My mother hates sash windows. Despite all her afternoon teas and scones, she remains quintessentially Italian and finds that ‘English windows,’ as she calls them, let the draught in.
‘They rattle and just don’t close properly,’ she moans, entirely oblivious to their traditional charm.
Thing is, culture shapes our property preferences. Beyond sash windows, you will never see an Italian settling happily for a lower-ground floor flat, separate hot and cold water taps or even carpeting.
‘Unhygienic,’ my mother dismisses it, wrinkling her nose as she explains that some otherwise unheard-of vacuum cleaning tests show how carpets remain dusty even after vacuuming the same spot four times.
Americans, by contrast, take issue with space?or lack thereof. Many estate agents have told me about American buyers looking puzzled at a master bedroom and saying:
‘Nice cupboard, but where is the bedroom?’
Unless they come from New York, of course, in which case they think the cupboard is the bedroom.
Despite a much-revered perception that they are more adaptable than foreigners, even British buyers have their soft spots and pet peeves. So what do they want from a country home? Large drawing rooms, according to John Young, a Director at Humberts.
‘At least 25′ X 25′,’ he says. ‘That’s in old money and is the way these things are described?never metric.’
They also ‘get very excited’ if they have a carriage driveway, a posh facade that is just visible from the road, a good view, water of some sort and a little wooded area. ‘Firewood for life,’ says Young.
And of course, good boarding schools, a Waitrose and a railway station with frequent service to London must all be nearby. And a pub, so long as its car park is well away from their home.
Pub car parks top British pet peeves, according to Young, along with busy roads, aeroplanes, neighbouring wind farms, abattoirs and chicken factories. Oh and cellars that flood regularly, he says, adding that ‘they mostly do, as it happens.’
So far, so international. I don’t think buyers of any nationality would particularly want to see their precious bottles of claret swallowed in the knee-deep mud left behind by an overflowing rainstorm.
But never fear, British quirks are alive and well. High up among national dislikes are ‘over-swanky bathrooms with too many mirrors,’ according to Young.
In other words, the very same bathrooms that would send my mother and her fellow Italians all gooey-eyed and gaga.