Space is at a premium

Torbay Weekly

Space at home is at a spiralling premium, and my attention has turned to the smallest bedroom in the premises.

When my husband and I moved house on the cusp of Christmas 2003 with two young daughters in tow, I was a few weeks away from the due date of our third child.

My husband's sister and brother-in-law had crossed counties to lend a hand with the move, in a self-drive removal van hired for the purpose.

Cumbersome with child, I was little help in a practical sense - and, I wryly confess, pretty cranky to boot - and, dragging the little ones with me, I sought sanctuary with my parents, whose house was conveniently across the road from our new abode.

Blissfully adrift in the childless wake of our exodus, my husband and his family exerted themselves vigorously, shifting - with better temper than mine - every item from our modest two up-two down dwelling to the new three up-three down-plus basement that we had purchased.

It felt as though we were swimming in a limitless sea during the first few days, such was the wealth of space surrounding us.

Desperate to put our stamp upon the property before the looming arrival of our third child, we focussed first on redecorating and re-carpeting the lounge, which had a sparsely-covered floor and walls of a dubious colour.

That job complete, we turned our attention to the upper floor of the house.

The master bedroom required little work at that stage; its fitted wardrobes and cupboards, although not quite to our taste, were inoffensive and practical, offering substantial storage space.

The second room, into which we had installed our daughters' bunk beds, would be a project to tackle another time.

Its carpet was a little threadbare in the corners, and visible on the back wall, even through layers of paint, was a huge mural of a motorbike which must have dominated the room when freshly emblazoned in all its glory.

Approximately a year after the move, we managed to conceal its strident hues beneath many coats of a bright pink paint that finally helped transform our daughters' bedroom into a more child-friendly environment.

At the time of moving in, however, that room could wait: more pressing was the need to create a nursery for the offspring poised to make their appearance in the world, and the smallest room, although neither wide nor deep enough to house a single bed, lent itself perfectly to infant paraphernalia.

Deliberately ignorant of the child's gender pre-birth, we plumped for pale lilac walls, a vibrant yellow black-out blind imprinted with colourful animals, and an adhesive wall border, also featuring animals.

We hung framed nursery-rhyme prints about the room, laid a lilac carpet, placed a new white cot in position, and awaited the birth.

A third daughter duly arrived, 11 days late - a punctuality issue that, I ruefully note, persists to this day - and took up happy occupancy.

She was joined some time later by our first son, and the two of them managed to remain in that tiny room for several years, slumbering in short bunk beds that fit the back wall with millimetres to spare.

Somehow, we made the limited space work, but when we discovered a fifth baby would be joining the merry throng, things had to change.

A temporary solution was provided by two sets of bunks in the largest room with my husband and I demoted to the smaller room while the nursery housed our infant son.

This arrangement was succeeded by our giving the room a blue facelift and employing the short bunks once again for the boys, while the three girls each had a single bed in the master bedroom, thankfully capacious enough to accommodate this development.

In recent years, following various bedroom redeployments, the smallest room has been most extensively utilised as a storage facility for our clothes and other bits and pieces.

It is sorely in need of redecoration and repair - the curtain pole, a short-term hanging rail, collapsed under the weight of all the clothes I rarely wear but with which I am loathe to part - before it metamorphoses into the dressing room of my imagination, complete with wardrobe, full length mirrors, flattering lighting - and perhaps a personal assistant to help dress me...

My daughter has offered to help transform it into the space she and I are certain it has the potential to be, but for now, it exists as the resting place for all the odds and ends of our lives.

At present, the two younger girls are steadily covering any and all surfaces with purchases that are creating an increasingly teetering tower of new and used goods designed to facilitate the next phase of their lives, determined as they are to embrace Dick Whittington's legendary example and make their fortune in London town before the year is out.

As I shrewdly survey the tottering stacks, I realise that, on reflection, I am satisfied with the status quo.

Space? It's overrated.

And there are plenty more corners of the smallest room for the girls to fill before I'll be ready to let them go.