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Lucy Alexander

The term ‘bubbly personality’ could have been invented for TV presenter Lucy Alexander who simply oozes positivity as we chat about her life and work. Best known for the hit property show Homes Under The Hammer, which she co-presented with Martin Roberts from its launch in 2003 until last year, Lucy’s talents, nevertheless, stretch beyond property shows – she’s an accomplished actress, a property developer in her own right, an ambassador for Carpetright and this year has filmed everything from food shows with Jay Rayner and Giles Coren to an emotional and personal programme about the NHS.

She’s also a local, having lived in Teddington and now Thames Ditton for several years, and she absolutely loves the area where she lives with her husband Stewart, a former pro footballer for Wimbledon and her two children Kitty and Leo. “What’s not to like about Thames Ditton,” she says. “It’s a beautiful village beside a river – everybody knows everybody, it’s really warm and friendly and there’s so much to do.”

And where does she she recommend visiting locally? “I go to the Red Lion pub – often,” she laughs. “We’ve got phenomenal coffee shops and the best pubs on the river. I love to go to Nice Buns and the Lime Tree coffee shops in the village. There’s also a lovely little shop called Stitchery if you want gifts for people.”

While recent projects have seen her focus on other subjects, there’s no escape from property and Lucy is excited about her latest interior design show called Bang on Budget, which she has made for Channel 4. “It’s all about taking a build project and turning it into something phenomenal with amazing furnishings – how you can change the room, change the spaces, create an extra area in your property.”

But she still recalls her biggest TV hit Homes Under the Hammer with fondness. “It’s one of the BBC’s best rated daytime shows because it gives everybody an insight and a nose into somebody else’s property. And it’s a big hit with the guys as well as the girls. Blokes like to watch it because it’s not too much about the interiors – it’s much more hardcore property, you’re watching the auction element, you’re watching people bid for it, then you’re actually getting to see the reveal.”

“Weirdly I did the pilot for the show with my husband Stewart. Martin did the pilot with his wife – both our partners didn’t get it and Martin and I got put together as a couple. It kept getting recommissioned. The BBC started with ten, then they commissioned 20, then they were commissioning 140. It was a massive part of my life. People still stop me in the street and talk about it.”

“The brilliant thing about Hammer was you never knew what to expect – on one show a man bought an old toilet in Canterbury city centre and turned it into a sandwich bar. There were also some dramatic fails – one woman bought a hairdressers by mistake, she put her hand up at the wrong time. Crazy stuff happens in the auction room.”

Lucy describes her own home as: “Traditional mixed with a contemporary twist – very Soho House. I’ve built a Georgian house which has sash windows, a stone portico, and stone around the Georgian windows. I’ve got 3m-high glass sliding doors at the back of my house. Every doorway is oversized with panelled handmade doors. I like everything to be traditional but yet inside you’ll come in and there’s a leopard-skin rug in one corner, a big old lamp and I use a lot of Farrow and Ball Worsted colour combined with lots of greys and blues. I’ve just installed a beautiful classic-contemporary kitchen with Dekton worktops and Gaggenau ovens – so a high-end kitchen with lots of cheats around the house.”

Her advice to people looking to increase the value of their home is to increase its size. “The obvious thing is to add square footage – that will always add value. If you’ve got a garage, can you extend it? Loft extensions are also a good idea.”
And given that the housing market is currently a bit up and down, what’s her advice to people considering a move? “Investing in property in this area is always worthwhile but the upper end of the market has been hit with stamp duty rises. I think bricks and mortar is a great investment if you’re looking to invest mid-to- long-term. But now is a good time to improve and spend money on making your house bigger and better. Be wary of jumping into investing in a house and thinking you’ll make money overnight – the market isn’t moving quickly at the moment so invest in your own house and look at ways you can add value by adding space and turning ugly to lovely.”

Although hugely positive, Lucy’s life has not been without its difficulties and last year she made a very personal film about the NHS that was nominated for an RTS award.

“A tragic thing happened to my daughter, Kitty, she took ill very suddenly with a virus and needed a lot of treatment. I was asked by the BBC whether I’d like to make a documentary about the NHS. I thought it would be a lovely way of thanking them for saving Kitty’s life. It was called Matron, Medicine and Me and a lot of it focused on what happened to Kitty and how she has recovered and how inspirational she is now. So I’m really grateful to the BBC for allowing me to make such a fantastic programme and also to thank everybody who played a part in saving her. She’s incredible – she’s independent and has an amazing outlook. She is in a wheelchair and can’t walk – but she goes to Surbiton High, she’s independent at school, she plays tennis and swims. She is also in the school’s productions at the Rose Theatre as a drama scholar. I couldn’t ask for more, she’s an inspiration to all of her friends and her disability does not hold her back. I think Kitty’s going to have a really good life.”

And what does the future hold for the hugely likeable presenter herself? “I’m not in Strictly yet, but you never know. My best friend Ruth Langsford was in it – paving the way for me! Lost and Found came out recently, which is linked with the Dog’s Trust, and also my design show called Bang on Budget on Channel 4. I always say ‘Don’t give me anymore property shows’ and then after a couple of weeks of not doing any more property shows I think ‘Oh I ought to do a property show’. Property’s in my blood but I’m enjoying doing other things as well.”

Actress and property guru Lucy Alexander talks with Paul Critcher about her career and adding value to your home

Photos by Micaela CianciPhotos by Micaela Cianci