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My First Home: Ed Byrne

Byrne’s nights:
Ed’s Muswell Hill
pad became a
celeb hangout

Stand-up comedian Ed Byrne has appeared on TV shows including Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo. He is currently performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

What was the first property you bought?

A flat in Muswell Hill in 1999. I was 27 and everybody was telling me I had to buy a flat. I had friends in Muswell Hill and Highgate so looked there. I was renting a flat in Battersea and before that I’d rented all over London.

How many places had you rented?

When I moved to London I moved around at least once a year. Me and Ross Noble shared a flat in Turnpike Lane for six months, then Leytonstone, Finsbury Park and Battersea for a year each — then I bought my flat. We were filthy. We never tidied up. There were rats in every house we lived in. When we were in Finsbury Park we carried eight bin bags of rubbish out of the place, actual litter, not just things you don’t need any more. The neighbour came out spraying air freshener and said ‘I think my cat’s just been sick’.

Did you view many places before you bought?

No, I only looked at three flats. It was a first-floor flat and it had a big, long garden. Then a couple of years later the flat downstairs went up for sale and I bought that and knocked the two together. It had originally been a Victorian townhouse. I wasn’t really looking to buy anything else but the flat came up and I thought ‘Why not?’

Was it worth it?

Absolutely not. I was single, no dependents, doing quite well at the time and all my mates would come over — it became quite a party house. It was an extravagance. People who were first moving to London came to stay with me. Dara Ó Briain lived in that house. But it wasn’t a wise financial decision as I didn’t make any money on it. You make money by turning houses into flats, not the other way around. I ended up with four bedrooms, a big kitchen /diner and a decent-sized living room.

What were the challenges of doing the conversion?

I was away in Dublin doing a sitcom when the work was done, which was handy. I couldn’t get a plumber for ages. I’d employed a project manager. I said, ‘For the extra ten per cent I’m paying you to project manage I could pay myself to find a plumber who doesn’t turn up — you’re supposed to be able to find me a plumber.’ It took six months but it was done eventually.

Where did you go after that?

Essex. I moved to the countryside as I got fed up having noisy neighbours. They’d yell at each other and then kick their dog out into the garden, where it would yap like an absolute beast.

What’s your taste in interiors?

I leave it all to my wife. There’s only a couple of things I’ve been insistent on. One was the breakfast bar in the kitchen. When we sit at it I point out it was my idea. And I’ve turned the garage into a workshop. I’m trying to develop carpentry skills. I’m making a paddle for a canoe. If you think of what I would have been paid in man hours for how long it’s taken me so far I could have bought 200 paddles.

Did you take sentimental items with you when you move?

No. Once in the 1990s I moved quickly out of a flat when I broke up with a girl and I left behind a tambourine I’d caught when a backing singer threw it into the crowd at a Prince concert. It had the Prince symbol on it in gold. I left that hanging on a wall in West Norwood. And on another move I left my vinyl records behind. I returned and found everyone had moved out and my records were all gone.

Ed Byrne is performing If I’m Honest at Assembly Rooms at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until August 25, then touring,