Best known for fronting Channel 4 shows Property Ladder, Double Your House for Half the Money and Restoration Nightmare, in which she charted the painstaking renovation of her and husband artist Graham Swift’s stately home Rise Hall. Sarah lives in South London with her husband and four sons.


Where is home?
We’re lucky in that we have the house in London, where we spend most of our time and Rise Hall in East Yorkshire, where the boys have spent all their holidays growing up. Nowadays however, Rise Hall is a full-time business and wedding venue and we don’t go up there so much, although we did celebrate New Year there. We have a lovely house with a big garden in London, which makes city life far easier with four boys.

It was a slightly complicated plot when we bought it 13 years ago and we’ve done various extensions over the years as our family has expanded. I think we have it just about perfect now though.

What is your kitchen like there?
I am quite a traditionalist when it comes to kitchens. They are the heart of the home as it’s when you are eating that everyone is together. I used to be negative about a peninsular unit or island, but we now have one and it’s so lovely to have people both sides eating breakfast, chatting or doing homework. I think a kitchen needs to be designed for life, not just for the next couple of years, so good quality units that you can repaint are best, both for your wallet and the environment.

What is the single best improvement you can make to your existing kitchen?
The best thing you can do is to re-tile it. I have recently started working with Topps Tiles (as Brand Ambassador) and I am amazed at their fantastic choice of exclusive tiles, which can make a rather unexciting kitchen look really expensive.


And bathroom tips?
Again, re-tiling is a good option but with a bathroom, good lighting and concealing pipework are the most important things. The less ‘stuff’ around, whether it is pipes or bottles of shampoo, the less corners there are to gather dust and the fresher and brighter your bathroom will be. A bit of greenery and a lovely plant can work wonders too.

What is your most treasured possession?
We have collected so much furniture over the years and so every piece has a story behind it, and I remember where we bought it or who gave it to us. I am a big fan of a home that has many stories within it, so you have your memories all around you. Environmentally it is better to use old furniture and it is generally better made and holds its value too

What aspect of renovation adds most value to a home?
Adding square footage. After that though, make sure anything you do, you do well; so prepare well before decorating to ensure a great finish, and if you are re-roofing, make sure you use someone reputable who will make a great job of it. Never ignore your outside space either, however small. Even if it’s just a windowsill, if you plant it well, it can make all the difference.

What do you see as the trends going forward this year?
Natural and textured finishes, including bark effect. We’re seeing a lot more rich reds in the home, because it’s such a positive and energising colour. Plants in all shapes and sizes and wall tapestries, which insulate and absorb sound, are becoming more popular too.

What’s your advice to anyone renovating their home?
Stay calm, plan well and make sure you focus not just on the future but on how much you have achieved too. Try to enjoy the journey – and keep plenty of lists.


Article by: Susan Springate