As part of our new interview series, My Happy Home, we sit down with Martin Roberts to find out about the best decorating advice he has ever received — and why he loves a bargain at B&M.
Martin is a property expert, author and journalist who has been presenting BBC One’s daytime property auction series, Homes Under the Hammer, since its inauguration in 2003. He has also written two books, Teach Yourself Making Money from Property and The Property Auction Guide, and is a guest presenter on The Jeremy Vine Show which airs on BBC Radio.
What makes you happiest at home?
MR: Cuddling up on the sofa with my kids and the dog, and then watching a movie in front of the fire with a glass of wine. I mean it is a bit cliché, but that’ll do for me!
What is the best home bargain you’ve ever snapped up?
MR: I buy a lot of things from charity shops. There’s this place in Wales where I bought literally every single piece of furniture from. This lovely sofa I’m sitting on now – a beautiful, leather sofa – was around £100, which came with my armchair that the dog’s sitting on now. I think it was a great deal and I don’t care that it’s second-hand.
Recently, I went down to the flower shop because I wanted some for a photoshoot. I ended up buying fake flowers and eight vases for £18 from the charity shop, compared to over £30 for some real flowers and one vase at the flower shop. I’ve always loved shopping around for second-hand items or antiques. I love car boot sales, charity shops and reusing things. The only thing is I’m not great at getting rid of them, which drives my wife insane.
Tell us about your favourite memory at home
MR: My favourite memory is bringing our first son home. I was quite late in my life when I had a child, so it was a massive thing to have kids. When we brought Scott home as a tiny little baby from the hospital, we had three golden retrievers at the time. I’ll never forget coming home and seeing the dogs bounding out of the house. When they saw Scott, they knew that something special had happened. It was like that scene from the start of the Lion King where all the animals bow down. These dogs completely understood that something big had happened. It was very sweet. People try and pretend that cats come anywhere close…
What is the best decorating advice you have ever received?
MR: That would probably be whoever told me about door stripping. You just take the door off, give it to someone else, and they’ll take it and dip it in a tank of chemicals, charge you £40, and give it back when it’s beautiful. All the doors in my house were stripped. They look much better, and it’s saved me so much pain.
Another decorating tip is to use masonry paint on external walls, especially if you have rough stone walls. Exterior masonry paint is really thick, so it can cover up a multitude of sins.
Where do you shop for the best homewares?
MR: I’m a huge fan of places like B&M, The Range and Trago Mills. I love those kinds of places. They have truly fantastic stuff and great bargains. If you’ve never been to Trago, go to Trago. It’s not exactly ideal if you live in London, but they are awesome.
If you could have a snoop around anyone’s house, whose would it be and why?
MR: I think that I would like to snoop around Buckingham Palace. I would love to see the inside, such as where the Queen and the Royal Family really live. What kind of bits and pieces have they got lying around? What kind of memorabilia? What’s the furniture like? You get glimpses in the pictures, but I’d love to know if there are pizza boxes on the floor. I just think that would be great.
What is your most treasured possession at home? Why is it so special?
MR: I’m a bit of a collector, so my house is a bit of a living diary filled with where I have been. Many things don’t have much real value, but they have personal value to me. My parents bought me a piano for my 40th birthday when my mum was still alive and it’s one of my most treasured possessions. I’ve also got a few teddy bears that I’ve been given over my life, which are special to me. One makes me laugh when I look at him.
What would your perfect night at home look like?
MR: A hot bath with candles and a glass of wine. Then, I’d slip into my pyjamas and have some really basic hearty food, like a freshly made pizza or steak and chips. I’d eat it on the sofa whilst watching a James Bond movie and cuddling the kids and dog.
What does your outdoor space mean to you?
MR: I don’t have a huge garden, but I do have a bit of garden so I’m very much at home in nature. While it’s great to have an outdoor space, it’s more important to have great access to open woodland where I can really get into nature — that matters a lot to me. Definitely during lockdown, having a garden with a fishpond, some nice trees, grass, hot tub, and a trampoline for the kids, you certainly treasured it. I felt very sorry for people who were locked up in flats, with a balcony if they were lucky.
Which room do you spend most of your time in? How did you decorate this space?
MR: My office is probably where I spend most of my time, since I work from home. The walls are covered in all sorts of things, including old Fawlty Towers scripts signed by John Cleese, Monty Python scripts and a lot of memorabilia. It’s a real eclectic room, filled with memories. The decoration is bland, but it’s full of stuff. If I go for noisy decoration, it’s a bit of a disaster, since my house is very noisy because of all my rubbish. Well, I call it my memories, my wife calls it rubbish.
What would top your list for the worst decor trend?
MR: Mustard! I think anything which is overly harsh, jagged and glaring, such as green, mustard, purple or brown. These colours are the worst, along with striped wallpaper and fluorescent lighting. Lighting is something which is often forgotten, and it makes such a difference. Sometimes you’ll go into a pub and think ‘what on earth have you done?’ You’ve put in the most obnoxious white light with fluorescent fittings. What were you thinking?
If you could design your dream home, what things would you want to include?
MR: An infinity swimming pool overlooking an estuary or the sea.
Martin Roberts is currently working with Gas Safe Register – the UK’s official registration body for gas engineers and gas businesses to help the nation better understand the risks to our health, wealth and safety when not dealing with niggling issues within our homes.
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