// Sponsored by State Farm (my social media fee was donated to Habitat for Humanity) and all views are, as always, my own.
Since I started blogging almost a decade ago, I’ve been asked countless times where my love for design and the home came from. I’ve always answered that it stemmed from discovering an issue of a British design mag, Livingetc, at a petrol (gas!) station while my mum filled up the car with fuel. I was twelve years old, and completely captivated with all things décor and design from that first issue onwards. I remember it like it was yesterday. However, it wasn’t in that moment that I learned to love and appreciate my home. That story starts differently.
It was a cold winter Saturday, early in 1998, in the midst of a British winter. I was eleven years old, Titanic was dominating, well, just about everything, and I had woken up at a friend’s house. I had stayed over the previous night following a visit to the movies to see, you guessed it, Titanic. I remember my friend being upset with his parents because they wouldn’t let us head out to play football (I was secretly relieved because I hated playing football!). Instead, his parents said we had to drive me back home. I didn’t think much of it as I just figured they had things to do as a family that day. Plus, no football so, hey, I wasn’t complaining.After 45 minutes, we pulled up to our family home (pictured above as it is today under new ownership; I don’t have a digital picture of the house because it was the days of disposable cameras) and I immediately spotted my gran’s car parked in the drive. My gran and I have always been very close and so to see that she was unexpectedly visiting filled me with excitement. “Way more fun than football,” I thought to myself as I said my “thank yous” and jumped out the car, rushing as fast as my feet would take me to the front porch. Key in the door. Shoes kicked off by the doormat. Through the hallway, past the flowers on the entry table and into the kitchen…That’s when my excitement was immediately crushed. I saw my mum hunched over the apron sink sobbing.
The previous night while I’d been at the sleepover, her husband of twenty years and my dad of eleven years had decided to leave our family so he could start a new life with his mistress, the woman with whom he’d been having an affair for six months. He hadn’t even had the courage to say goodbye to me; we didn’t see or hear from him again for six months.
It had been a shock to us all, as there were no signs that my parents were unhappy. We were fortunate enough to lead a very privileged life: my mum and dad worked hard to afford to send us to good schools, we enjoyed a week-long family holiday every year in Europe, Christmases were spent as a family by the inglenook fireplace, and summers were spent playing tennis on the lawn. It was as idyllic as it sounds.The house was located in a charming village deep within the English countryside. My bedroom window overlooked rolling fields, mooing cows and there was often the distant, comforting hum of a tractor, dog barking or flock of birds tweeting. Gran would come to stay and we would walk her dog, Bruno, for hours down country lanes and across the fields. Despite being nearly sixty years apart in age, we would laugh and chat for hours on end. When she was staying I would run downstairs to her room every morning and jump under the covers to chat and I would pretend I liked drinking coffee so I would feel more grown up! I look back to those times – the unaltered, naive bliss of childhood – with misty-eyed warmth. I treasure those memories and realize just how lucky I was to live in such a safe and loving environment during those early years of childhood.
But, and with the sincere hope it won’t sound melodramatic, that winter Saturday in 1998 when I arrived home to find our family broken apart, that was the day that my childhood ended. It was that day that the calm and comforting place I had known as home changed forever. Lying in bed that night I remember shivering at the unknown that lay ahead.The years that followed were turbulent to say the least. My poor mum was, understandably, wracked with grief and my teenager brother was old enough to escape the house and deal with the emotions in his own way, in his own time. As a pre-teen I was confined to the house. As a result had to grow up super-fast and learn to deal with lots of situations that even now as a thirty-year-old adult, can be hard to think about. It’s not my place to share the full details of what happened over those tumultuous years, and arguably there would be little to be gained from doing so, but suffice to say that home was not the safe sanctuary it had been.
Yet, despite all the challenges and heartache of that time period in my life I still had a physical home to go to. And you know what? I should have been more grateful for that. I should have acted out less; been more grateful for what I did have. I feel as though I took for granted just how fortunate I was to have a physical space to protect me.As the years passed, I grew older, gained independence, (came out, but that’s a whole other blog post!), moved to a new city to attend university and that’s where I met my now husband. Since we graduated we’ve moved a lot (not least to a whole new country!) but I’ve always placed a big emphasis on creating a homely, welcoming and calm space for us both to call home. From the memories of my early childhood years, I knew how great home could feel when it was a happy, loving and safe space. I finally had the opportunity to recreate that feeling of true contentment and security by creating a home with the love of my life.
I now realize that over the twelve years my heartmate and I have lived together, we’ve not just been building a home together but I’ve been building myself, too. The physicality of ‘safeness’ that comes from having four solid walls to call home is so much more than the obvious physical security the home itself affords you. It’s also the emotional bedrock that comes alongside the physical security of your own home brings. The knowledge that you always have somewhere safe to return. It’s a space filled with the fabric of your life: the things and the people you love. There are ups, there are downs, but through it all there’s one constant: the security of your home.I found myself recalling the memories I’ve shared here as I sat at the recent Habitat for Humanity dinner in NYC listening to Clive Rainey, HFH First Volunteer, recall a conversation he had with a Habitat for Humanity homeowner. She was a single mum who was raising her son living in a domestic abuse shelter: her husband had beaten her and said she was useless. She said that the moment she first picked up the hammer on the site of her Habitat for Humanity home she was helping to build, she realized she had the power to change her future, and build a life and safe sanctuary – a home – for her and her son. “As I built my house, I built myself,” she said.
As I heard this story, I reflected on my own experiences and how beyond fortunate I feel to have found the man I adore, to live in the city I love and to have spent the last twelve years creating and building my own safe sanctuary – our home. (I’ve shared pictures from some of those homes throughout this post.) And I thought about how moved I was to do more to help their cause to bring safe and secure homes to people in local communities in New York City. As well as donating my social media fee from State Farm to share my experience of being part of Neighborhood of Good®, I’m going to be volunteering my time to makeover a community center in New York City in time for the holidays.The story of that single mum who, despite all of her horrific experiences, found renewed spirit and opportunity to create a home for her and her son, was thanks to the amazing work of Habitat for Humanity and their volunteers. I sat at the dinner and thought to myself how privileged I have been to re-discover the joy of those early childhood years and build a happy, safe home of my own as an adult. Now, I have the opportunity to play a small part in bringing that priceless feeling of ‘home’ to others in my community. And you can too. Please join me in getting involved and consider signing up to volunteer at your local Habitat for Humanity chapter, or donate to support their amazing work. I’m looking forward to sharing lots more of my experiences volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in the coming months, too!
// Photography by Will Taylor, bar images 1, 4 & 5 which were taken by Andrew Boyd for Bright.Bazaar
You’ve overcome a lot Will and grown into a fine man. What we go through makes us the person we are – challenging lives make you appreciate what you have, remember you’ve worked hard, enjoy life and keep being fabulous – and well done on giving back, so many people don’t x
@Andrew – I couldn’t agree more that these experiences make us who we are. Thanks for the kind and generous words x
Hi Will – I’m definitely not a comment leaver, but this post resonated with me so much, as something very similar happened to me around the same age, when my dad came out as gay and left my mum for another man. It shook our world, as it was out of the blue. They had been married for 26 years and had four children. Like you, my life became very turbulent. Having a gay dad in a small northern UK village in the 80’s provided ample bullying material. Throughout it all, I still felt safe when I shut the door of my bedroom. The house was chaotic and full of meloncoly , but I did everything to make my space happy. I’m now 42 and happily married with 3 children. I do everything to make my home feel safe. To feel like it’s giving me and my little ones a hug when we walk in the door. Like you I moved from the U.K. and now live just across the bay from NYC in a small Victorian town. How old home was affected my hurricane Sandy, but we picked up and moved on, because, as I said to my dad, home can be anywhere, it’s what you do that makes it home.
P.S. I have to tell you that I think it’s great what you do for the LGBT community. When I was bullied about my dad, I asked him why he had me and put me through the bullying. He told me you have to push boundaries and that one day it will be accepted… now my daughters don’t bat an eye lid when they talk about their friends with two mummy’s or two daddy’s… they only know that as long as there is love it’s ok.
@Laura – Thank you so much for sharing your story, amazing how (aside from the obvious differences) how similar our experiences as children have been. I totally relate to your part about closing the bedroom door, I felt the exact same way. You are clearly an example mother when it comes to raising your children to be loving of all people no matter race, sexuality or creed etc. Thank you for being an ally to our community. Thanks again, Laura. x
Wow. Thank you for the good cry this morning Will….my heart goes out to you. Having a sense of home is everything, in both the literal and figurative sense. My childhood ended too young as well, and I relate to this post on a very personal level. The words of that mother – so powerful. I’ve volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in the past, but you’ve just inspired me to get involved again! Beautiful words Will, thank you for sharing.
@Susan – Thank you for reading and for your kind words. I’m sorry that you also had your childhood cut short, I know just how awful that is. I’m so glad, though, that the post has inspired you to do more volunteering for Habitat for Humanity! That’s amazing! 🙂
Will, this was an honest, brave and moving piece of writing. I have no doubt that it took courage to share and I know that many will take comfort and inspiration from your story and words.
@Alicia – I sincerely hope so. Thanks for reading and the lovely comment.
It must be so very hard to share such a personal part of your life in such a public way. What an eloquently written and heartfelt story to help shed light on the importance of having a safe and happy place to call home. Good luck with your project…I know it will be a tremendous success!❤
@Harry – It was hard to write but sometimes you have to open yourself up in order to grow as a person, right? Thanks for the support and warm words. Can’t wait to start the volunteering with Habitat for Humanity!
Hi Will, You just made me cry at my desk. It just shows what can come out of adversity, and your strength of character has evidently taken you far. Thanks for being brave enough to share this on your blog. I’ve long been a follower and it’s only made me respect you more. Take care, Paul.
@Paul – I really appreciate that, Paul. Thanks for taking time to share such supportive and warm words. (And sorry for making you cry at work!)
I never leave comments but I couldn’t not after reading this. I had a similar experience as a child and I was nodding my head with everything you wrote. It’s amazing how you are turning that horrible time into something positive and giving back to the community around you. Thanks for inspiring me to do the same!
@SB – Sorry to read that you had a similar experience. Thanks for taking time to leave a note of support. Sending that support right back to you, too.
i’m crying right now…wow…. you’re story and the other womans are so sad and moving.. but you both found a way to find something positive. good luck with your charity project.
@Lydia – Tryin’ my best. There are days when it still feels all consuming but I’ve found that clarity and strength come with every passing year.
I can’t believe that you’ve faced such situation in the past… after reading your blog, I realized that I have some difficulties to bond with my family and to feel confident enough in the house I’m living in. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.
@Albert – Hang in there. Remember there are always people who are willing and happy to listen and help anytime. Don’t ever feel alone or trapped.
thank you Will ❤️
@Rbrtmgn – Thank you for reading and supporting.
Thank you for sharing such a personal story, Will! You two have created a warm, lovely home together, and I could not be happier for you!
@Cassie – Thank you for reading and supporting! Hugs to you and your family!
Thank you for sharing your story, Will. Very moving and inspired by your growth since then!
@David – Thank you for reading! I’m glad you found the post inspiring.
We are our great, but also our bad moments. We shape them into the person we decide to be and we are thankful for the person you decided to turn into. You share your creativity talent and passion and that makes also an impact in our lives! Thank you again for that! 🙂
@Daniel – And thank you for all the support, I believe that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger! 🙂
Will, thank you for sharing this honest, personal story. I am deeply touched and I think you’ve done well in overcoming the experience and have created a beautiful home together. I completely understand the importance of home, being a nomad still in search of home someday; I take many inspirations from your posts. Thank you again for sharing. Lots of love x
@Michael – Thank you for your loyal readership and support, it is so appreciated. I’m smiling knowing that you find inspiration here and hope you find and can create your ‘home’ one day very soon. Cheers! x
Wow, Will – I am so appreciative of you opening up about your childhood experiences. My heart ached reading your story; I never want to see you or anyone go through such challenging times. At the same time, you’ve overcome so much and evolved into such an amazing man. Also, donating your fee from the partnership and volunteering? Truly wonderful. Very lucky to know you!
@Jenn – Thanks for taking the time to read the post and leave such a warm and supportive note. I truly believe that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and feel so grateful for the hand life has dealt me. Can’t wait to spend time with the incredible HFH team this fall!
I couldn’t possibly love this post or you any more Will. Thank you so much for sharing you story with us. I think your story hits home for so many of us, myself included, and it’s so affirming to know that we aren’t alone in these feelings. Just ABSOLUTLEY adore you babe.
@Shavonda – Gosh, thank you so much. Your warmth and support is so appreciated. Sending hugs to you for an amazing week ahead. xo
This is truly such a touching post Will. I didn’t know that you went through this hardship during your childhood but on the bright side, it helped to build you into the wonderful human being you are today! You truly did focus on the best and turned it all into something good.
@Didier – Thank you! Each year I’m trying to channel the events of the past into gratitude and growth in the present. Not always easy but I’m trying. 🙂 Hugs!
I once heard that sometimes our greatest calling comes from our most painful experiences. Thanks for sharing your story with us and for reminding us that out there, there is still people in need waiting and longing for a touch of humanity and compassion. @buon1
@Jesus – Lovely words, thank you. I always say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 🙂
Loved this post – deeply personal and beautifully written xx
@Horak – Thank you so much for the warm words, Mr x
Hi Will, what a story! Instead of recalling the sad part of it I would tell you that I am feeling proud of who you are, even if I have never met you. Surprisingly, the hardest times you had to face made you the smart and sensitive young man you are. Any single detail of your photography, design or fashion choice, shows joy of life, brightness and Love in all possible forms. This charming gift you received from that “feeling lost” is the most beautiful treasure you are experiencing now. Keep it as long as possible cause I truly think that this society is lacking of “humanity” which is the key essence of being a good man. Persons like you (and maybe me) could make the difference. Take care & keep being yourself.
@Maurizio – Thanks for your lovely words. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?
I’m not one to leave comments, but really felt I waisted to. Such a beautiful and honest post Will. While I was reading it I found myself thinking of my childhood and things that had happened whilst I was growing up and connected with your experiences. It really touched me! I’ve followed you for a while on social media and always smile when I see a new post from you, thank you for that! Your an inspiration for me 🙂
@Darren – Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a sweet note. Appreciate your readership and support!
This was a post that resonated so so much I could have written it ( not with your style and panache though 💕)
I recently stood on stage and talked about how your home isn’t just four walls, windows and a door but should be your sanctuary, a place to relax and feel safe in.
Thank you for sharing your past so honestly, I feel honoured that you spoke about the home in the way we can all relate to.
I too help other building their homes ( when I
can) through Habitat for Humanity and am constantly amazed at the resilience of mankind.
@Anne – That sounds like a speech I would have loved to have listened to. Thanks for your kind and warm words, and for sharing the post on Twitter – much appreciated! Thanks 🙂
When my husband and I bought our (hopefully last) house, I told him, I want a house that I’m excited to see when I pull into the driveway at night after work. And what I meant, obviously, was all the stuff you put in your post – safety, affection, a sense of well-being and accomplishment (because we have worked SO HARD on all the house projects over the last five years!) and just being able to say, “I like this place, and I like US in this place” when I walk through the rooms and relax on the couch and go to bed at night. Thank you for sharing a painful part of your life, and for helping us see the healing that has taken place.
@Martha – YES! How a house makes you feel is SO important – it needs to feel like ‘home’ because of how you live there and who you live with. Thanks for stopping by to leave a note, much appreciated.
Hi Will, this is a beautifully written post and it resonated with me as a child of divorce who left the family home on New Year’s Eve – in secret while my father was, as usual, in the pub. I too have always felt the need for a physical and safe space to call home. But home is also so much more than just the physical. The word itself, which is so hard to translate into other languages is perhaps as much an emotion as well as a noun. Coincidentally I am exploring the same subject (in a much less personal fashion) on my own blog this week starting tomorrow. Sending love to you both XK
@Kate – Thanks for the lovely note, Kate. Sorry to hear that you had a similar experience. It’s amazing how these memories and experiences live with us long into our adulthood. Looking forward to reading your piece on the blog tomorrow! Lots of love x
I admire your style. Light colours I love. Never forget your family and friends. You will need them like everyone does. Alone and rich, no thanks. #empariz
@EmPariz – I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for the kind words, too.
Thank you for this blog post, Will. It’s a good reminder that a home is not only a place we strive to make pretty enough for Instagram, it’s also the place where we should be able to feel safe and … well, home. <3
@Alexandra – Thank you for reading, I appreciate it!
What a wonderful way to help others in need by providing them with a safe haven, a place to call home. I love looking at these images of spaces you made home. Your interiors are always happy and make me smile. 🙂
@Rochelle – Yes, I’m so excited to start the project! And thanks for all the support, too.
I’m in awe of what an amazing person you are! You’ve dealt with so much and I’m so proud of who you’ve become! Continue being fabulous that’s why I love you! X
@Arianna – Thank you so much, darling! Love you xx
First, not sure why it took so long to find you and secondly , I love you’re writings on all levels ; style , content, honesty and humbleness.
Every ~ s i n g l e ~ event in our lives refines us / defines us into who we ultimately become,… how we choose to move forward is critical. The road of like is so unpredictable isn’t it ? One day calm the next chaotic . One road paved , one road filled with potholes . I suppose what matters is that we stay the course, hang on tight, enjoy the journey and always pick flowers ! Oh and of course, cherish those faithful ones we meet and love along the way.
@Barbie – Thanks for taking time to leave a note! I completely agree with your words: “Every ~ s i n g l e ~ event in our lives refines us / defines us into who we ultimately become” – so true!
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I recently did my student art teaching at a school with a large population of children living through poverty. Having, or not having, a safe and loving home makes all of the difference in their young lives. Thanks to you and all who work with Habitat! <3
@Matthew – Thank you for sharing your personal experiences here. Sounds like you are doing incredible work!
Will, thank you so much for sharing this story and your beautiful heart. ❤️ Happy Holidays!