Life

Rental Opportunity of the Week: A Whole New Level of Landlord Going On Here

Your kitchen is a kitchen cupboard, inside a cupboard, in the kitchen.
01 July 2020, 11:38am
flat to rent lewisham
Photos via Gumtree
What is living in London like? Hell. Here’s proof, beyond all doubt, that renting in London is a nightmare.

What is it? It's a kitchen inside a cupboard. Technically, there is a kitchen cupboard in the kitchen in the cupboard, so it's a kitchen cupboard-cupboard. Anyway.
Where is it? Somewhere between Brockley and Lewisham, where the upper zone of middle class fancy south London gives way to the grey zone of impossible-to-figure-out-on-a-map south London. I'll admit this might just be particular to me, and my brain, and this may not be as universal and relatable a feeling as I have led myself to believe. But something short circuits when I get anywhere beyond Blackheath, and I just can't tell up from down, right from left, north from south. South London runs a magnet over my body and inverts my entire sense of direction. It is a cursed little place. It makes me want to vomit through my nose.
What is there to do locally? Find me, raving and insane, up to my thighs in long grass, striding across Hither Green, probably. Other than that, I don’t know what there is to do that far down in south London, because normally once I’ve got there I require a three-car police escort to get me back. Inferno's? I don't know. Get stuck to the floor in Inferno's? I really don’t know
Alright, how much are they asking? £720 p.c.m.. And before you say, "Ah, that rent sounds… well, not reasonable, exactly, but close enough to what I pay to not feel obscene," wait until you see it! Wait until you see it. WUYSI. Wait until you

Alright you can see it now:

We should pay particular attention to these two photos below, where at first glance you might think, 'Huh: it's just an ugly cupboard,' but actually no, it’s an ugly cupboard containing your entire kitchen (also ugly):

Should talk about that, probably. Feels like an ominous first step in a terrible direction. We have seen kitchens mangled up and made minute on this column before: two-hob burners, tiny little sinks, a microwave in lieu of an oven. But we have not seen all of those things at once, plus a mini-fridge, stacked with a sheet of industrial school-kitchen chrome into a cupboard and barely pushed shut. We have not seen that before. I would understand if, say, this were a caravan. I would understand if this were a doll’s house, converted so a child could live in it. I would not understand if this was, say, a self-contained flat in Lewisham, "Single person only – no exceptions", which an adult is expected to pay for and live in, every single month, for £720 per month. I would not understand it then. I still do not understand it now. Why is… why is a kitchen locked inside a cupboard? Why is a kitchen locked inside a cupboard something you can buy? I’m mad at the person who bought it and the person who sold it. I’m mad at everyone involved in making this happen.

I mean, I understand that, for many people, a spacious kitchen is low down the pecking order of needs for a flat. I know that, while 60 percent of millennials can roughly be described as "30 years old and Too Into Bon Appetit", there's still a 40 percent swathe who order a pizza large enough to feed them for three days twice a week and then, for the final seventh day, just graze on biscuits and Pringles. Those people need representation, too. You can live an entire, healthy, nutritionally balanced life without ever turning on a hob or an oven. Why should they pay for a kitchen when the only time they ever go in there is to do a load of laundry that is slightly too big for the machine, or to put things in the big bin? You could use that space instead for, say, having a really massive bed, or (something I am rapidly discovering, after living in three consecutive properties without one, that in London is considered a luxury:) a cupboard. There is a perverse logic to not having a kitchen, if done right.

If your kitchen needs can be met with "a Pot Noodle kettle and a fridge for all your condiments", it would make sense not to really have a kitchen – but only if the space-saving of having a kitchen folded into a cupboard was counterbalanced by the rest of the flat being a palatial and spacious relaxation hub. This is not that. This is "just a room". You have a sofa facing two looming pieces of furniture – in that ugly, knotty, varnished-finish wood you only ever find in rented accommodation, nobody has ever bought this sort of wardrobe as a deliberate aesthetic choice, they have done it because it’s the cheapest-possible wardrobe Argos can deliver that day – and a corner shelving unit.

The two pieces of furniture can only possibly stand in the place they stand, because if you move them even slightly the front door cannot open or close (Good! Funny!). The sofa facing them is a fold-out bed – another space-saving brainwave – and I don’t really know where you’re meant to put the tiny TV remote table when you fold it down, but maybe it can swap places with the bedding on the windowsill, which sweats in a crevice both there and between the wall and the wardrobe until you're ready to transform the room into "night mode". The only option to illuminate the room is either with the Big Light or with a single fluorescent strip-bulb built into the kitchen-cupboard, because there are not enough power sockets available (or floor or furniture-space spare) to spiritually support a lamp, and I’m sorry but Big Light enforcement is akin to criminal.

The dining table is one of the more inexplicable choices of furniture in the flat, seeing as it is roughly the size of the kitchen itself, only has a bowl with leftover Halloween lollipops in it, and also, truly, who are you ever going to have over for dinner in a flat like this? It makes no sense to have a dining table in this room. The dining table takes up about 15 percent of the available floor space, just to have nobody sit at it, ever. Why do London landlords insist on giving us ugly, unusable, actively impractical dining tables?

But then there are all the heartbreaking little touches of humanity visible in this photo, proof that somebody already lives and exists here – a single fedora, an umbrella by the door, what seems to be a semi-extensive collection of manga – and you have to ask yourself how, and why, and for how long. Look at the photos again, and then consider these two lines from the property listing: "All mod cons with small private kitchenette, laminate flooring and ensuite fully tiled private shower room. FREE washer & dryer."

All mod cons? All? Would we say "all"? The bed is a sofa and the kitchen is an intricate answer to a Cluedo clue. So would we go so far as to say "all"? "Private kitchenette": most kitchens in most houses, unless some land registry issue has made them into a public thoroughfare, are considered private, just not so private you need to hide the entire room inside a cupboard. "FREE washer & dryer": where, exactly? You have to assume this room is built into someone else’s house, and it’s unlikely they live there – if you built this in your house, I would assume you were using it to keep long-term hostages docile within it – so essentially you are just offering up the washer & dryer someone else is renting, in another part of the house, as a free service.

I feel sorry for whoever ends up living in The Kitchen Room, obviously, but I also feel sorry for whoever else is renting in the flat, whatever the fuck those rooms even look like, when The Kitchen Room person emerges, blinking from staring at manga too long, their fedora tipped nattily on their head, before quietly doing their laundry in your machine. "You alright, mate?" "Just sleeping on the sofa a bit, yeah." "Is that what you do in there?" "That mainly, yeah. My kitchen’s in a cupboard so I have to sink to my knees or crouch if I ever want to use the surface to do any chopping." "Right, right, sure. Can you use quickwash, please? I could do without that spinning for the next two hours." "Yep." "... You, uh, off to your room now then is it?" "Yeah, yep. I’ll just fold my bed back up into a sofa and watch a bit of TV, I guess." "Cheers."

I suppose it’s always good to move into a flat and know that your sheer existence within it not only makes you miserable, but also the people in the flat that surrounds your flat, too. A whole new level of landlording going on here, folks. Flats within flats, kitchens within cupboards, community washer-dryer access. I wouldn’t say this is exactly worth £720 a month, no.

@joelgolby