TV’s property guru – and self-confessed minimalist – Amanda Lamb on how she keeps her family home in order and why she loves living near Richmond. Words: April Clare Welsh
The image of a black velvet-clad Scottish Widow gracefully pulling back her hooded medieval cloak is certainly an enduring one. Amanda Lamb assumed that coveted small screen role in 1994 and remained a living icon of our television sets throughout the 90s and early noughties – covering nine advertising campaigns in total – before eventually hanging up her hood in 2005.
Born in Portsmouth in 1972, and now a proud Surrey resident, the model, actor and TV presenter started her career as an estate agent – which could be seen as prescient considering her current position as a TV property aficionado. Amanda talks animatedly about home buying, living in Richmond and sprucing up her house for summer.
When she left school at 15, she worked selling property in Hampshire for five years until she was scouted by various modelling agencies during a trip to Clothes Show Live. Settling on the iconic agency Storm aged 21, she moved to London where she initially lived in Wandsworth before moving to Putney.
‘I wanted to buy a house and couldn’t afford properties in Putney or Richmond so I ended up in Twickenham,’ she recalls. ‘At that time, Twickenham wasn’t really much of an up-and-coming area but it was what I could afford and it was only two miles away from my chosen destination.’ Amanda bought a two-bedroomed terraced cottage for £160,000 in 1999 and says she thinks they’re now going for somewhere in the region of £600,000.
She has lived around the Richmond area for over 15 years. ‘I love the fact that there are such big, wide open spaces here,’ she smiles. ‘We’re really lucky as we’ve got Richmond Park on our doorstep and Hampton Court is just around the corner. The older you get, you need change, and I now have children – the schools around me are fantastic. There’s an air of community here – we know all the shopkeepers by name. Where we are it still feels like a little village even though we’re only 12 miles from central London.’
In 2001 Amanda shed some of the layers of mystery acquired as a Scottish Widow by landing a presenting job on Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun. Since then, she has presented a number of TV shows, including Market Kitchen and What the Neighbours Did. She can often be seen on The Wright Stuff and most recently has been presenting My Flat-Pack Home, in which she travels around the UK documenting the grand-design projects of homeowners.
Married to cameraman Sean McGuinness since 2012, they have two young daughters – Willow Rose and Lottie – which means she has had to rethink the way in which she arranges her home décor. She tells me it’s one of the hardest things she’s struggled with. ‘I’ve always been quite minimalistic. Everything has its own place, and all of a sudden you have these two small hurricanes who run around the house leaving a trail of destruction in their path! I’ve had to think much more carefully about how we decorate the interior of our house. We’ve just had a new kitchen put in and for me, whereas before it was all about the look of the kitchen, now it’s also about the practicality,’ she laughs. ‘I’ve had to think about storage, where we’ll put the kids’ toys, how we live in a house and I think that’s very important.
‘We’ve got a designated play area for the kids but instead of having toys all over the place I’ve had a big custom-built cupboard made so that at the end of the day it all goes away and our living space is back to being a grown-up space again. I’ve just had to be very clever with storage solutions since they’ve come along because they come with so much stuff!’
We ask Amanda for her tips on how best to update a house. ‘I think with each room in your property you need to create a focal point – whether it is wallpaper, a mirror, a painting or an interesting piece of furniture,’ she says. ‘Things like soft furnishings and upholstery – all of that makes such a huge difference. Even a few cushions and an old throw can give a sofa a whole new lease of life.
Smell is very important in a property too, she says. ‘I’ve been in some shockers where you’ve got dogs, cats, smokers… so think about how your house smells and fill it with fragrances. You can use candles, plug-ins or when spring comes, open a window.’
And if you’ve got a house that’s threatening to overwhelm you in terms of the stuff you have in it, take it a room at a time and be ruthless, she advises. ‘There’s something really cathartic about clearing and a top tip I would give is to have three boxes; one of things to keep, one for charity, and one I call the ‘sentimental box’ for the letters, the kids’ drawings, the mugs your mother bought you, whatever they are; things you can’t bear to part with but that you don’t need on a daily basis. Stick them in a box and then in your loft where they’re out of sight but not out of mind.’
Having made such a successful career out of property and fashion, Amanda is adamant that the former will never go out of the latter. I ask her why. ‘I think it’s because we are all totally and utterly obsessed with property,’ she grins. ‘I think we’re all inherently nosy and we all love having a good look around people’s houses and we’re all obsessed. I can’t see that changing any time soon!’
Amanda Lamb is supporting Age UK (ageuk.org.uk). Selling Houses with Amanda Lamb, Tuesdays 9pm on More 4