In the impossibly massive space inside my imagination, I often wonder what sort of house I would build given unlimited moneys. Four bedrooms? Secret passageways? One long staircase just going up and one even longer coming down and one more leading nowhere just for show?
I especially love the story of the Winchester Mystery House which was built by the Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah Winchester, after her husband, the world famous gun magnate William W Winchester died. It is a house with unnecessary rooms, doors, and total lack of any building plan whatsoever. That seems perfect for the sort of thing that I want - a rambling house.
That house is famous because of a lack of planning. Why not have the most idiotic of plans though? Why can't I have a house for all 29 letters of the alphabet? It's my imagination, I can do what I like.
A - Attic
It is fitting that the top of an alphabetical list should begin at the top of the house. Any attic worth having, needs a ladder with a pull cord and enough space to walk around comfortably in. Ideally it should have windows with shutters on them, that always bang about on the spookiest of nights; especially Spooky Night in October.
I'd have a skeleton up there for no reason at all, a chest filled with clothes that I'd bought at a charity shop and a stack of newspapers from the week we moved in. There needs to be an unexplainable doll's house, a dart board and Volume 9 of an old encyclopaedia Britannica for no reason.
B - Boudoir
A standard bedroom wouldn't be enough for my alphabetical house of wonders and so I'd want something fancier. I can already attest to the wonder of having a four post bed because I already have one owing to my internal pomposity; I don't see why the rest of your most personal space shouldn't also be just as wonderous. I want all wood wardrobes, cabinets, tall boys; as well as Chinese lamps and brass fixtures.
C - Conservatory
Mrs Rollo has often expressed a desire to have a room where butterflies would be free to live and prosper. I like the idea of a conservatory but I don't much care for the heat which is sometimes necessary to grow things like orchids. A proper conservatory should have at least some chrysanthemums, roses a few tulips as far as I am concerned. I would also like to have a pad for the cats to sit on (there will always be cats in my insane alphabetical house) and if possible I should like a small fountain with a few fish that aren't koi living in it.
D - Dining
A proper dining room needs a table long enough to hold ten people, chairs which have backs that are significantly taller than anyone who might sit in them, a drinks cabinet, a side table, and a hitch with enough silverware to make the whole thing feasible. There will be a toast rack, an English butter dish and cover, salad cutlery, a carving knife, and enough silver covers for every pot, dish and turrine that comes to the table.
The table itself needs to be exactly one day older than the point where nobody cares about its surface anymore. I want people to be able to bang the bottom of their goblets and/or their knives and forks on the table in a "we want food, we want food" manner. Even the poshest dining room tables should allow for a complete disregard for manners if need be. Manners are primarily about making your guests feel comfortable and they will never feel comfortable if they think that your house is a museum. Style and taste should never yield to fun and laughter, ever.
E - En Suite
Everyone from age 3 until dead, needs to be able to get up in the middle of the night and have a wee. Making both little kids and big people run down a hallway while their brain still hasn't made sense of the world is nothing less than pure horror. It doesn't matter if it's night terrors, old person incontinence, stress, lady hormones, or fun time fermented vegetable drink products, in the words of the old department store prophet: "Everything must go."
F - Faintorium
In the late 1800s when corsets were bound up so tightly that women actually fainted because they couldn't fill their lungs properly, the Faintorium or fainting room was the place was the place where they could go to have a lie down. I rather like the idea of having a specific room for having a nanna nap in. I don't want some daybed which doesn't know if it's a couch or a bed, rather I want a proper chaise lounge of the sort that became famous in Sigmund Freud's offices. Whereas Freud will have used it to ask questions about how you feel about your mother, I will return it to humbler purposes.
The Faintorium will have lace curtains and flowers. It will also have a timer set for 22 minutes which is just about the perfect amount of time for a nap.
G - Growlery
In possibly the most diametrically opposed room in the world to the parlour, instead of a place where one goes to be sociable, a growlery is the room in a building where one goes to the unsociable. Low table funiture which might include cabinetry for alcohol, has also been included in the past when speaking of a growlery and while looking at two rather archaic books in the library, I found out that at least two distilleries in London made Growlery Gins which were presumably meant to be consumed while in one's growlery, though given that gin was also often seen as the drink associated with melancholia and sadness, I fail to see what sort of net benefit would actually be derived when normal gin will do just as well.
My growlery would be my own private Diogenes Club; a place where silence would be strictly enforced.
H - Hall
Every house benefits from having a reception hall. Ideally a hall should contain a set of stairs leading to the bedrooms, a small table whereupon the telephone sits, a longcase grandfather clock, and the ability to close it completely off from the rest of the house. You want to give someone the ability to step inside from the cold and wind and rain but not into your private life.
I have lived in houses where the front door opens directly into the lounge and I hate it so very much. If someone knocks on the front door, then your life come to a grinding halt and there is an intrusion into your space but in a house with a hallway, someone steps into a neutral space and that sense of violation is not there at all.
I - Inglenook
Although not technically a room in its own right, the Inglenook is a delightful little alcove by a fireplace which is either designed as a place to store wood for the fire, or a place where people can sit near the fire if they have come in from the wind and cold and rain and snow, and don't want to drip all over the carpets and floors. In houses where the main hearth is double sided, then the Inglenook will be on the side of the hearth where either the kitchen, galley or scullery is.
J - Jubilee
Suppose that you want to hold a grand ball with many many guests, or perhaps have the ability to put on a small production of some kind. You will need a small stage and maybe a praesidium arch with curtains. You will also need a largish kind of space, with enough chairs down the side for people to sit if they are not dancing, a place for the refreshments table and a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, which has been brought to life by means of the new electric illumination to chase away the ghosts of oh so many years ago.
The Jubilee room must have the sounds of a Viennese waltz, a Catalan tango, or the shrieks of someone being stabbed behind a curtain, at least a few times a year.
K - Kitchenette
Suppose that you only want to make a sandwich or a cup of tea. The scullery should be the place in which to prepare a roast turkey but you don't need a whole heap of space to make a sandwich in. Fridge, kettle, toaster and only a single set of cutlery is all you need for snack making. The Kitchenette would also be upstairs so that you don't have to go on an expedition through the house if all you want is a cup of coffee.
Also, no pod coffee machines. You are a moron if you have knowingly bought a pod coffee machine and are chained to buying pods at more than a hundred dollars per kilo for coffee.
L - Library
The grandest room in the whole world in my opinion is the central reading room in the Melbourne Library. The library in my house would be at least five stories tall, circular, and have ladders on rails so that you could find anything. I should like to have more books than it is possible to read in a lifetime and I would also like to have every single book custom leather bound and gilded with the proper call number - Dewey decimal all the way; none of this Library Of Congress nonsense.
I would have tables with pull up reading stands and enough power points to recharge any device.
M - Motor House
The garage replaced the motor house, as the motor house replaced the coach house before it. The whole idea of the coach house and then the motor house, was that you could drive in and get out, without getting wet. The idea is sound enough - drive in through the back of the motor house to arrive and drive out through the front to the street. Ideally I also want a five foot pit underneath my car so that I can do necessary works upon it without the need to jack it up. One should be able to do an oil or clutch change without the hassle of putting a car on a lift either.
N - Natatorium
Having a shower in a house is a purely functional decision. Having a bathtub in a house is a necessity if you have small children. Having a very hot bath for the sole purpose of doing nothing but soaking in, is a luxury upon luxuries. The Natatorium was a place in a Roman house that had a very large pool. I would like to couple this with the Japanese idea that a hot bath is only for soaking in and washing in it, thus sullying the waters with dirt, is a violation of nature.
Give me brass fixtures and fittings, give me marble; give me claw and ball legs. I want soaps that smell like roses and towels that are oh so fluffy. Sometimes I need to take a shower but really that's just obligatory ablutions but to truly live in the lap of luxury is to take a long hot bath.
O - Observatory
If ever there was a useless room in a house which adds class to it, it is the observatory. One imagines a room with prisms and pendulums as well as the obligatory telescope for peering into the heavens. Ideally the top of the observatory should be done shaped and rotatable through
360° and on a motorised gimble so that while one is looking at the Jovian moons, the whole room can be turned along as the earth rotates.
I don't have the scientific knowledge to look for anything in particular; so all I'd really be doing is pointing my telescope at the Jovian moons or the rings of Saturn; and I'd be fine with that.
P - Parlour
The parlour is distinct from a sitting room or a reception room in that the parlour is the prime room for entertainment. In most people's houses today, this is where the television sits or perhaps where the lounges are. Clearly this is wrong and the television needs to get out.
I would include a table and some high backed chairs, as well as a tea/drinks trolley, and a sufficient number of stands for sandwiches and cakes, to make the room useful for holding high tea in. I think that I would also leave a collection of hats in the room because I think that the Mad Hatter was on to something. If one is going to have a posh as cushions room, then one aught to look as posh as cushions.
Q - Quartermaster
Every decent scullery should also have a quartermaster's store attached. Forget a simple pantry that's just hanging off of a kitchen like a built in wardrobe, I want a full on walk-in pantry with doors, rotating shelving and cool room. The whole room should smell like the spice shop at Harrod's, there should be things in tins and jars that nobody ain't ever going to use and I want my side of lamb and a keg of mild, cold.
R - Rumpus
The rumpus rooms that usually infect people's houses today, are little more than a room out the back where someone has decided to throw the kids' junk. Invariably they will end up with boxes andthe other detritus that houses produce and become nasty places. This simply will not do.
Once upon a time, the rumpus was the "loud room". It would be where the billiard or wiff-waff table would be housed. If one couldn't afford a billiard table or couldn't come at killing 12 elephants to get the ivory to make the balls, then one might install a nine pin alley or an Aunt Sally. The rumpus should always be a dedicated games room, in which arguments will rage brighter and hotter than the sun. In a grand house, the parlour might have also housed the piano or other kinds of instruments.
I have all of the musical ability of a gnay but nevertheless, I would still like to have a Les Paul Sunburst in my parlour. The carpet on the floor would be one giant Risk board and I would have a whole set of tin soldiers for the express purpose of playing said game; complete with a few croupier's crooks for moving them.
S - Scullery
I have a few things that I can cook but I'm probably not going to because my wife has specific dietary requirements. I on the other hand have guts made from iron and as such, I have the ability to eat anything. I can imagine myself in the scullery (because a galley is too small and a kitchen is too simple), smacking down on the head of a dead cow with a machete, or going proper mental with a six foot long katana and a pig.
I want proper violence in my scullery, with cabbages being cut with fire axes, cutting leeks with santoku and grating carrots with a chainsaw.
T - Toilet
Under no circumstances should the toilet be in the same room as the bathtub or the sink and shower. This isn't because I have some paranoid delusion about poo particles flying through the air and magically landing on a toothbrush like a microscopic Barnham And Bailey's Circus but because after Trump has made his announcements and you need to visit Vladimir Putin, it should be done in its own little private room. That room should also contain a very small sink so that you can wash your hands afterwards and it is best equipped with a book of pithy witticisms but if you are in there, the utility of someone else being able to have a shower at the same time in another room is exceedingly brilliant.
U - Underground
If the attic serves as that creepy space above the house where you keep your junk, then the basement should serve as the creepy space under the house where you keep your other junk. I am not a fan of having a laundry taking up valuable space inside the main part of the house but under it in the basement is fine. This is where you should also keep that collection of wines that you never get around to collecting and also where you keep teenagers who want to play video games.
The beauty about having a room underground is that as part of the house you can install either a laundry shute or a dumb waiter, and both of those things are cool to have.
V - Vicar's Hole
I want one secret hidey hole which is small enough for one person to sit and hide away for a while. I might never need to hide away a member of the clergy but it seems like an intrinsically good thing to have. Of course this may end up leading to an infestation of bishops and local parish clergy who might begin investigating murders but they're easily removed by spraying some Anglicanism around, periodically.
W - Wendy House
Every grand house will have its range of outbuildings such as sheds and greenhouses but there is one outbuilding that is so unbelievably wonderful that it simply has to be included: the Wendy House. Children's cubby houses and tree houses are all fine and they should absolutely exist, however they aren't big enough for big people to sit in. A proper Wendy House will have doors and windows and hopefully electricity connected. If there's one thing to be said it's that Teddy and Dolly do not like to sit in the dark. Plus, a proper Wendy House can also be used by big people as yet another venue to have tea in.
X - Xerodomatio
I am intrigued by the idea of the Xerodomatio. The Xerodomatio is literally the "quiet room" and the word is derived from the two Greek components. Unlike the Growlery where the idea is simply to retreat and be angry, the Xerodomatio is a room where one goes to be quiet and contemplate things. It might have a yoga mat if that's your kind of thing but I like the idea of a very narrow room which hangs off of either a hall or a staircase, and is mostly a cosy padded bench seat inside a bay window. Ideally it should look over the ocean so that you can watch the relentless pounding of waves against the shore and the grand light show when a lightning storm is brought out in all its glory.
The Xerodomatio should be quiet enough that you can not hear the rage of the elements outside nor the rage of your fellow companions inside.
Y - Youth
Babies are fine provided they are other people's and you can hand them back. Children should have their own rooms and the nursery insofar as much as one exists, should be separate and distinct from them. There needs to be shrieking and joy and crying coming out of this room, and adequate facilities to change nappies when the inevitable happens.
You wouldn't chose to sleep in the same room that you went to the toilet in; it shouldn't be any different for a baby.
Z - Zoology
A house needs pets. Winston Churchill had a cat called Humphrey. Teddy Roosevelt had a pet alligator in the White House. I don't care if you have cats, dogs or something else but they need to be able to access the rambling house as much as you do. I would have access ramps built into the walls so that cats and dogs especially can get up and down between levels. Stairs are an awful thing for an old cat or dog to fall down and I'm sure that they would appreciate their own access tunnels.
Þ - Þermidium
I have been to a hot spring and it was fantastic. I have never been in a sauna though. I imagine that being in a sauna is probably a relaxing experience because people in Nordic countries seem to do it a lot. I would want the Þermidium to be an outbuilding and to make þis viable, it would necessitate my mad alphabetical house to be somewhere either alpine or a long way north.
Ð - Ðeatre
If at all possible, I want þe television projected onto a proper screen. I would have at least a Dolby 5.1 sound system or if I'm feeling daft, Quatravox. I would also have a proper ðeatre organ installed with cymbals, hooters, rattles and þe obligatory player piano. If I'm watching Liverpool ðump Manchester United or Buster Keaton fall down a flight of stairs and into a barrel of black gunk, I want þe soundtrack to be identical. Ideally it should also be soundproofed so that þe sound of "Mars: The Bringer Of War" can be turned up to an impossibly loud ear bleeding level.
X - Χimney
Þere should be lots of χimneys everywhere.
This does of course warrant me suddenly running into many millions of dollarpounds and the only way that is going to happen is in my imagination.