My love of interiors was sparked around the same time I met my husband. Not because he was a stylish bachelor with great taste in cushions. On the contrary, he lived in a room in a shared house with 3 other men who had so little in the way of soft furnishings that it looked like they were constantly waiting for a knock on the door from a Baliff. I still have recurrent nightmares about the bathroom bin that overflowed with "sticky" tissues and the army of pubic hair that marched towards you whenever you turned the shower on. No, the love affair began after he took me home to meet his parents for the first time. His mum runs her own vintage interiors business called Hellish Designs and it was a bit like discovering that Kelly Hoppen is your mother-in-law (with a great eye for vintage instead of a resting bitch face).
By the time we bought our first place together 3 years later, I was an avid reader of Living Etc and a regular attender at vintage fairs like Newark and Lincoln and itching to ditch my husband's extensive collection of black ash furniture from his student days and decorate our first flat together. And it definitely needed decorating. We bought it from a slightly eccentric older lady who lived there alone. It was a one bed flat but, when looking around, she cheerfully informed us that her guests never minded sleeping down in the cellar on a campbed. Am not sure if her guests were escapees of Joseph Fritzl who were just glad she left the door unlocked but we always found ours preferred the sofa instead. We put a new kitchen and bathroom in, spruced up the garden and gave thanks every day that we woke up and the flat hadn't been burnt down by a fire started by the pottery kiln of Julie, our elderly upstairs neighbour who was constantly churning out ceramics that looked like the private parts of a Giraffe (think Ghost but with Demi Moore's Grandma playing the lead role....). Bar an incident where we woke up one morning to discover a human poo and some some soiled trousers on our doorstep (my brother-in-law who was staying with us at the time still denies being the 'Doorstep Shitter'), we had a very happy 3 years in the flat. In 2009, we found out we were expecting our first son so started looking to swap the flat for a house.
In 2009, we found out we were expecting our first son so started looking to swap the flat for a house. With Balham by then having upgraded its Budgens to a Waitrose and sightings of people wearing red trousers and boat shoes having been reported, it quickly became apparent that houses in SW12 were out of our price range. I started to read the Homes & Property section of the Evening Standard as avidly as a teenage boy did Zoo or Nuts magazine and eventually alighted upon the area of Winchmore Hill. A place which approximately 1 in 372,089 Londoners have actually ever heard of. I would like to say that we came on extensive field trips to assess the area, honed it down to a few preferred streets and made close links with local estate agents. The truth is I popped over there once for a cup of tea with a friend and strayed no further than 50 metres from the station. We then came back one Sunday together and bought the first house we saw.
I think what helped us to make such a quick decision (apart from the fact there was a baby imminently about to come out of my vagina) was the fact that the house had period features, 4 really big bedrooms (some others we had looked at would have been considered cramped even by a hamster), and a large garden. It did have a slightly dated kitchen and a conservatory on the back that looked like it had been nicked off the set of Brookside, but we figured we would sort those out in due course. Well, in truth I figured that. Mr Malmo would probably still be happily catching the sun in Sinbad's suntrap being slightly more renovation averse/sensible than I am. After several twists and turns along the way, we finally got the keys three weeks before the baby was due. Six years, three kids and two sets of builders later, it no longer looks quite as much like a filming location for Brookside (unless Sinbad has developed a taste for modern architecture after watching a few episodes of Grand Designs). Tune into future blogposts to find out more about our renovation journey (to borrow a phrase from X factor) and the results.