WHEN singer Matt Cardle, 35, won the 2010 series of X Factor — including the much-hyped ‘£1million record contract’ prize — he didn’t rush straight out and buy a pop-star mansion, he kept on renting.
‘That £1m contract isn’t £1m in cash — it’s the potential to earn that kind of money, as any record contract is,’ he says.
Instead, he rented a flat in Finchley. ‘I was still classed as a self-employed singer. To get a mortgage I would have had to show three years of accounts. So I kept on renting and saved up.’
Matt eventually decided to get on the property ladder in 2013. ‘I looked at how much money I’d spent on rent. It was disgusting. So I started looking for a place I could live in, and also work from.’
He chose a two-bedroom flat in Kensal Rise because musicians he was working with lived in the area.
‘I was spending a lot of time coming here, working with producers such as Ben Cullum, who is Jamie Cullum’s brother, so it made sense to buy here.’
The first thing Matt did was change one bedroom into a home studio and install dimmer switches. ‘It’s cosy, especially if you’re entertaining,’ he says. ‘My mate’s an electrician and he did it for me.’
The flat has an unusual design — neither bedroom has a window. Instead they both have a glass wall looking into the living room/kitchen, with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows illuminating the bedrooms.
One bathroom had a door opening into the living room which Matt blocked off, replacing it with a wall and shelving.
The unusual layout of the flat might present problems if the occupier had a lot of furniture to arrange, but Matt has taken a minimalist approach. There’s a big corner sofa, coffee table, TV, a small dining table and pair of chairs.
The main feature of the room is Matt’s collection of guitars, which dominates one corner, artfully arranged and backlit.
The most eye-catching one has been smashed up — with a colour-changing LED sitting inside.
‘That was bought for me by an ex-bandmate,’ says Matt. ‘It was expensive. One night I did a gig. My girlfriend at the time saw a girl speaking to me afterwards. She left the pub in a rage. I’d left the guitar at her place. I went round and asked where it was, and she said she’d thrown it in the river. I couldn’t believe it.
‘But I went to the river and lo and behold, there it was — completely wrecked. I hung it up on the wall here.
‘One night it all came flooding back to me and I stamped on it. But it broke so perfectly where I put my foot through it I’m really chuffed with it. So I put a light in it and now it looks like an art installation.’
The double bass is on long-term loan from his old school. ‘They’d named one of the music rooms after me,’ Matt says. ‘I visited and they were using it as a store cupboard. This double bass was in there and I asked if I could borrow it. It’s on my album Porcelain,’ he says.
Other decorative touches include a skateboard fixed to a wall.
Elsewhere, small lamps are dotted around. ‘They’re made from chunks of Himalayan salt,’ says Matt. ‘I sing in here and I don’t want it to be stuffy. They’re supposed to have air-purifying qualities.’
Matt’s studio, where he recorded his new album Time To Be Alive, features an award for selling two million copies of his debut album Letters. ‘That’s just to fill up a space,’ says Matt. ‘I don’t like having a lot of music stuff up. I’ve been to some people’s houses and they have all their stuff up. I think: “Alright, calm down.” If you’re a heart surgeon you don’t put all your medical certificates up in people’s faces.’
Thick carpeting on the studio walls helps deaden the sound. ‘I’ve only been asked to keep the noise down once,’ says Matt. ‘I work with headphones as much as possible but sometimes you need the speakers pumping…’
‘I get studio envy more than house envy,’ he admits. ‘I’d want to keep this flat to work in. It’s got everything I need, but maybe, in a year or so, I’d like to buy somewhere else to live in.’
■ Matt Cardle’s new album Time To Be Alive is out now, mattcardlemusic.com
Matt’s decorating top tip? ‘Get someone else to do it’
When Matt competed in his series of X Factor, almost every episode referred to him as a ‘painter and decorator’. So what are Matt’s top tips for DIY wall painting? ‘Get someone else to do it because it’s boring,’ he says.
‘Get a decent roller and if you’re going to gloss something, make sure you sand it first. But I wasn’t actually a painter and decorator — I’d painted a few hotel rooms and done a few things for a mate’s dad but that’s it. I was a singer-songwriter in a band but you can’t say that on TV. It’s not an underdog story if you say: “This guy has been training for this his whole life.” It’s easier for them to say: “Here’s a painter and decorator who can sing.”’