The Back-to-Front House

We used to live in a back-to-front house.

The back door of our house faced the road. And the front door was all the way around the other side of the building, in our back garden. I don't suppose anyone knew it existed. No one ever knocked on it. No, all our visitors came through our back door, which wasn't always convenient.

Someone would knock on our door. "Come on in," I'd say. And then I'd add, "Sorry about the mess." The back door led straight into our laundry. We'd manoeuvre around buckets and brooms and squeeze past baskets of dirty clothes until we came to the kitchen.

"Sorry about the mess," I'd repeat as we exited the laundry and entered the kitchen. I'd hurry past the benches covered in dishes and hope the floor looked clean.

"Sit down," I'd say with relief as we finally arrived at the living room. "Make yourself at home."

It would have been much easier if our guests had come through the front door directly into the living room, and avoided the laundry and kitchen altogether. But they never did.

During the Christmas season, our front door (around the back of the house) was inaccessible because we always placed our Christmas tree behind it.

"What if someone knocks on our front door while the tree is up," asked one of my children. "We won't be able to open the door to let them in."

I thought it was very unlikely anyone would knock on that door. But just in case someone got lost, wandered around to the back garden and then decided to use the right door instead of the wrong door, I wrote a notice:


I pinned it to the door no one ever used, the front door around the back of the house.

Granny, from The Angels of Abbey Creek, also lives in a back-to-front house. Her grandchildren love her strange little home.

They all go inside Granny’s house. It’s very different to their house. The Angels’ house is new with big windows and lots of  light. Granny’s house is much older. Dad calls it a house with character. Mum calls it old, damp and musty. But the children like it.

It’s a strange little house that is the wrong way round. The front door is actually at the back of the house. No one ever comes to the front door. Perhaps they don’t know it’s there. 

Granny  doesn’t mind having a back-to-front house because most of her windows face the fields. She can sit in the living room and watch the cows while she drinks her tea. Watching the cows is much more interesting than watching television. This is just as well because Granny doesn’t have a television.

Our house also faced paddocks of cows. We enjoyed looking out our windows and seeing the cows grazing the grass. They'd wander closer and closer to our fence and then they'd turn and move away again. Unless, of course, they spied the grass on our side of the fence. Ours was greener and thicker than theirs, and sometimes a cow or two couldn't resist. They'd charge through the fence. Their feet would get tangled up in the loose wire... 

But that's another story. You'll find that one in my soon-to-be-published novel The Angels of Gum Tree Road!

All this talk of back and front and right and wrong and other doors. Did I confuse anyone? And has anyone else ever lived in a strange house?

Image: This is the front of the strange house we used to live in. Up those steep steps is the front door. Of course, the table and chairs are in the back garden!

Sue Elvis

Australian blogger, author, podcaster and unschooling mother


  1. I think it was the perfect house for you all, no matter if there was some confusion between the back and front door :)


    1. Betty,

      The perfect house? I think you are right. I have such fond memories of that house I couldn't resist putting it into one of my stories! It lives on in my book even though in real life it was pulled down to make way for a new housing estate.

  2. The farm house I lived in until the age of 10 had a back and a front door, but the only people who ever used the front door were the occasional wandering salesmen. Through the back door and the laundry was the way in for us too. I don't know if it bothered my Mum, at least I don't recall her stressing about visitors in the laundry. I think all the farmhouses were the same, so it was normal for everybody!
    Any sneak hints on the release date for the new book? Wink, wink.

    1. Kelly,

      I guess using the back door is more friendly than having to come through the front one. Back door visitors are part of the family circle, and yes, they don't worry about messy laundries. Your mother sounds like a very relaxed person. I bet she has a warm welcoming manner which is far more important than the state of a house.

      The release date for the new book? Well, we were all set to go and then Charlotte and I changed our minds about the illustrations. Charlotte started a new set of drawings in a different style and she's colouring them. This will be good for ebook tablet readers, but the printed versions will still have B&W pictures. Charlotte is working at a good pace. We hope she'll be finished soon!

  3. The house, I lived in as a child also had the front door in the back. Nobody ever used the front door, and I remember "helping" my father laying bricks to close that door as a small girl. From then you hat to walk through a narrow passage between two tall buildings to get to our front door. Everybody always found it, but to us children, it was a bit dark and scary, especaiily in the winter months arriving late home from somewhere.

    1. Uglemor,

      I wonder if your father bricked up the front door to give you more wall space inside the house. Our unused front door opened into the living room. Because we never used it, we placed an armchair in front of it. We made the most of that part of the room.

      I can imagine how scary it was walking through that dark passage. Kids have such active imaginations!

  4. We used to live in a house that had the kids' bedrooms along a hall that guests used to walk past. No matter how hard I tried, the bedrooms always seemed to be messy. It's much easier to have guests now that the bedrooms are out of the way.

    It must have been nice to be able to watch the cows from the house. We can hear cows across the road but we only have our own garden views from the house :-)

    1. Vicky,

      Yes, it's much easier when kids' rooms are out of the way so guests can't see the usual mess! What I'd really like is a guest bathroom. When guests arrive, I always wonder if the main bathroom is presentable. What will guests think of us if the shower is dirty? Is there any soap? What about a clean towel?

      We loved living near the cows. They were excellent neighbours until they started jumping through the fence. We missed the cows when we moved away from that house. We now have bush views which I guess is just as good as cows!