Welcome one and all to What I Rent, our weekly series taking a look at all sorts of rented properties, from the mould-ridden and overpriced to the genuinely dreamy.
Each week we go inside a different person’s rented house or flat and nose around how their interiors to see how they’ve turned a rental into their home.
This time around we’re chatting with Anna Jacobs, 51.
Anna is a single parent to Zachary, 13, and Coco Rose, 11. She’s also an artist and homeware designer, running her own brand from home.
Before that, though, she worked for a city law firm for eight years, and before that she was a singer in a girl band… so she’s lived quite a life.
These days, she rents a three-bedroom home in Crystal Palace, London, with her two children, having moved after a spate of burglaries.
She also runs the Crystal Palace Artists’ Open House, which she founded two years ago to help artists in the area connect.
Let’s see what she rents.
Hey, Anna! How much do you pay to live here?
I pay £1,980 a month, plus about £350 in bills.
And what do you get for what you pay?
We have six rooms in total – three bedrooms, one living room, one kitchen and one bathroom.
Do you feel like you have a good deal?
I do think we have a pretty good deal. We’d had to move out of our ground floor two-bedroom rental flat in Dulwich quite fast after being burgled five times in 15 months.
How did you find this place?
I wanted to go up to a three-bed, because my kids were at an age when ideally they needed their own rooms, being a boy and a girl, but all the estate agents had said I wouldn’t find anything under £2,000 a month. I was already paying £1,750 for the two-bed and was going to struggle to pay much more.
The agents were right, so I gradually looked further and further away from Dulwich, even though my kids were still at the state schools there and finally, I found this place.
It’s the best deal I could find fast, with everything we needed – i.e. on an upper floor and with good security (the kids were quite traumatised after the burglaries, as the fourth one had happened while we were sleeping in the flat), access to a garden, easy parking (which I need for my business) and easy enough to still get to Dulwich for school.
I found it on the Rightmove website, while sitting outside the pub on a sunny day with a large glass of wine! I was on a mission to get somewhere safer asap and this one had been put on the site just hours before. We were really lucky to get it.
Do you like the area?
Our flat is in Crystal Palace, South East London.
I absolutely love it here! It’s a very mixed community – vibrant, creative and entrepreneurial with a strong community spirit. There’s a fantastic mix of independent shops, cafes, restaurants and artist studios, including the famous vintage and antique shops on Church Road. We even have an Everyman cinema on our road.
Of course, many of these are really struggling due to lockdowns and LTNs, but I’m really hoping most will be able to pull through with local support.
Plus of course we have lots of green space with Crystal Palace Park and the dinosaurs, Norwood lakes, Stambourne Woods – and the National Sports Centre.
How have you made the flat feel like home?
I’ve painted almost all the walls in colours that make us happy, including several hand painted murals – on the stairs, in the bathroom and in the loo.
I’ve filled it with rugs and lots of secondhand and vintage furniture, which I’ve upcycled, plus my own designs of course. I designed nearly all the lamps, cushions, bedlinen and art myself.
More recently I’ve had added a few new pieces that work when photographing my products for marketing. To be honest, it’s a fab showcase for my business.
Have you found it difficult to decorate when renting? Is your landlord happy with you doing bits?
I was in my last place in Dulwich for eight years and didn’t do any decorating, even though it was all beige and cream, because I just didn’t think it was worth it, because I kept thinking I was going to have to move out in a few months. But the lack of colour and individuality started making me quite depressed.
When I moved here, I was a little tentative at first, because I wanted to make sure it was practical for us to stay here with the school commute, but once we were settled after a year, I went for it.
Before we even signed the contract, I was very up front with the landlord that I wanted to paint the walls, add colour, put it on Instagram etc. He was totally up for it, as by sheer coincidence it turned out we’d already met six months beforehand in the shop I used to have on Tottenham Court Road – and he had loved my designs. He actually said I could do whatever I wanted.
But then he saw the bright green wall I’d painted in the kitchen on Instagram (he follows me) and was a little shocked. The agent reassured him that it was probably just photoshopped, but he asked her to come round to check. She did and said, ‘gosh, it actually IS bright green!’.
After that, the landlord asked me to sign an addendum to my contract to say I would put anything back to neutral that he didn’t like.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
Certainly, for a family of three it’s amazing.
The only thing I would love in an ideal world is a separate room to have as my office, because I have to run my business from my bedroom.
It would also be nice to have a second loo, for those moments when both kids are desperate at the same time and so that I can have a long bath without the kids banging on the door wanting a pee!
Are there any problems with the home you have to deal with?
It’s a very old Victorian building, so bits of it are a little rickety at times and the floors are quite uneven, meaning lots of things are on a slight slope!
Though one of the advantages of renting is that the landlord has the responsibility of mending anything that goes wrong rather than you.
All the original floorboards also have quite large gaps between them, so it can get quite drafty and it also means you can’t spill any liquids, because it will immediately flow through to the ceiling of the flat below. I’ve partly mitigated this by covering most of the floors in rugs and the upside is that we are much more careful.
Do you have plans to move again any time soon?
I love Crystal Palace and I love this flat, so I certainly don’t have any plans for the near future.
Do you want to own a place some day or are you happy to rent?
Eventually I’d love to buy a house again (I used to own one in Dulwich, but lost it 11 years ago – long story), so if I ever manage to do that (who knows if it’s possible at my age), I would move then. Otherwise, I absolutely love it here.
Shall we have a look around?
What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.
Check back next week to have another nose around a rented property.
How to get involved in What I Rent
What I Rent is Metro.co.uk’s weekly series that takes you inside the places people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.
If you fancy taking part, please email [email protected]. You’ll need to take pictures of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your bedroom or living area.
Make sure you get permission from your housemates! You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’re paying for rent, as that’s pretty important.
We’re not just after the prettiest places out there, by the way. We want the reality of renting, so if you’re currently renting a place you hate, we’d love to see that too (and sympathise greatly!).