The TV and radio presenter and cookbook author guides us around her South-West London home which she shares with her husband, Michael Underwood, and their two children
IMAGE: ELLIS PARRINDER
Where do you live and why?
I have always been a West London girl and always will be; I love how Londoners are so territorial about where they were born and bred! When I first started working for Children’s BBC, I saved as much of my earnings as I could by renting a room in Ealing with a friend’s mum for a few years. When I’d saved enough for a deposit, Ealing was too pricey and I wanted a little house rather than a studio flat. So I took the plunge and moved to Ham in South-West London. I didn’t know anyone there, but I got my little terraced house. I still live in the Borough and it’s now home.
Describe your front door…
It’s a traditional Victorian door painted in a Farrow and Ball grey (I think it’s Plummett) with a traditional round silver knocker, silver letterbox and doorbell. It needs to be repainted, if I’m honest, so I’m thinking of changing the colour to F&B Downpipe to give it a new lease of life. I think a front door says a lot about a home.
I wasn’t keen on the kitchen and didn’t want to buy the house at first, but Michael convinced me, promising me a new kitchen as soon as possible… I’ve had to wait nine years for it!”
What’s the first thing that you did to your home when you moved in?
We had to replace several sash windows as they were old and the place was always freezing cold. Some of the rooms had to be painted and we bought carpet for the bedrooms to make them feel cosy. I wasn’t keen on the kitchen and didn’t want to buy the house at first, but Michael convinced me, promising me a new kitchen as soon as possible… I’ve had to wait nine years for it!
You’ve just released your first cookbook for children, Fantastic Eats! What’s your favourite thing about your home kitchen?
The kitchen has always been the most important room in my house. I love entertaining and it’s always been the place where people congregate. Right now, we are in the middle of renovations – we used to have an old galley kitchen which was literally falling apart, but when the work finishes (which will hopefully be soon) it will be an amazing space with a pitched roof and exposed white rafters. I’m excited about our new pantry which will be brimming with all sorts of ingredients and we have treated ourselves to a new Wolf range cooker which we bought using the money my dad left me when he died.
IMAGE: ELLIS PARRINDER
What’s at the bottom of your garden?
At the moment the garden is a bit of a mess with all sorts lying about, like an old water tank, a sink and a few bags of cement – and the fence is being re-done, too. But we have a beautiful Red Robin Photinia tree waiting to be planted, which we bought at the local Palm Centre in the sale. It’s an evergreen which turns bright red in spring and I can’t wait to see it in place in the garden.
After having a shower, I forgot my towel and had to make a run for it into one room. One of the builders happened to be in there and saw me totally naked!”
What are the most memorable things which have happened in your home?
Apart from amazing New Year’s Eve parties, finding out I was expecting and lugging furniture up and down the stairs over the years, which is always comedy, lots really! One moment that sticks out was shortly after we moved in. We were having some building work done and one morning, after having a shower, I forgot my towel so I had to make a run for it into one of the rooms we were using. Of course, one of the builders happened to be in there measuring and saw me totally naked. I just stood there and froze, so he got a very good look!
What was your childhood home like?
I had two, really. When my mum and dad split up, I moved in with my grandmother and I slept on a small single bed in her room. We were very close and it was brilliant as my school was just around the corner and she was a great cook, so we ate well. After a few years my mum moved my sister and I into a small two-bedroomed Housing Association flat about 20 minutes away, but I’d still see my gran nearly every day as she would bring food to the school gate or I’d go to her house for dinner before jumping on the E2 bus home. The flat had a large communal garden, which was nice, and I spent many summers playing out in it.
If the objects in your home could speak, which would have the best story to tell?
I love antiques and have a few which could tell a tale or two. One object I bought from a vintage shop years ago was an original traffic light from New York City which still lights up. I love the city so much – Michael and I got married there – so I just had to have it. I bet it’s seen its fair share of sights and sounds.
What’s on your bedside table?
I have a few books piled up next to it, including Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which I need to start reading when I get five minutes. Then I have a decorative cup filled with Lego models and little toys that my children gave me to look after for them. So, basically, it’s been commandeered by them!
What makes your house a home?
My home has a warm feeling as soon as you step inside (mainly because I like having the heating on) and it’s full of happiness and laughter. I don’t think people tend to pop round to each other’s houses like we used to, but everyone is always welcome at our home, and I’ll rustle up something tasty to eat!