Saturday, 10 November 2012

The future's bright. The future's white walls.

We've sold the house in Fulham, and the one in St Tropez.

We've taken a cute little rented house in a classic Chelsea back street.

The mortgage has gone. The bills are paid. Even the daughter's outrageous Francis Holland school fees have come to an end.

Perhaps more presciently, any remaining career in advertising seems to have fizzled out too.

So now what?

I know, lets do up some properties and make loads of money!

It's easy, right.  London's awash, after all, with dim and desperate foreigners ready to sealed bid their way to a £2500 per square foot blandly modernised mean little flat.

Jolly good. Bring it on, then.

Before you die laughing at the sheer madness of this idea, I should add that we may be foolish but we're not quite certifiably insane.

We do have a bit of form in the property world.

In the last 12 years we've done up two wonderful London homes and four gorgeous French bolt-holes. And done pretty well out of it, to be honest. But, they've been our homes. An investment in our lifestyle, rather than hard-nosed business propositions.

First up was a tiny 17th century garret in Paris's Latin Quarter. The memory of it still has me damp eyed with romantic nostalgia. There was hardly room to swing a chat, and it was 84 steps up a winding, worn and wonky wooden staircase. But the views across the roofs to the Pantheon were wonderful, the precarious little balcony over Rue St Jaques tres charmante and the flea market furnishings so, well, chic.

Indeed, we did such a good job that when we came to sell, the buyer wanted everything down to the last bit of cutlery.

Back in SW15 we bought a lovely home in a shocking location (right on the South Circular). The buses and lorries pounding past at all hours shook the house to its foundations. But it was big enough for the five of us to get along relatively smoothly, and as the agents say 'had potential'.

In came the preposterously expensive (but beautifully made and installed) Bulthaup kitchen, limestone floors, walk through showers, steam room and sandblasted glass doors. Out went most of the downstairs walls...and therefore any chance to get away from eachother.

In France we moved south, completely gutting and modernising an apartment overlooking a St Tropez beach with the aid (apparently) of a trendy Portobello based architect.

After endless fractious rows with our downstairs neighbours, we swapped this for a detached house just along the road that belonged to a well known rock star. He'd clearly bought it in his poorer days as it was not nearly grand enough for him any longer (so he'd installed his parents). Still, it had a good view of the moon (if not its dark side) and steps from its garden led directly onto the beach.

Perfection. Well, yes, in many ways it was. For a year we even lived the dream, with a speed boat moored in the bay. (Its demise in a storm is another story.)

We bought the house for a snip, and sold 3 years later for a far, far less modest sum. And all we'd actually done was throw out lots of heavy old furniture, paint everything white and lay grass in the garden!

Now that's what I call pied de la eau
In London, we shortened our postcode to SW6, and moved to a house virtually on the King's Road near that charming football stadium Stamford Bridge. (Gosh, I do so miss the smell of urine after a match.)

Surrounded by not just footie fans, but several nightclubs, this wasn't a house for those seeking the quiet life. But once again we set to improving it. And over 5 years we saw its value more than double.

So SW6. Colour too!

During this period, there was also another house in France: a massive renovation of a country property. But I'm now almost as bored as you must be. So that's enough of that.

Our aim now is to use this 'experience' to become semi-professional do-er uppers of tired or expandable central London properties and make enough to pay our rent, cover our not entirely inexpensive lifestyle and leave a bit over for when we can't face another day with builders or estate agents.

I thought it might be amusing to track our progress (or lack of) via an occasional blog. The Do-er Upper Diary. Please read on.
Before emptying our bank account...

...and after.

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