COMEDIAN Hal Cruttenden was looking for a semi-detached period house when he ended up buying a 1980s, three-storey, four-bedroom, newbuild in Enfield.
‘I walked in and I liked it straight away. It was so unusual,’ he says. ‘It’s all a bit higgedly-piggedly. You have to walk down a couple of stairs to get into the living-room area, for example, and the rooms have high ceilings, so it feels quite spacious.’
That was four years ago, when Hal, 48, and wife Dawn, an artist and illustrator, wanted to move from their Victorian three-bed semi-detached house as children Martha and Grace were getting bigger and the family needed more space.
This new build fitted the bill, with the four bedrooms, two bathrooms and scope for further expansion — in the shape of the ground floor garage. The couple spotted the potential of converting the garage into a more usable space.
‘I knew I wouldn’t bother getting out of the car and opening the door and driving into the garage every day,’ says Hal. ‘I’d have filled it up with clutter. And I’m not the sort of practical man who would say ‘‘I’m going to keep my tools in here and build a cupboard’’.’
A lengthy renovation process took place. It was originally supposed to take ten months but delays meant it lasted over a year. The final result is a modern, vibrant, extra living room, bedroom and ensuite bathroom.
‘Maybe I’m influenced by American TV shows but I like the idea of having a den. I love watching rugby and having a beer and thinking ‘‘this is my den’’. But of course it isn’t my den because the kids have taken it over.’
The basement living room has been painted with Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue, and features a huge Ikea sofa, brightened up with colourful cushions from TK Maxx, and a couple of zebra-print rugs. There are artworks on the wall — including a portrait of Grace Kelly by an artist friend and a Rocky film poster, which Dawn bought to celebrate Hal’s win on Celebrity Mastermind.
‘My specialist subject was the Rocky films and I didn’t get a single question wrong,’ says Hal. There are some vintage pieces of furniture as well, contrasting with the more modern items, including a Victorian nursing chair. But Hal seems to find it a bit difficult to keep track on where some of the things came from. ‘The armoire is Hal’s grandmother’s. I keep my art stuff in there,’ says Dawn.
‘That was my grandmother’s?’ asks Hal.
‘When did she have that, then?’ he asks. ‘I’m so dozy.’
The upstairs open-plan living and dining room has a more retro feel. There are two large leather sofas, an armchair from Hal’s parents that Lexi the German Pointer cross enjoys sitting on, and a variety of interesting decorative objects in bell jars. The room has unusual proportions and the most eye-catching feature is the diagonal wall decorated with a huge picture of flowers. It looks as if it’s been painted onto the wall, but it’s wallpaper from bespoke print company Surface View.
‘They have a collection of paintings from the National Gallery and you can order on canvas or paper. You measure the wall and choose the part of the painting you want to zoom in on. You can’t even see the seam,’ says Dawn.
Another wall is covered with Dawn’s art — including Alice in Wonderland-esque pictures of children in a variety of old -ashioned costumes.
‘Stevie Nicks owns some of the originals,’ says Hal. ‘Fleetwood Mac’s make-up artist saw me doing Live At The Apollo when she was on a flight. She chatted to me on Facebook, offered us tickets to see Fleetwood Mac at The O2, and then said Stevie Nicks wanted to buy some of Dawn’s art for her house in California.’
While the building work took longer than anticipated, they both say it’s been worth it. ‘We wanted to move here as the children were growing and we needed more space,’ says Hal. ‘And the basement conversion has added more room in addition to that.’
Like many parents they are concerned about the longer-term ramifications of the out-of-control London property market. ‘It will be useful to have that extra space as the children get older,’ says Hal. ‘It could even be turned into a self-contained flat.’ Dawn jokes: ‘Yes, we’ve done it so when the girls grow up, and can’t afford to live in London, we can charge them extortionate amounts of rent.’
■ Hal Cruttenden: Chubster is at the Pleasance Courtyard, 9pm, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe during August then tours nationally, halcruttenden.com
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