When I was trying to decide which of my neighbours to feature as a house tour on my blog, my first thought was obviously George, the octogenarian jehovah's witness from number 11 who still has an outside toilet, net curtains and, collected in his backyard, everything made of wood or cardboard that we have left out for recycling over the last 7 years. Unfortunately George was busy taking his beloved K reg Vauxhall Vectra out for it's annual spin around the block so I was forced to go with Tania and Andrew's place instead, starting with their gorgeous, sultry Abigail Ahern inspired sitting room.
When we first moved to the Malmo & Moss House 7 years ago, Tania's house was actually occupied by a different couple who outwardly seemed like respectable, quiet people but who we were shocked to discover were known by everyone else on the street as Fringe Bitch and the Lump. It soon became clear that these monikers were not entirely undeserved as he had a tendency to throw his Mars Bars wrappers in our front garden on his way home from work and she could frequently be heard over the fence using language that would make Gordon Ramsay blush. I was becoming seriously concerned that my son's first words might be "Useless Wankstain" when the for sale sign went up outside their house. Whilst they moved to Saffron Walden, where a generation of children may now be referring to each other as "Dickshits" and "Cumwipes" in the playground, we were very relieved to find ourselves with some very nice new neighbours called Tania and Andrew who didn't appear to hate each other.
Tania is a South African who grew up with her older brother in a mining town two hours outside Joburg. She has a very large extended family on account of her mum having been one of 10 children. A fact Tanya attributes to their not having been many television sets in South Africa back in those days. Am sure the birthrate in the UK must have plummeted 9 months after the BBC first aired Poldark, because what woman in her right mind would want to be being chased around by a pork sword when she could be drinking a cup of tea and watching Captain Ross go topless Scything.
It was a childhood spent mainly outdoors swimming, riding bikes and, on hot rainy afternoons, swinging tennis rackets at the giant flying ants that swarmed the air. Although originally planning to study pharmacy at University, a career dispensing Viagra, betablockers and Preparation H was put on hold after Tania answered a call of the wild and moved to the Isle of Man with her then financier boyfriend. Burnt out by the bright lights of Douglas, Tania moved to London for a quieter life, ending up, along with 1/5th of the rest of the South African population in Wimbledon, South-West London.
It took the love of a good North London man to finally get this Saffa the right side of the river. Although they originally lived together in Kensal Rise, not far from Notting Hill, when it came to buying their first house together it was out of their budget reach. After visiting friends in Palmers Green they liked the feel of the decidedly less trustafarian heavy N21 postcode and thus started looking for a place in neighbouring Winchmore Hill. Visiting on a bright sunny spring day, the estate agent must presumably have done a sweep for Mars Bar wrappers and banished Britain’s unhappiest couple from the house as when she arrived in the street to view the house Tania only remembers our black cat sweetly purring on the pavement and chatting to my other much nicer neighbour who was watering her window boxes (which our other much larger cat has an unfortunate habit of shitting in).
Having moved in, Tania and Andrew set to work transforming the house into the stylish, sophisticated place it is today having inherited a decorating scheme that even Thora Hird would have considered dated. Once the wall to wall Magnolia was gone, they ripped out the bathroom disposing of a shower curtain that mainly clung to Tania’s butt instead of shielding the floor from water. Having initially painted the front room a pale grey, after a couple of years and a Design Masterclass at Abigail Ahern’s house (aka the Duchess of Dark interiors), Tania decided to go all the way over the to the dark side and paint the front room Farrow and Ball’s Off Black.
With a luxe dark grey velvet sofa from Loaf and a contrasting leather seat from Made complimented by metallic curiosities and contemporary artwork it is a grown up, sophisticated and extremely glamourous space inspired by some of some of homes Tania’s favourite Instagram accounts @cowboykate, @mykindofstyling, @artynads, @jazziere and @patirobins. In fact, on days when our kids are refusing to eat anything non beige and recreating the final battle scenes from Star Wars using my candle sticks as light sabres, I am tempted to ask Tania for a key so I can just go and sit in her front room for 15 minutes to regain my sanity.
In her day job, Tania is an IT project manager but whilst migrating virtual data centres secretly dreams of being a game ranger back home in South Africa. Until that dream becomes a reality she has acquired a wild beast of her own to look after in Winchmore Hill: Harry the chocolate brown Labrador. He arrived in Tania and Andrew’s lives at around the same time as our second son was born and, for the first six months of his puppy life, woke them up nearly as many times during the night as our newborn baby. Whilst Tania has never had to spoon feed Harry prune puree to ease his constipation, she has had to rush him to the vet for an emergency stomach pump after he got into a cupboard and ate a 1kg bag of dog food in one sitting.
When not settling down on the velvet sofa of my dreams with Harry at their feet and a G&T from the Rockett St George home bar in the corner, they love eating out in Soho, Mayfair and Covent Garden. Being careful to put a lock on the dog food cupboard before they go out, particular favourites include Dalla Terra, Hawksmoor, Marcus Wareing at the Berkely Hotel and Bob Bob Ricard, a restaurant I need to go to after learning from Tania that it has a champagne button at every table. Although am fairly sure my bank manager would have a different view on how urgently I need to make that trip.
With the living room transformation complete, next projects include a loft extension and, subject to Andrew being won over, painting their currently white high gloss cupboards black! I am hoping that he reacts more calmly to this suggestion than Mr Malmo did when I recently mentioned auctioning off some of his inexplicably large lawn mower collection and dismantling the shed to make way for a contemporary garden office. He would, in his own words, rather light a scented candle and sit down and watch a boxset of Sex in the City than go a mower down. Whilst I may not be able to bring you a blog about my garden office transformation any time soon, I am looking forwards to sharing more of Tania and Andrew’s house with you in future Malmo & Moss Meets.