An abandoned plot – and plenty of imagination – allowed one family to create their dream home in south east London without moving.
Who lives here? Nicki Bamford-Bowes, interior designer and founder of & Then They Went Wild, her husband Matt, a global strategy leader at a creative agency, and their children Oscar, Bertie, and Bo.
The property: A five-bedroom Victorian semi-detached house in Forest Hill, London, split over three floors.
Price: £420,000 | Money spent: £120,000 (excluding land) | What is it worth now? £1,200,000.
With a desire for more outside space and a bedroom for each of their three children, Nicki Bamford-Bowes and her husband Matt were considering moving from London to the countryside. ‘Our intention was to stay here for five years,’ explains Nicki, who appeared on BBC Two’s Interior Design Masters. ‘We bought in a rush when I was pregnant with Oscar, and although we loved the house, the garden was too small.’
The couple found a beautiful property with a big garden and some land in Kent. ‘It was the country dream,’ says Nicki. ‘But we got cold feet when we realised just how far it was from a town – and that we love London life.’ With the two older children settled at school, the couple decided to look on the outskirts of Forest Hill instead. ‘Then the school catchment area was reduced, so if we moved even a little farther out, Bo wouldn’t have got into the same school as the boys,’ says Nicki. ‘Essentially, we ended up looking for the same house with a bigger garden.’
With the Stamp Duty this would have incurred, it didn’t make financial sense, so the couple sought other options. Homing in on a patch of land adjacent to their garden, they approached their neighbour about buying the 10 x 10 metre plot. ‘It wasn’t being used – it just seemed to have become a gathering place for the local foxes,’ remembers Nicki. ‘Acquiring the land gave us the larger garden we wanted and the opportunity to do much more to the house.’