AS A presenter on Sky Sports, Hayley McQueen has a glamorous career on the television — but when it came to buying a home even she found herself priced out of the London property market.
Hayley, 39, had been renting a two-bedroom flat over a shop in posh Chiswick for several years. ‘If I had bought a flat there when I first moved to the area I’d have made a lot of money,’ she says of the area’s increasing house prices. ‘But I’m self-employed and move around for work and didn’t know how long I would be in London, so I put it off.
‘I was presenting for Sky but I wasn’t in a financial position to buy a property. I was single and enjoying life and spending money rather than saving it.
‘My family live in Teesside and thought it was hilarious I was still renting a flat in London.’
Things changed when Hayley found romance with actor Kirk Newmann and they decided to buy a place together. ‘I wanted somewhere to live, not something for an investment, and I wanted a house — so we had to look outside the M25 to do that.
‘But I travel around the world for my job so I still wanted to be fairly near Heathrow airport.’
The search took eight months and included an offer that was accepted, but fell through. Eventually they found a cottage in a small village near Marlow.
‘We found this and loved it so it all worked out for the best,’ says Hayley. ‘It’s three bedrooms, detached with a drive and garden — and cost less than the flat I was renting in London was valued at.’
The house was in good condition so no structural work was required. ‘But since we’d both been renting we had to start from scratch and buy everything — cooking utensils, furniture, appliances… It’s a Victorian cottage and we wanted the interiors to reflect that.’
The sofa and chairs are leather and tweed and Hayley has upcycled some old pieces of furniture from vintage shops. ‘I watched some tutorial videos and used a lot of chalk paint,’ she explains of her made-over drawers and dressers. ‘It’s quite countrified. I’ve been to Soho Farmhouse and love their rustic style. And I take inspiration from boutique hotels and Pinterest.’ The couple decided against wall units in the kitchen to give the room a more spacious look.
‘We haven’t put things in cupboards so I needed things that were practical and attractive, since they are on display,’ says Hayley.
She found the solution on website Etsy, where she bought interestingly decorated crockery.
Hayley’s dining room is a bit of a departure from the country theme — she has painted it black. The look was inspired by a portrait of Elvis she had bought, which is now the centrepiece of the room. ‘The picture has a gold trim on a black frame and I’ve essentially decorated the room to suit that image.’
The room is south facing with doors opening to the garden — so while the walls are a dark hue, the natural light pouring in prevents it feeling gloomy.
The finishing touch was a drinks trolley. ‘I looked for a long time,’ says Hayley. ‘The more expensive drinks trolleys can cost up to £1,000. I wanted a gold one. Eventually I found mine in Marks & Spencer.’
Plans for the coming year involve overhauling the upstairs layout and installing a wet room — there is a copper bath in the main bedroom and a downstairs shower room.
Beyond that Hayley hopes to make it a family home. ‘If we’re lucky enough and a baby comes along this would be a great place to start a family. It’s a small community and the neighbours have been so welcoming.’
Hayley has no regrets about swapping London for village life. ‘We were reluctant to move out of London,’ she says. ‘I had moments of panic wondering if we were making the right decision as it’s an expensive mistake to make. But we love it here.
‘When I go back to Chiswick to see friends I don’t miss it. I work in a busy newsroom and it’s nice to get away and come back to somewhere peaceful at the end of the day.’
■ Hayley is a Sky Sports News presenter, hosts the Scottish Premiership show, and anchors The UEFA Nations League. She’s also one third of the award-winning podcast, The Offside Rule