Writing Activity: Describe the Inside of a House

describe the inside of a house

Describe a house, describe the inhabitants (or inhabitants since departed). Below are examples of house interiors from novels and short fiction.


The room downstairs at the front of this cottage would appear to serve Mr and Mrs Taylor as both dining room and general living quarters. It is a rather cosy room, dominated by a large, roughly hewn table of the sort one might expect to see in a farmhouse kitchen, its surface unvarnished and bearing many small marks left by choppers and breadknives. These latter I could see quite clearly despite the fact that we were sitting in a low yellow light cast by an oil lamp on a shelf in one corner.

“It’s not as though we don’t have electricity out here, sir,” Mrs Taylor remarked to me at one point, nodding towards the lamp. “But something went wrong with the circuit and we’ve been without it now for almost two months. To tell you the truth, we don’t miss it so much. There’s a few houses in the village that’s never had electricity at all. Oil gives a warmer light.”

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro


A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.

The passage is narrow and twists back on itself. He takes each step slowly, sliding himself along the wall, his boots meeting each tread with a thud.

Near the bottom, he pauses for a moment, looking back the way he has come. Then, suddenly resolute, he leaps the final three stairs, as is his habit. He stumbles as he lands, falling to his knees on the flagstone floor.

It is a close, windless day in late summer, and the downstairs room is slashed by long strips of light. The sun glowers at him from outside, the windows latticed slabs of yellow, set into the plaster.

He gets up, rubbing his legs. He looks one way, up the stairs; he looks the other, unable to decide which way he should turn.

The room is empty, the fire ruminating in its grate, orange embers below soft, spiralling smoke. His injured kneecaps throb in time with his heartbeat. He stands with one hand resting on the latch of the door to the stairs, the scuffed leather tip of his boot raised, poised for motion, for flight. His hair, light-coloured, almost gold, rises up from his brow in tufts.

There is no one here.

He sighs, drawing in the warm, dusty air and moves through the room, out of the front door and on to the street. The noise of barrows, horses, vendors, people calling to each other, a man hurling a sack from an upper window doesn’t reach him. He wanders along the front of the house and into the neighbouring doorway.

The smell of his grandparents’ home is always the same: a mix of woodsmoke, polish, leather, wool. It is similar yet indefinably different from the adjoining two-roomed apartment, built by his grandfather in a narrow gap next to the larger house, where he lives with his mother and sisters. Sometimes he cannot understand why this might be. The two dwellings are, after all, separated by only a thin wattled wall but the air in each place is of a different ilk, a different scent, a different temperature.

This house whistles with draughts and eddies of air, with the tapping and hammering of his grandfather’s workshop, with the raps and calls of customers at the window, with the noise and welter of the courtyard out the back, with the sound of his uncles coming and going.

But not today. The boy stands in the passageway, listening for signs of occupation. He can see from here that the workshop, to his right, is empty, the stools at the benches vacant, the tools idle on the counters, a tray of abandoned gloves, like handprints, left out for all to see. The vending window is shut and bolted tight. There is no one in the dining hall, to his left. A stack of napkins is piled on the long table, an unlit candle, a heap of feathers. Nothing more.

the opening to Hamnet, a 2021 novel by Maggie O’Farrell


Alva would meet people coming from the bathroom, absorbed and melancholy, she would glimpse women in the dim bedrooms swaying towards their reflections in the mirror, very slowly applying their lipstick, and someone would have fallen asleep on the long chesterfield in the den. By this time the drapes would have been drawn across the glass walls of living room and dining room, against the heat of the sun; those long, curtained and carpeted rooms, with their cool colours, seemed floating in an underwater light. Alva found it already hard to remember that the rooms at home, such small rooms, could hold so many things; here were such bland unbroken surfaces, such spaces–a whole long, wide passage empty, except for two tall Danish vases, standing against the farthest wall, carpet, walls and ceiling all done in blue variants of grey; Alva, walking down this hallway, not making any sound, wished for a mirror, or something to bump into; she did not know if she was there or not.

Sunday Afternoon” by Alice Munro


[The spinster aunties] wore dark cotton dresses with fresh, perfectly starched and ironed, white lawn collars, china flower brooches. Their house had a chiming clock, which delicately marked the quarter hours; also watered ferns, African violets, crocheted runners, fringed blinds, and over everything the clean, reproachful smell of wax and lemons.

Princess Ida” by Alice Munro

On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




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