HEART Radio presenter Sian Welby, 31, moved into a flat of her own back in April — and the novelty still hasn’t worn off.
‘I moved because after eight years of living in London I was sick of having housemates,’ she says.
‘To some people this is just a small little city flat, but to me it’s the biggest space in London I’ve ever had. I’ve got an actual living room that’s mine, a balcony and a bathroom that I don’t have to share and I’ve got a sofa that pulls out into a double bed so I can finally have guests.
‘I’ve got a cupboard in the hall I can put coats and suitcases in instead of piling them all up in my room. It’s great!’
Sian first moved to London in late 2010. Spotted by the then Channel 5 owner Richard Desmond after appearing in a magazine advert, she was given a two-week crash course in meteorology and signed up as one of the channel’s weather presenters.
This led to more jobs covering entertainment events and film premieres. But while her work saw her mingling with the stars on an array of red carpets, life at home — as for many house sharers in their 20s — was less glamorous.
‘I lived with one guy who would shave his whole body in the shower and when you went in there afterwards there’d be a rug of hair on the bottom,’ Sian reminisces with a shudder. ‘Then there was one who would fry food at 11pm and the whole place would smell of fat. There’s only been one sofa in every flat I’ve lived in — so when you get in and someone is on it, it’s like “OK, I better go to bed then.’’ And that’s not to mention things like people leaving their pants there!’
Her stories will be all too familiar to London’s many house-sharers.
‘There were the times I’d have really early starts and try to get to bed early — and it would be the one night everyone would have their friends back for a party. Or the occasion I came back at night to find 12 Australians having a party in the living room. It’s fine, but it gets a bit much…’
So, this spring, Sian finally decided she would rent a place of her own — but was shocked by what was available.
‘It was pretty grim. I was looking around Clapham where the prices were very high. I went to one place which had a sofa in the middle of the living room that was covered in stains and had a massive dip in the middle where it was broken. The woman renting the flat said, “We can get rid of it if you want, but we won’t replace it.” They were renting the place as “furnished”.’
Sian began to look further out to make her money stretch further and now rents a new-build one-bed flat in the Balham area.
The first thing she bought after moving in was a mid-century inspired drinks cabinet from furniture store Swoon, along with a matching TV bench and pair of stools.
‘I wanted to have friends round and do it properly, so I also bought nice glasses — I’m very pleased with it.’ A retro record player from Urban Outfitters now sits on top, next to the framed signature of Ed Sheeran, who scribbled her the note after she interviewed him for her show.
The retro theme continues in the kitchen, with a set of 1950s weighing scales that her mother bought her — ‘I’ve made a cake with them but they’re a fuss to use,’ admits Sian — and some Smeg electricals. ‘I’ve always wanted a four-slice toaster and now I have one! It’s still exciting for me — it’s the little things…’ she says, laughing.
Sian says she’s found herself cooking more often now that she doesn’t have to share the kitchen. Her favourite cookery book, by rapper Coolio, is propped up on the counter.
There are also pictures on the wall — a vintage tube poster and a poster of a Swiss hotel Sian and her boyfriend stayed at. Sian was disconcerted to find they were the only two people staying in the 200-room hotel that night. ‘It felt like something out of a horror film,’ she says.
Sian may be settled in to her flat now but there were a few teething problems. ‘There was so much I forgot to buy,’ she says. ‘I’d buy cereal then come home and realise I didn’t have any bowls. So I’d buy bowls, then forget I didn’t have any spoons. I’d buy microwavable rice, forgetting I didn’t have a microwave,’ she laughs.
Sian is enjoying having her own space to herself for the first time and is now thinking of buying.
‘That’s the aim,’ she says. ‘I’d want to stay in south London, ideally, but after moving here I’d probably want a new build. I’ve lived in conversions and sometimes they’re a bit higgledy-piggledy and things don’t fit in. I’m enjoying where I am right now but it’s an in-between stage.’
■ Sian Welby is on Heart Radio, Mondays to Thursdays at 7pm