Talking about your home (types)

A common subject in a small-talk situation is your home. The vocabulary used to describe housing is not universal and varies from, for example, the US to the UK. In this article I shall concentrate on British English definitions, which also work well in Australia. Let’s list the housing types common in the UK.

Detached houses stand alone and, by definition, are not attached to another. You can walk all around the house. They can be quite small, or very large, generally have gardens at the front and also at the back. These are called, quite simply, front and back gardens. If the house only has one floor it is called a detached bungalow. If the bungalow has rooms in the roof space, with windows protruding from the sloping sides, it is called a detached chalet bungalow. In the photograph to the left is an extremely stylish detached seafront house in Brighton, UK. When it was built, it was intended for just one family, with rooms for the servants in the attic, and kitchens and service rooms in the basement. These days such large houses are generally split up into flats, which are sold or rented separately.

Semi-detached houses

Semi-detached houses are attached to one other, and make a matching pair. They are very popular in the UK as they make efficient use of building materials, are more energy efficient, but still leave space for a garage at the side, and a way from the front to the back gardens. The party wall between the two dwellings is usually quite thick and provides good sound insulation.

This picture is of six semi-detached houses situated by the Cauldon Canal in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK. The back gardens slope down to the canal and have been attractively landscaped. Also, garden sheds (for gardening tools) and a greenhouse (for growing plants) have been added.

Terrace(d) houses are in rows and are usually built where space is at a premium, for example in towns, or where large amounts of houses are required on a small budget, as in large council housing developments. They are often a good compromise, as the tenants or owners  of the properties still have a back garden, and sometimes a front one too.

Blocks of flats are not so common in the UK, but most major cities have some, usually to provide ‘affordable’ rented apartments. However, in inner-city areas, there are also multi-storey blocks of luxury flats. Outside city areas you will not normally find blocks of flats in the UK. In the picture is an eight-storey block of flats in Vaasa, Finland. It is of prefabricated construction, with individual wall elements being delivered to the site by truck and lifted into place by a tower-crane.

A cottage is a small country house. They were originally built for land-workers, but these days are much sought-after by the rich as retreats from city life, or as retirement homes. This often pushes the price of such dwellings out of reach of the local people. Cottages can be detached, semi-detached or terraced – as long as they retain that ‘country’ look and don’t look like town houses. The cottages in the photograph were built house workers from the adjoining flint mill in Staffordshire.

A manor or mansion is an extremely large detached house, usually surrounded by a lot of land, and approached along a dramatic tree-lined driveway. They were built for land owners and successful merchants. Due to the enormous costs of heating and repairs, many of the UK’s largest mansions have been turned into colleges, museums, nursing and retirement homes, or have been bought by rock-stars.

In the photo is Montacute House in Yeovil, Somerset. Designed by an unknown architect, the three floored mansion, constructed of the local stone, was built around 1598 for Sir Edward Phelips, Master of the Rolls. His descendants occupied the house until the early 20th century. Following a brief period, when the house was let to tenants, it was acquired by the National Trust in 1927. Today, it is fully open to the public.

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