Home Comforts: Domesticity is the New City Break

For one millennial renter with an uncertain future, lockdown has been key to finding pleasure in the domestic sphere. How will he fare when normality resumes?

I don't know about you, but my home has never been more homely. My laptop is set among a tablescape of scented candles and lemon-thyme biscuits, beyond which, my housemate is sewing her fourth cushion cover since lockdown began. It's but another bespoke crumb destined for the higgledy-piggledy molehill that once was our sofa.

Before lockdown, our home didn't quite look like this. It was a pit-stop really, a place to meal-prep, wash laundry, eat either breakfast or dinner (work commitments depending) and snaffle drinks before heading out for the evening. In time, we even acquired a fifth housemate, an ashen mouse who sniffled about infrequently but often enough for us to name him Lenny.

As a member of generation rent, I feel that accommodation has never been about luxury. I shell out 40 per cent of my annual income on a box bedroom in easy reach of Stoke Newington's sparkling restaurants, cafés and bars where I slowly deposit much of the remaining 60 per cent. But when isolation dawned, my flatmates and I decided it was time we turned our focus inwards. We'd zhuzh up our flat and rebrand it, if only to ourselves, as a "self-catered apartment".

Thankfully, there are no shortage of articles telling the newly housebound How to Turn Your Home into a Hotel. Lenny was humanely ousted. Precious loo paper was folded with due reverence. The debris of our everyday lives - a hideous but sentimental novelty mug from Argentina, some doodled weekend supplements, a pitiful poinsettia - all faced trial and only the most middle-of-the-road fragments survived. The resultant flat looked like an aspiring hotel, for a short while.

Not only was the strict Marie Kondo cleaning regime required to uphold our five-star status unsustainable, we decided the joy it sparked was disproportionate to energy expended. As flatmate after flatmate were furloughed, WFH gave way to DIY. We've joined the 3,074,670 #sourdoughstarters on Instagram and I'm now literally up to my waist in sewing as I plough through a retro pyjama pattern I bought pre-lockdown. Our flat has become upholstered with wobbly seams and frayed edges in a style that would make a hotel chambermaid break out in hives.

There's always a buzz about the kitchen table. We eat dinner together - homemade dinner, not a speedy wok job - and settle down for games or a film in the evening. It's a charmed existence and I know I'm incredibly lucky. I'm not oblivious to the fact that, for many, coronavirus has uprooted and destabilised their living set-ups, but for the first time since leaving my family pad three years ago, I feel like I'm living in a home again.

In fact, I'm growing so attached to the simple life that I'm starting to begrudge any easing of lockdown measures in anticipation of normality's return. I'm conscious of the fact that as our lives regain lost momentum and become colonised by the same pre-lockdown routines, our domestic unit will fracture.

And so, while friends are checking out boutique hotels in have-it-all beach cities such as Barcelona or Lisbon, where urban sprawl is hemmed by palm-fringed coastline, I find myself gravitating towards rustic homestays where I can retire from the freneticism of city living and indulge my appetite for domesticity. The foothills of Romania's Carpathian Mountains are on the cards, as is that Lithuanian wooden lodge ensconced in a boa of forestry which targeted ads keep suggesting I visit.

It feels wrong to hanker after simplicity, not least when we've endured three months of it, but to a millennial renter with an uncertain future there's something soothing about retreating into the domestic sphere. Busy, rambunctious normality is on the horizon; can we not?