Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 599

UK houses vs USA houses

I’ve been living in my USA house for nearly three years now. And it’s silly big. I don’t say this in a boastful way, I say it in an incredulous way. The houses in the area we live, most of them are silly big – McMansion type big. Our house is considered normal, but for us Brits it is still big – bigger than many, many houses in the UK. Sure, we live in USA East Coast suburbia, and if we lived in the city we wouldn’t have a big house, but that’s just how it rolls with this style of house in this place.

USA McMansion!

USA McMansion!

Sometimes I don’t go in some of the rooms for days on end. There is no need. And I miss doors. Doors that can shut so there is privacy, that shut out the sound of other stuff, doors that mean you’re not all in the same open plan space all the time. I think the small size of my UK house will shock me when I go back. I’m already thinking how to plan to store stuff in our little house. But I’ll enjoy having doors 🙂

As the UK Desperate Housewife USA, some people have asked what I miss about my UK home and how I might have gone about integrating the home comforts of UK decor when moving to the US. Well, these are my thoughts/ramblings!

There is something timeless about British interior decor. When you are moving to the US from the UK there’s no reason that you can’t integrate some of these classic design ideas into your new residence.

And it got me to thinking about how we Brits make our houses/homes different from the USA. I’ve not really furnished my home (none of the furniture is ours) and I didn’t have time or the inclination to make our property ‘homely’. I know many homes in the UK that ‘feel’ British and it’s a different feel. My Brit friend here lives in an old house near DC, and it has charm and character and I loved that. It felt more like what I was used to.


What is generally different about the classic style of country homes in the UK is that they’re not minimalist. There’s nothing wrong with clean, minimalist lines but they won’t do for a quintessentially English feel in the home.

What you’re looking for is a style that’s relaxing and calming, reflecting your personality and creating either casual or formal interiors. Of course, you can mix the two. How Brits feel is this: your living room could be very relaxed and homely, whereas you may want your dining room to be a touch more formal, yet still comfortable. Very formal for eating.

If I had this house as my own I’d probably have looked at the spaces I have and drawn up some ideas for the colours, furniture, fixtures and fittings that I want. Then I’d set to and create my ideal home comforts. But this is not my forever home, and it’s been pretty bare and basic for me. I might just be hankering after my old UK-style stuff which really reflects our personalities.

If Americans are looking to recreate English homes, the experts say: ‘You’re not looking for anything that is jarring on the eyes, so put away ideas of bold colors and consider natural pastels that reflect the classic style. Think about the English countryside for your inspiration – these are colors that are everywhere. Reflect the sky and trees with subtle green and blue tones and mirror the garden with rosy pink and creamy white shades. You can evoke memories of roses and daffodils with gentle yellows and again some pinkish hues.’ Ah, daffodils! I think I spotted a couple the other day here – they evoke much Englishness to me!


Our colour scheme back in the UK was not so neutral as the homes here. We had a deep red dining room and lots and lots of wood. I think beautiful, solid wood furniture will add that touch of tradition and class to any room, and I miss my big rustic oak table. It’s an oak dining table with ladder-back chairs and we have an old oak writing desk with ornamentation, comfortable armchairs and sofas with floral prints or simple checks. I’d say to any American, if you want to create a UK home – wood will establish your UK decor style.


I love the old antique stores here in Ellicott City, probably because they remind me of the higgledy-piggledyness of the UK! Antiques adorned our surfaces at home in the UK, along with some ornaments and decorative pillows. I have minimal family photographs here, oddly, especially when they are so far away, but I’ll get them out of storage back in the UK and place them up with our amazing works of art that we have – they all go towards creating our unique decorative environment – HOME.

One thing I really, really miss is flowers. I used to pick them from my own garden – I know, a garden that was not just lawn and mulch – real flowers, growing in the ground!!! Just think! (FYI, we don’t get a lot of that here!) Cut flowers give that relaxed and cozy country and I suspect I will resurrect my striking pot plants when I get home (my mother’s been looking after them!). If any American wanted to make a UK garden, flowers and country garden style is the way forward. I just can’t do that here in this house. If I had been able to it would mean my UK garden would be as much at home in the US as it is back across the Atlantic.

My UK kitchen :)

My UK kitchen 🙂

Many UK homes use a soft colour palette for their curtains (cream, generally, but we had deep red too!) but a lot of people I know in the UK use wooden shutters now – dead trendy! They add real authenticity to rooms, and if you choose, for example, Premium Elm Full Height Shutters, you’ll be making a style statement that can’t be ignored.

In the end, you need to feel comfortable with how you design your decor. You can easily incorporate a range of classic UK styles into your new home in the US, if that’s what you want to do!

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15 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 599

  1. Shauna Vargas says:

    Love it! (Lol at “homely” though…as you may know, it has a much different meaning here ☺).

  2. But where are the net curtains? 🙂

  3. iotamanhattan says:

    I found the taste in furniture very different in America. Everything seemed huge and chunky, dark, and usually brown. We stayed with someone when we first arrived, and couldn’t believe that next to our bed was a little step-stool (three steps) to help you get up into the bed. Mattresses were so thick, it really added to the height of the bed.

    I think in British houses, we make a lot of natural light (our fondness for the outdoors). I didn’t like basements at all for that reason at first (came to love them though). People in the US did seem to live behind blinds or curtains with the light on much more than in the UK. And the heating/air conditioning always at the same temperature. You wouldn’t even know what the season was a lot of the time.

  4. iotamanhattan says:

    .I really miss the basement of my US house. Our UK house feels small when we’re all at home (daughter is 11, sons are 14 and 17 and adult-sized). If the boys are on the xBox, then there’s not a lot of space in the sitting room – due to teenage sprawl factor. And it’s always a choice between TV or xBox. The basements in US houses seem to become teenage dens, and I think that space gives a lot of valuable space between teens and parents. It all feels more intense in a small house. Our basement in America housed an air hockey table, a table tennis table, and a Wii. It was great! That makes us sound incredibly well-off, but as you say, it’s just the norm.

    I suppose the upside is that we’re more aware of what our children get up to, which in this age of screens is a good thing. In American houses, the children can just disappear. Speaking of which, I remember having to make certain areas of the house out-of-bounds if we played hide and seek when they were little – partly the size of the house, partly the amount of built-in storage. Otherwise it just became too much like hard work for the adult seeker! Small children could just tuck themselves away at the back of a closet behind stuff, and you could completely lose them. Amazing to think of that, when you think of the average British family home. If they’re not behind the curtains or under the beds, then you know they’re in the under-stairs cupboard.

  5. Sally says:

    When we moved to US we took our furniture with us and it looked so tiny in our huge to me house, normal to my neighbours. I also missed doors and that cozy feeling in the lounge, especially in the winter.

    Loved the basement, guess it’s the equivalent to our lofts.

    The weather here’s lovely Claire but we’ll try and save you some 😉😉😉

  6. Pingback: Spring Things | AnnieRie Unplugged

  7. Katheen Huffman says:

    McMansions in America are collectors of stuff as well as lead to separation of people. Never having to share a bedroom or bath makes college dorm life in the US interesting. Even in a small US home it is nice to close off rooms but what makes it home is memories and people coming , going and staying

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