■ The TV presenter, 48, on using the lockdown to spring clean, her lonely chicken and the homes of celebrities
What can people expect from Renovate Don’t Relocate?
It’s saying, don’t think you need to extend or move house until you’ve explored all the possibilities and made the very best of the space you have. Often people think their houses don’t work for them and, actually, it’s because they haven’t really thought about how they use them. The idea came to me about 15 years ago when I went to a Victorian terrace with a double reception room at the front. The front room in this style of house is almost always empty as it’s used for when people want to be posh — but they never have time to be. The hallways are full of buggies, wellies and coats, and then they extend the kitchen at the back when they have plenty of space already. If you think laterally, you can make better use of the space you have.
You set up cameras and have a life-size floor plan…
If you log which areas of a home people use you can turn the bits they don’t use into the space they think they need. The life-size floor plan enforces what’s kind of obvious when you’re looking objectively at the occupiers. It takes away the element of them not being sure because often people can’t visualise so much alteration.
Can renovation be satisfying?
It’s like having a coat that doesn’t fit because the arms are too long, then having it tailored so suddenly it fits properly. You’re like, ‘That’s right!’ Often we design our homes for right now and, by the time we’ve finished, right now is yesterday, especially when children come along. If you have a baby, you shouldn’t design it for the baby, you should design it for a five- to ten-year-old because they grow up awfully quickly and then you think, ‘I’ve got bunnies on the wall!’ so you have to do it all again.
Will everyone want to change their homes after spending so much time in them?
It will be interesting. There will be a lot of divorces and lots of pregnancies! But now is a very good time to have a freshen-up — move your furniture around and have a good spring clean.
What if you don’t have much space?
We’re really lucky because we’re on a farm in Somerset but I think space is the biggest issue. It’s also a really good time to go through all your cupboards and get rid of things you don’t use. I imagine charity shops are going to be the winner at the end of this. The big thing the virus lockdown has given us is time and we never have time, do we? So let’s try to make sure we use it well.
Can I hear chickens in the background?
I only have one. We had all sorts of lovely chickens but a fox ate them so my one, lonely chicken follows me around all the time because I give her mealworms.
How many animals do you have?
We have a dog, two cats and a very sweet pygmy hedgehog. We also have two peacocks, who ate all the chives. They seem to eat everything, actually. And quite a lot of sheep but they’re not here because they are about to lamb. They will be back soon and that will keep everyone amused. I did a lambing season when I was 17 so I wouldn’t say I’m an experienced sheep farmer.
You moved there from London so life has changed a lot…
Yes, it has. We’re building a house so where I’ve started gardening is a temporary garden. We’re living in a farmhouse at the moment but it will have to be demolished once the new house is finished. We’ll be here until Christmas, probably, although who knows now? It’s really exciting, building a house. We’re doing it for a Channel 4 series that was meant to air in the autumn but I’m not sure how that’s going to work now.
How did Round The Houses come about? Do you have a lot of celebrity friends?
I wouldn’t say I have a lot of celebrity friends. I just have friends and some of them happen to be well known. I’ve met a lot of well-known people and the ones I really like, I visited.
Whose homes were you most excited by?
YouTuber Joe Sugg’s flat was eye-wateringly amazing. I met him on Sunday Brunch and didn’t know him at the time but we swapped numbers and then he called me when he was deciding whether to buy a flat. I told him not to, which is quite funny. I gave him very boring, maternal advice — to invest in a standard old house instead — but his is the kind of place that’s really cool and funky if you’re young and successful so he was probably right. I was fascinated by comedian Julian Clary’s house — it was absolutely beautiful. Radio broadcaster Lynn Bowles I really love and her house is gorgeous too. It’s just interesting to see how other people live.
■ Sarah Beeny’s Renovate Don’t Relocate is on Tuesdays at 8pm on HGTV