Happy Easter to you all! I hope your weekend is filled with chocolate, hot cross buns and fluffy chicks, perhaps with a few gambolling lambs, although maybe the lamb will more likely be roasted and on your dinner plate. Whichever way you encounter any lamb, I do hope that you enjoy your time, preferably in some warm sunshine.
As many of you know, I spent the winter months in my daughter and son-in-law’s basement, not in some gloomy underground cellar but actually in spacious luxury with my own bedroom, shower room, utility/kitchen and share of a large family room where I was often joined by my gorgeous grandsons playing various video games.
So, when, at the beginning of March, it became feasible for me to return home to Wimbledon, I did so with some sadness because I missed them all, but also with a huge feeling of excitement and anticipation.
A bit of history: I bought my two-bedroomed ground floor flat in Wimbledon at an auction in 2004. I’d been watching ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ on TV and loved the idea of buying a property in that way. It’s quite a swift process and has lots of risk attached, both of which really appealed. At the time I was living in an upstairs flat in Chiswick with a problematic downstairs neighbour (a mentally ill reclusive man with a hoarding habit) and an unpleasant freeholder who went ballistic whenever I tried to improve the shared parts of the property which she owned, like the front garden (which was very overgrown) and the entrance hall which I decided to paint and make more welcoming with a new console table, a mirror and some flowers.
The Wimbledon flat came with the freehold attached, which I knew from that experience was potentially very valuable, so I tried to look past the dire state that it was in. The walls were running with damp which had caused the wallpaper to fall off in wide strips and there were large gaping holes in the old wooden floor. It had a gloomy bathroom and an outdated kitchen. But it had five things that I didn’t have in Chiswick and which I really wanted: 1) It was ground floor with, for London anyway, a nice sized garden at the front and back. 2) It had its own front door, rather than a communal entrance hall. 3) By switching the living spaces around I could create a sitting room at the back with bi-fold doors opening onto the garden. 4) It was in a lovely quiet location in a great part of London opposite a small leafy park and 5) I could start from scratch and make it entirely my own.
The auction was unbelievably exciting. I had managed to get all my finances in place by allocating some savings and raising the rest as a mortgage. The guide price was £150,000 which I knew had been set temptingly low, but my absolute top price was £225,000 which would leave me with a budget of £40,000 for a complete renovation. Auctions are obviously a man’s game as there were almost no other women in the conference room of a large central London hotel where the auction took place. I decided to sit at the front so that I’d not be distracted by the other bidders, most of whom seemed to be property developers. The bidding started at £150,000 and I started raising my hand to bid immediately. It rapidly climbed up by £5,000 at each bid and, when someone bid £210,000, I knew that I was nearing my upper limit. I quickly bid £215,000 and was amazed and delighted when my rival bidder dropped out, and the gavel came down for me. With adrenaline pumping, I signed a cheque for 10% of the bid price and signed a promise to complete the transaction within exactly 4 weeks, when the flat would become mine.
My two builders, Mike and Jim, who totally renovated my flat the first time around are the same ones who have just completed my latest remodelling project. In 2004 they did a brilliant job of solving the damp problem, installing the new floors, bathroom, kitchen and bi-fold doors and then painting and decorating throughout. Then in 2010 they returned to add an extension onto my living room and in 2018 to redesign the garden, so they were very familiar with the property and I knew that I could trust them to work consistently over the winter months and to deliver a great result.
And it’s that result that I’d like to share with you having promised to do so in a blog on 16th February called ‘My Stylish Home’ when I showed you my plans and ideas for the finished flat. As I explained, I wanted to end up with a bigger and more spacious bedroom with an ensuite bathroom created from two bedrooms; a kitchen that now incorporates the old bathroom so that it has doubled in size; and a reimagined hall and living room. First time around I went for a much more neutral palette. White walls throughout, white floors, except for oak in the hallway. A mostly white kitchen and a bathroom tiled on the floor and walls in a soft limestone colour . I added splashes of brighter colour with cushions, accessories and pictures, but it was all very Kelly Hoppen. Everything had been done on a shoestring to a tight budget, but I was very happy with the result when I moved into the property having decided to sell the Chiswick flat.
This time, as you can see, I have been much bolder and braver with the decor. I have also had more financial freedom thanks to selling my French house. This is now my ‘forever home’. The reconfigured rooms feel wonderfully spacious and are so nice to live in. I can’t tell you the joy I get from lying in bed in my beautiful bedroom with its adjacent bathroom. Cooking has become a pleasure rather than a chore because I have proper work surfaces and four big drawers with masses of storage space in all those extra cupboards. The long thin entrance hall now looks elegant and inviting rather than cold and utilitarian and my gorgeous F&B Stone Blue Sitting Room is a very happy place in which to both work and relax.
From that glorious moment almost twenty years ago when the gavel fell and the auctioneer pointed at me and said: “‘It’s yours, Madam”, I have loved this flat, and the latest changes have made it perfect for the way I live now. My intention was to ‘future proof’ as much as I can without knowing what the future may hold. In the meantime, I have spent the last month back home pinching myself because I love it all so much. I may need sunglasses when I look at the bright pink magenta sofa, but everything I have chosen makes my heart sing and nourishes my soul. And you can’t ask for more than that.
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Very Happy Easter to you all!
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Friday 14th April
Film Club: Vita and Virginia
Available on Amazon Prime + Curzon Home Cinema
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Day: Friday 14th April 2023
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