When I first stepped inside this old tenement on Dalmeny Street, it wasn’t the flat I imagined it to be. To begin with, it wasn’t even the property advertised by the letting agency – they’d uploaded pictures of an entirely different flat. Then there was the filth that coated every surface, from the corduroy sofa to the greasy kitchen: it was wholly unloved.
The others viewing the flat with me – all couples – were utterly unimpressed. While everyone was fixating on the mishap, I darted from room to room picturing the space with my furniture, my rugs, my red food mixer instead of the grim furniture that currently resided there.
Did nobody else realise this flat was so much better than the one they’d advertised online? Did it not click that we were being offered a much larger flat for the same price?
Maybe I was alone in this. At least I didn’t have to make the decision with somebody, I walked outside and phoned the letting agency straight away.
The move in day was a struggle. Myself and my Dad carried all of my furniture up two flights of spiral staircase and I was sore for days after. Meanwhile, my Mum set to work measuring the windows for curtains and putting up my cards of well wishes…which swiftly blew out of the open window. It was a good start!
It was then that I saw how bad a state my new home was in. A cracked window, peeling paint, mould in the bathroom and kitchen, actual dirt on the floors and a cooker that was literally missing screws…it wasn’t looking good.
Fast forward a few weeks into the cold winter, I had encountered a mouse in my washing machine (it was the WORST laundry day of my life), slugs, ginormous spiders, a street wide police lockdown and an over-excitable chihuahua in my hallway. But I was strangely happy.
I stayed in Dalmeny Street for just over two years, enjoying table tennis and vintage fairs at Out of the Blue Drill Hall across the street, the Christmas tree yard in winter, the wine and tapas on the corner, the hardware shop on Leith walk and, of course, Storries Bakery. I had parties and movie nights, rearranged the furniture often and used the awful oven only when absolutely necessary. It felt strange saying goodbye.
The thing about the close was that it was so horrible, I actually liked it. I thought about my old favourite movies like Coyote Ugly and fantasised about living in this graffitied building in the city, and there I was. I loved the sound of the big old door shutting behind me, and I even liked the peeling paint. That being said, I also pictured how amazing it would look if it was all cleaned and painted a beautiful blue colour.
This began as my bedroom only because that’s how the previous tenant had arranged the flat. The previous tenant clearly didn’t know any better. Overlooking the busy street below, the room was the noisiest of them all, but it was comforting to see the lights flick on and off in the tenements surrounding me. Loud and a little polluted, but very charming, this room worked best as my living room.
I think this was possibly one of my favourite features of the flat. Classic high ceilings and a zig-zagged floorplan made my home look quirky as soon as you stepped in the door. It looked good even undecorated.
The largest room in the flat, this was my favourite. The window didn’t really open (nor did it ever really shut), but it overlooked ‘the garden’ which had a massive tree in the middle of all the surrounding tenements. I loved that tree. The leaves sounded amazing in the breeze, and it looked so pretty in summer.
Oh what I would do to this room if I owned this flat! It had a peculiar curved wall following the shape of the stairwell and a little window above the bath. It was bright but dilapidated with a shower that screamed at me every morning. I’m not kidding, it literally howled when it was switched on…I don’t know how I lasted two years!
A note about hanging paintings in a rented flat
You’ll notice I have lots of things hanging on my walls, yet you’d never know it after I moved out. Now I’m not saying that I like orange peel walls (splatter or eggshell, whatever you want to call them), but they are an absolute lifesaver if you’re renting a flat and want to put up artwork. The orange peel hides any imperfections, and I was easily able to fill any small holes or pin marks I’d made before I moved out.
In previous flats I’ve either used blue tac carefully (and only ever on white walls which I knew I could paint if any of the blue tac grease remained) or simply rested artwork agains my walls. If you’re going to paint over blue tac stains, use something like this first. There’s always a way around bland decor in rented flats! I especially like wall coverings like the grey cloth one in my living room. I hung that with drawing pins in all my rented flats and nobody knew any differently as the pins were so close to the crease of the wall and ceiling.
Two years later things began to change. The tapas place on the corner closed down and the mood shifted in my building. Passive aggressive notes began appearing in the close. Neighbours complained at the slightest noise through the wall.
It was time to leave.
Around the time I moved into Dalmeny Street I had sent an application away for a new flat that was being built elsewhere. I didn’t hear anything for two years until quite unexpectedly I received an offer. I was faced with a decision: stay in the characterful tenement that I loved or move to a modern new-build further out of the city. It felt like the hardest choice at the time, but in hindsight I’ve made the right decision.
All will be revealed soon…