Katie rents a one-bedroom flat in Seaham, on the Durham coast (Picture: Katie Dawson)
This Tuesday, we’re nosing around another one-bedroom flat, but on the cheaper end of the rental scale.
Katie, 30, was working at a music agency in London until 2019, when she realised she needed to seek help for her mental health struggles and so returned to the North East, where she’s originally from.
‘A year and a pandemic later, I’m well on my way to recovery and looking for new things to do,’ she tells us.
‘In the meantime I’ve honed in on my creative skills and between lockdowns I’ve been volunteering at a charity shop where I’ve had some great homeware and furniture finds.’
That furniture hunting has been put to good use in the flat Katie rents alone with her cat, Frank.
Here’s how she rents.
Rent (including bills) is just £400 a month (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Hey, Katie! How much do you pay to live here?
The rent is £400 per month including bills.
And what do you get for what you pay?
There are four rooms in total: a decent sized kitchen, living room, and bathroom and a small double bedroom.
Do you feel like you have a good deal?
I think I’ve got a very good deal. It’s perfect for my current situation as I needed to keep the rent as low as possible while I’m out of work.
It’s in an excellent location around 10 mins walk from Seaham Station with trains to Sunderland and Newcastle.
It’s great not having to worry about my bills at the minute too.
I typically wouldn’t go for this sort of deal as I think it’s better to have control of your own utilities but at such a reasonable price anyway, it was a no brainer for me.
What do you think of the area?
I’m currently based in Seaham, which is an old mining town on the Durham coast, just south of Sunderland, where I’m originally from.
Seaham was a natural choice for me as it’s midway between my parents’ houses – I’m still relying on my parents for support while I recover.
Having been away from the seaside for 10 years it’s so nice having the beach back in walking distance, which was important to me when choosing a location in the North East.
Seaham is quite a drastic change from north London so it’s taken some adjusting but I’ve definitely learned to appreciate the peace and quiet up here and it has a lot of northern charm.
Katie used to live and work in London, but mental health struggles encouraged her to move closer to her parents (Picture: Katie Dawson)
What’s it like living alone?
I rent the flat alone so it’s just me and my cat Frank.
I’ve always lived with friends and boyfriends in the 10 years since I left home so it’s a welcome change having the freedom to do what I like with the whole place.
How did you find this property?
I went to a local letting agent called Kimmitt Lettings who really went above and beyond to help me find a home even in the middle of a pandemic.
I feel they matched me perfectly with this flat and made an otherwise arduous process very manageable for me which was really welcomed due to my fragility at the time.
How have you made the flat feel like home?
I found that making the flat my home came surprisingly naturally to me.
The flat is unfurnished and I had no furniture or money at the time of moving so I had to get inventive in order to get the place feeling like home.
My Dad put the word out among his friends to see if anyone was looking to get rid of any furniture or homewares. This was during the first lockdown so fortunately for me, a lot of people were spending their time having a clear out.
We arranged a contact-free collection of my sofa from a very generous lady on gumtree who threw in a load of extra home bits too. Everything else is second-hand from friends and family and some of it has had multiple owners throughout its lifetime.
My step dad is kindly letting me use a coffee table as a TV stand. He originally bought as a dining table in the 70’s and sawed the legs off. I love it!
Katie’s stepdad with the coffee table that now serves as her TV stand, back in the 70s (Picture: Courtesy of Katie Dawson)
Begging and borrowing all of my furniture was a really interesting experience for me which is why I decided to document it on my instagram account @katiewomblingfree (making good use of the things that I find, things that the everyday folk leave behind, you see. That’s the womble connection).
It’s amazing what you can get for cheap or free when you try and I’m all for this approach instead of buying everything new from Ikea. I think it inspires more creativity so I wanted to share that.
Most of my furniture has a lot of life and history in it and I think that immediately makes a house feel like a home. All I had to do was add a few pictures and books and it became cosy in no time.
Have you found it difficult to decorate when renting? Is your landlord happy with you doing bits?
I met the landlord shortly after moving in and he was very open to me making the flat my own. I think he knows I’ll respect the place and return it to its original state at the end of my tenancy so there’s a level of trust involved.
Obviously I’m very conscious of drilling holes or making any changes I know I’ll have to fix before I move out as it’ll be a lot of work, but I think there are ways of making the place your own without making permanent changes.
The gallery wall in my living room is all hung with command strips, which will come off without leaving a mark, and the wallpaper I’ve added in my kitchen is self adhesive removable wallpaper.
I’ve also taken the door off one of the kitchen cupboards to create shelving for booze and my nice tableware.
There are a lot more products out there than when I first started renting and it makes things much easier to customise.
Being by the sea has been great for Katie’s wellbeing (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Do you feel like you have enough space?
It’s a really decent sized flat for one person. There isn’t much hidden storage space which is why I’ve added a wardrobe in the hallway but a giant cupboard wouldn’t go amiss (would it ever!).
My bedroom is really small but that means that I’ve had to keep it quite minimal in there, which creates a lovely relaxed atmosphere where I just sleep and do some reading.
As you can see from my pictures, I’m very much a maximalist so everything is kind of on show instead of being put away. I know that would be some people’s worst nightmare but I find a bit of clutter quite comforting and cosy.
Are there any problems with the home you have to deal with?
I’m quite handy around the house myself so there are a couple of things I’ve fixed while I’ve been here but if there’s anything outside of my remit the landlord is really responsive and helps straight away, it’s the best renting experience I’ve ever had.
Do you have plans to move again any time soon?
I think I’d ideally like to live in Newcastle or somewhere closer to Newcastle at some point in the future, as it’s a little more metropolitan, but I like it so much here that I’m going to stay put as long as possible.
Do you want to own a place some day or are you happy to rent?
Compared to London, property in the North East seems like a steal! So once I’m back at work I’ll be saving up to buy – but I’m perfectly happy renting for now.
I feel there’s a bit of stigma around still renting at my age but I see no problem with it really. It definitely suits me for now and I feel very lucky to be in this little flat that I love.
Shall we have a look around?
Katie’s blessed with a landlord who will let her make changes, but she’s ensure these are all reversible (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Look at that glorious painted arch (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Hi, Frank (Picture: Katie Dawson)
The gallery wall has been created with command strips (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Katie describes herself as a maximalist who loves a bit of clutter (Picture: Katie Dawson)
She’s given the space a cosy feel (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Secondhand items help to create the vibe on a budget (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Plants are key too, of course (Picture: Katie Dawson)
The kitchen has been transformed with stick-on wallpaper (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Plus a rather packed corkboard (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Isn’t that lemon print cheering? (Picture: Katie Dawson)
When Katie moves out, it can be easily peeled away (Picture: Katie Dawson)
We like those lights, too (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Here’s Katie’s bedroom (Picture: Katie Dawson)
We think she likes pink… (Picture: Katie Dawson)
And finally, the bathroom (Picture: Katie Dawson)
Even Frank’s interested in that soothing sanctuary (Picture: Katie Dawson)
What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.
Check back next week to have another nose around a rented property.
How to get involved in What I Rent
What I Rent is Metro.co.uk’s weekly series that takes you inside the places people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.
If you fancy taking part, please email [email protected]. You’ll need to take pictures of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your bedroom or living area.
Make sure you get permission from your housemates! You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’re paying for rent, as that’s pretty important.
We’re not just after the prettiest places out there, by the way. We want the reality of renting, so if you’re currently renting a place you hate, we’d love to see that too (and sympathise greatly!).
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