Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Licking my wounds in the country.

I love doing up properties.

Seeing a tired, neglected and badly configured space transform into something desirable, comfortable and usable is immensely satisfying.

Of course there are always going to be problems - disputes with builders, unexpected expenses, inefficient suppliers, jobsworth planners, chippy tradesmen, unnecessary delays - but these bumps in the road are nothing to the pleasure of seeing a finished project.

I remember coming downstairs day after day at our Putney house and marvelling at the vast opened up space, the beautifully engineered Bulthaup kitchen and the sheer luxury of it (by my standards, anyway).

The same was true when we transformed a dull, dark beach-front apartment in St Tropez, a crumbling villa in the Var vineyards, a neglected semi in Fulham and a tiny garret in Paris. Each one has left a deep impression on me.

More recently, of course, there's been the flat in Egerton Gardens (recently marketed as London's most expensive studio flat) and the little house in Kensington.

I don't think I can ever completely give up this part of my life. But whether it's still a viable way to make some kind of a living is another question entirely.

Not only has the smug draper's son, our friend Mr Osborne, turned into a modern-day Sheriff of Nottingham with his unwarranted tax raids, but prices across the board in London do seem out of kilter with real incomes.

When very ordinary, small Fulham houses are over £2m and deeply unattractive flats south of the river are £1m, it's not just me that's priced out of the market. It's most people. Even very successful people.

All things considered, therefore, I'm taking a bit of a step back. Still looking at the market. Still keeping

an eye on what's out there. But rushing into nothing. And focussing instead on the work we need to do at our house in Somerset.

We have a lot to do. Both inside and out.

The house is currently very top heavy. All bedrooms and little living space. So we need to knock through a couple of walls. Take out one of the staircases. Put in some new windows. Fit a new kitchen. Revamp a boot room, guest loo and a bathroom. And completely rethink a small lower ground floor room that's destined eventually to be my 'study'.

Outside we need to move a 2000 litre oil tank, scrap a second tank, dig trenches for new oil pipes, complete a new 'mediterranean' garden on a terrace, manage a 3/4 acre walled garden we now rent and lay about 50 metres of brick paved paths.

All of this needs to be done while thinking up ways in which I can earn some money to be able to afford it all.

And on that note, I think I need a little lie down....

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