■ The singer recalls her ‘perfect’ first home — complete with peach tiles
GABRIELLE is one of Britain’s most successful R&B singers, dominating the charts in the 1990s and early noughties with multi-platinum albums, including Gabrielle and best-of compilation Dreams Can Come True.
Born Louisa Gabrielle Bobb, she originally wanted to be a lawyer, but abandoned that ambition to start singing in nightclubs.
Her music career is still going strong, and this year she celebrates the 20th anniversary of her chart-topping album Rise, with an extensive UK tour, Rise Again.
When did you buy your first home?
I bought in 1996, in Catford. It was around the corner from my family and a lovely home in a lovely road. Other houses I’d looked at seemed almost too big. It was just me and my little boy, so the place I found was perfect.
Some said it wasn’t big enough but I stuck to what my heart said and made an offer. It didn’t need too much work, which was good. It was bright with parquet flooring. It did have a green avocado bathroom suite, which I ripped out, but apart from that, the moment I walked in, it felt just right. It was a four-bed 1930s house.
I hadn’t been ready to buy until then. I was travelling a lot after the first album. It wasn’t until 1995, that I really had time to look. I’d had a little rented flat in Sydenham and was hardly ever there while I was doing promo for Dreams.
Your first child was born in 1995. Did that prompt the move?
Yes. Also, in those days, record companies wouldn’t give you a huge lump sum up-front, it would filter through. When I got pregnant, it was time to be a bit more grown up. I had someone else to think about. We moved in just before his first birthday.
Was it daunting to take out a mortgage?
I didn’t have a huge mortgage because I had a great accountant and I paid it off in four years. By the time I sold the house, I got double the amount I paid for it. That was in the boom time, though.
Did you do it up?
I had everything redone. I had the floors resanded. A friend was the most amazing painter and decorator, so he helped out. I had Laura Ashley curtains and lime green walls. I put a fireplace in the living room, which was lovely. I had a big white tub, but everything else was pine. People will think I’m crazy, but I had peach tiles — I had so much fun with it. I’m sorry to anyone who bought the house afterwards. I don’t follow fashion now and didn’t then. If you think it sounds like someone had a spew in it, you are about right!
Where did you move to then?
I got a bit boring and moved to Kent. The next house was more conservative. I put my stamp on it, though. There were a few silver squiggles around. It was modern but quirky. With the house I have now, I still try to be conservative, but it doesn’t work. I still have faux snakeskin here and there on the walls. My friend said, what is your deal with snakes? It’s classy but not brassy. It’s fabulous. I’m the bird who came on the scene with an eye patch, so why conform now?
What are you doing now with your music?
I’m doing so many festivals. I’ve got so much on as well as my tour. New music is something I’m definitely working up to. When the kids were younger I didn’t go away too long but now I love it.