Sarah Raven knows a thing or two about plants, and it turns out she was an early bloomer herself – buying a property and becoming a landlady by the age of 20.
The former doctor, who previously worked at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, bought a four-bedroom flat in Edinburgh and traded it up to her current home at Perch Hill in Sussex – previously a ramshackle ex-dairy farm which has now been converted into a 90-acre home and garden where she has opened up her own cookery and gardening school.
Sarah is the author of a string of books and has her own mail-order plant nursery and online garden store, with more than 500,000 customers.
Where did you buy your first home?
When I was 20, so a long time ago, in Edinburgh. I was left some money by a relative and I was quite domestic and liked the idea of buying a flat and doing it up.
It did feel quite grown-up and I became a landlady and had other students living with me – a bit middle-aged to be honest.
It was just on edge of the New Town in Edinburgh, with a cobbled street outside. It had big, Georgian-style sash windows, open fireplaces, high ceilings, lots of light and four bedrooms.
Sounds nice for a student pad…
It was very, very cheap to buy. Then there was a big property rise so I made a lot of money on it in four years as a student. I bought it as a home not an investment, though.
How was the buying process for you?
The Scottish system was nail-biting. All closed bids – I had lost a more exciting place three weeks before. You don’t know anything until you get it. The rest of the process wasn’t as much of a nightmare as I thought.
The second place I bought was, as the owner wouldn’t leave even though we’d bought the place – I can’t remember how we got her out in the end.
Do you have any advice for first-time buyers?
Don’t be seduced by it all feeling right straight away. If you are creative a finished place will cost you tens of thousands of pounds – you can save the money by doing it yourself.
Go slowly and accept for a year or so it won’t be right. You definitely need some outside space too, even if it is a balcony. I wouldn’t consider anything without outside space.
How did you do the Edinburgh place up?
I knocked walls down and put in another bathroom. I knocked two tiny boxrooms into another room. I painted the floor grey gloss before it was trendy. I’m not a minimalist so I like cosy, friendly and warm and full of flowers, with paintings on the walls. I’m a great junk shops fan and I love charity shops.
The place was maximalist, it was bohemian. I brought rugs back from Turkey – I was always backpacking. I’ve always loved flowers, food and objects… I’m a consumer, basically. I love stuff.
How did buying change your life?
It was a pain being a landlady but it was nice having roots. There is the Edinburgh Festival so I would rent it out for a lot of money and go travelling, so I had great freedom because I knew I had an income.
What tips do you have for doing up a first home?
Go on Instagram, it’s brilliant for ideas. Filter through what you like and don’t like and create a Pinterest or gallery on your phone. There are loads of good vintage shops online with regular sales, you can get a really lovely weathered bohemian look very cheaply.
I absolutely believe any room is transformed by one flower, so the first thing I tried to do if I have time is pick flowers and produce and put them in bowls. I always have something by my bed and bath, some sort of flowers.
I think if you are like me, a maximalist, it’s worth knowing when to stop, and not having conflicting looks in one room. Sometimes I start on a track, like green, then change it and think, “Oh dear, it has become coral.” Work out a plan and stick to it.
And where do you live these days?
Perch Hill in Sussex with my husband, Adam Nicolson, on a 90-acre farm. We bought in the recession 26 years ago. It was really quite run down, it was a mad mix of different sheds and outhouses.
We lived in the house in a basic state for 15 years and then eventually, six years ago, did it up and are living there.
Check out Sarah’s range of plants, bulbs and homeware at sarahraven.com
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
How to get your Metro newspaper fix
Metro newspaper is still available for you to pick up every weekday morning or you can download our app for all your favourite news, features, puzzles… and the exclusive evening edition!
Download the Metro newspaper app for free on App Store and Google Play
Source: Read Full Article