an aversion to office equipment, so they banished it to the cupboard, rather than have any in the main rooms of their house?

  2. I do love hearing about our coincidences – we haven’t had any for a while!
    Maybe there is another artists’ book project in ‘the under-stairs cupboard’?! As we don’t have any outside storage such as a shed (I would LOVE a shed), this cupboard does become the place where we put everything, including gardening equipment. I can’t imagine why the previous owners chose to use it as an office – you could be right about their aversion to office equipment; interestingly though they didn’t really use what we call ‘the office’ for anything in particular – it seemed to be a wasted space, more like an inner hall/cloakroom with modern ceramic floor tiles (which we covered over). Although the under-stairs cupboard is a decent size, I wouldn’t fancy working in it for any length of time. Sadly, it is where our lovely cat chose to die:( he was very old, but had been ill, one morning he didn’t appear as usual, Dave found him after I had gone to work, right at the back of the original cupboard on the bottom shelf.
    I’m not sure I have a favourite domestic chore, but I’m quite impressed that yours is ironing! Intriguing…
    I googled ironing board with seat and found this – I am sure it is the same model as D’s Mum, hers too had a maroon seat!

  3. I have given some more thought to the under-stairs cupboard. My maternal grandparents had a very small cupboard under the stairs, which was more like a cubby-hole really, and not tall enough for an adult to stand up in. I remember locking myself into this space and hiding; when my grandmother found me, it was the only time I remember her being cross – and I was scolded for locking myself in, (it had one of those catches that can only be opened from the outside).
    I also remember my grandfather Albert using this cupboard as a darkroom! He would sit inside on the floor (he was only a tiny man) with a small portable canister which he developed 35mm film in. The only items that I recall them keeping in here were shoes, the sewing basket, and a roll of wadding-type material (a bit like a blanket). This was placed on the dining room table under the table cloth so that the hot dinner plates didn’t leave a mark, it was used religiously every meal time. I don’t think they would have dreamt of eating a meal on their laps in front of the TV!

  4. Ok P, a reply to your first comment here ...
    I think there's an artists' book in quite a lot of things that we have discussed - I like the idea of an under-stairs cupboard book, as it could lend itself to interesting ideas for the book structure! R.e. sheds, we have just given away ours (a sentry box-like shed) to a friend, so the contents are now spread over two places - S's workshop, and yes ... the under-stairs space.
    Heartbroken to hear cat story - though how decorous to lie down on a shelf in a quiet place and go peacefully. It's like tidying your own self away. The under-stairs cupboard grows a bit more in purpose and sense of place.

    I thought I'd mention that I grew up in a bungalow - so therefore no under-stairs cupboard at all - how about that then?!
    R.e. the ironing board with seat - why did they ever go out of fashion? Marvellous, marvellous idea.

  5. Reply to your second comment P ... These are great stories! I wonder why you hid in the cubby-hole? Did it start as just finding somewhere interesting to hide for a while - (like my episode in the coal bunker (!)or playing 'house'? I bet your Grandmother was worried about you more than anything - especially as the cupboard was locked from the outside - you could've been in there for ages before you were found!
    I love the idea of using it as a darkroom - how great to develop film in a cubby-hole! Did you get to see the photos?
    I do remember as a little girl (not sure where, as I don't think it was in my family home) what I then thought was a blanket, being put on a table then covered with a table cloth. Dinner times have changed so much today, there used to be so much more paraphernalia, manners and ceremony expected and performed.

  6. I’m going to foolishly attempt an all-in-one-reply to all of the above!
    Firstly your shed – I know the sort you mean, my friend C has one, hers is called the cushion shed. It was purchased specifically to hold all her outdoor cushions (truly). And is stacked from top to bottom. The only problem is that it gets blown over in high winds! T as I may have already mentioned has three sheds, one for each member of the family – a brilliant solution I think!

    I think my cubby-hole experience sounds akin to your coal-bunker adventure! And you’re right about the reason she was cross – rightly so. I lost my nephew in the Science Museum and have never known such panic!!

    So from our discussions so far, it seems that the under-stairs cupboard can be so much more than just a place to put all our everyday bits and pieces. They can be spaces in their own right. It was the place our cat went whenever there was a thunderstorm, so he obviously retreated to the place he felt safe – I love your description of ‘tidying your own self away’. This has also brought to mind some distant conversation with my grandmother about her pushing my mother’s pram into the under-stair cupboard during the war. (It was a different house to the one with just the cubby-hole), but I’m not sure if I now imagined this!

    Well – living in a bungalow! Do you think this has had any bearing on how you now use your own home in a very flexible way? – as I assume that bungalows, are in themselves, flexible spaces and follow fewer conventions?

    p.s x2 Sadly I don’t recall seeing my grandfather’s photographs.
    Coincidently in a shop this week I saw for sale a roll of table blanket – it still exists!

  7. P, I do like your summing up of the under-stairs cupboard. It does seem that it is a flexible space that people seem to have more confidence to use freely - is this because it's name does not suggest it's activity (like other rooms in the house), so it opens up more possibilities for storage, usage, and hobbies etc.?

    It does sound like another possible book arts project.

    It was also the under stairs cupboard where an early draft of Darwin's work had been placed in the 1840s to be published in the event of his untimely death.

    R.e. Living in a bungalow:
    As all the rooms usually lead off a main hallway, I guess that they are more flexible spaces as in 'what room is where.' I do remember bedrooms being changed from the front of the bungalow to the back and vice versa over the years. There was also a long space (the whole width of the building) at the back divided into two rooms. They both had windows and skylights. One led off, open plan from the kitchen which was our dining room and also a kind of 'doing room' too. The other was a utility room, and later on was occupied by our two dogs when they slept in their baskets. This room led out onto the back garden.
    My parents moved in after they got married in 1962 and lived there for approx 41 years. I was actually born in the bungalow. Apparently, I was in such a rush to get out there was no time to get to the hospital. My father had already delivered my head by the time the midwife arrived. Obviously I was impatient to get out and start living my life!


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