What is it? ["I Don't Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People" voice] I don't know how to explain to you that it's a studio flat, again. It's always a studio flat. Stop expecting anything else (*1).
Where is it? Fair play, this one is right by Kensington Palace and the street with all the embassies on it in West London. I have to hold my hands up at this one and say: "Fair play." Normally, these places are in, like, "Hounslow" or something, some made up sub-continent of London, so they still have London rents because they just technically scrape into having a London postcode; they are just about on the Oyster card system, so it counts. But no: this one is very London. I don't know why anyone on Earth would want to live in central London – it makes getting to Angus Steakhouse first thing for the breakfast seating a little easier? You are never more than ten minutes from M&M's World or a big Topshop? When you think about it, for one of the biggest and best cities in the world, central London really doesn't have much to offer – but there you go. You can live there if you want to.
What is there to do locally? You're right by three embassies, five posh schools and one memorial to Diana. You’re also near the Serpentine and one of my favourite places in London (the big Whole Foods in Kensington). There is nothing you can't do, but also, in a weird way, nothing you can do, either.
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,192 pcm.
I'm trying to de-escalate my thoughts from the prison of habitable spaces and instead judge this room on its merits as "just a room". So forget, for a moment, the concept of sleeping in it. Just imagine you have come here, for whatever reason. You have simply appeared in this room. Appraise it on that alone:
So, like, there are only two places to sit, and they are both uncomfortable high breakfast chairs assembled in a nook that looks directly out at a gauzy glass window you can't actually see out of. You sort of have a workplace kitchenette-style area there in the corner (certain kitchens, in London rentals, have an unshakeable air of "the office" about them; every kitchen has a vibe, and your kitchen at home should endeavour to have the energy of "music off the Bluetooth speaker while someone uses all the wooden spoons to make a mediocre dhal" and not "your boss has summoned you all here on a Friday to give you all exactly one slice of pizza and tell you that, due to a poorer-than-expected third quarter performance, they cannot guarantee the contractually obligated 1-percent-a-year pay rises anymore"), and in this particular kitchen I can imagine waiting a really long time for the kettle to boil while staring furiously at the share tub of coffee granules while someone who remembers me better from the Christmas party than I remember them is asking me how my weekend went.
The rug on the floor – if you can call it a rug, it seems like an off-cut from a call centre corridor renovation – is peeling at the ages in a way I find very sinister. The cupboard next to the breakfast nook is actually your bathroom. You can tell it is designed as a cupboard because the door to it doesn't go to the floor, but has a skirting board running underneath it, like a cupboard might. But inside you can piss and shit. Also: everything is a Hinchian, smooth, castrated shade of grey, and the room has absolutely no soul to it at all. So all in all, taken just on those face values, how do you rate this room? Like, 2 out of 10? 3, at a push?
Now let's put "sleeping" and "general human comfort" back into the equation. Say you're spending an evening in this room: what do you lean back and slump on? What do you spend three hours on, reading, or watching TV, or idly eBaying things you don't need? There is nothing there. I suppose you could put a sofa in there, but then there's no room for your bed (the only sensible place a bed can be, in this room, is demarcated by the rug in the middle of it: it has to be in the centre of the room, because there are no available walls it can back up solidly against. There is nothing more disconcerting than a bed, freeballing and unanchored, in the absolute centre of a room).
The listing says this room has a fold-down bed in it, but I've seen the photos and the floorplan and I deem this to be a lie. This is your kitchen, and your bedroom, and your breakfast nook and your bathroom, and your living room all in one. And you have to put your own bed in it. It does not come with the bed. You have to pay £1,192 per month to buy a bed to put in a kitchen.
Always wonder who these things are for. Who's living here, in this grey room, near some embassies? They live a lonely life (you cannot bring someone back to this house, sexually. "Come back to my house, in Kensington," "Oh wow, Kensington. Is it nice?" "No, it's like if they painted hell grey"). They basically engineer a lifestyle predicated on them not being at home, don't they, because this is home. You'd be fine working an 18-hour day if this was the house you came home to. You’d organise a weekend rich with activities to stop you from having to spend time here. You'd make sure you always fucked people at their houses to ensure you didn't wake up here, in this.
In a way, I think I'd live a very accomplished life if I lived in this room, because this would be my motivation to never stop moving. On the flipside, it only takes one long weekend spent staring at the grey walls to lose my stimulus to ever do anything ever again. Here's me, cooking my shit dinner over a two-hob. Here's me, lying in a bed in the middle of my home. Here's me, stacking and unstacking the inexplicable four blocks of artificial grass that make up the only decoration that exists in my bathroom. A normal person couldn't live here, I think. A hired killer who only ever wakes up to kill? Yeah, maybe. They probably could.
(*1) DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY (ONLY TO BE READ BY R.O.O.T.W. HEADS): Hello and welcome to the director's commentary of Rental Opportunity of the Week, only for the heads. A little peek behind the curtain: the reason this column tends to shy away from rooms for rent in house-shares is because if you have a go at a room for rent in a house-share you are also having a go at the wider amenities shared by the other people – someone else's tiny kitchen, someone else's unfit-for-purpose bathroom – and also quite often the shit-hole room on offer is there because the landlord has decided to take away the living room and fit a double bed in there and rent it out, and so the people previously renting there (who signed up to have two housemates and one living room) have now been foisted with, by no fault of their own and contractually with no say in the matter, three housemates and zero living rooms. Think how much of a kick in the anus that is, in your life; now think how much worse it would be if a nationally beloved  [where does it say this?] renting column then went in, two-footed, on the flat you lived in, just because your landlord, a prick, decided to rent your living room out in it. So yes, it's a studio flat again. But that’s because, when we cover those, there is less collateral damage to other human being's psyches.