My First Home: Chef Skye Gyngell created her own sanctuary in Shepherd's Bush

Sydney to Shepherd’s Bush might seem like a long journey but for Skye Gyngell it was worth the wait to find her dream home

Hailing from Australia, Skye Gyngell made her name as an international chef – training in Sydney and then Paris, before moving to London to work at The French House and taking on the role of head chef at Petersham Nurseries.

Now 56, her house-buying journey didn’t start until her mid-forties, when she bought the property she still lives in today.

Next year, Skye will be hosting a chef residency (February 1-11) for guests staying on the luxury five-star island in the Maldives, Coco Bodu Hithi, cooking a six-course tasting menu for guests at the award-winning Aqua restaurant.

When did you buy your first home?

I didn’t buy my first home until I was 46, after I got divorced – that was my first real home that I bought myself. I consider it my very first home.

How did it feel?

It felt so exciting. It was 100 per cent ownership so it defined my life in a way that I wanted to live it.

I love my house and don’t want to let go of it. Every time I put the key in the front door I love it.

What is the property like?

I live in Shepherd’s Bush, west London. When I bought it, I wanted a place I could make my own.

It was a two-up, two-down with no central heating and an outside loo.

I had to do a lot of work and I built up and out.

It has been a process of ongoing change for me. I had to learn how I would live in it.

Some things were right and some things weren’t. Everyone says buy a house and live in it first and it’s so true.

What did you with it?

I moved the kitchen somewhere else. It was pretty much unlivable.

If I did it again, I would spend more time working out where the sun comes in and look even more into the details.

I started with more colour than I have now. Now it is white and the bedroom is dark blue – I love sleeping in dark colours.

Mostly I prefer colour-popping accessories against a white background.

It sounds strange even though it’s white, if you walked in you’d think it was very colourful because of everything that is in it.

I love that it is full of memories. If I see something in, say, a souk in Marrakesh, I will buy it [and bring it home] – the house is filled with things I have collected.

I only ever buy hardbacks and these are everywhere – I can look around the house and see all my memories.

What is home ownership to you?

My house really for me is my sanctuary.

I work long hours and when I get home it’s like a cave that is really safe. I’d be loathed to give that up.

I love Zoopla and themodernhouse.com and imagine places I like to live, but I never find anything to beat my house.

If your house goes up in price that’s great but I don’t see it as an investment, I see it as a base.

What is your best advice for first-time buyers?

I think you really have to think it through and imagine living in the house and area.

Is it a place you want to come back to every day? I think about all of those.

Is it light, are the rooms good? You have to envisage yourself living there.

Is the fabric of your life there? If I took myself out of my area I wouldn’t feel comfortable.

How was the buying process for you?

I’m not a person who can read a form – I literally glaze over.

I took a lot of guidance from people. I had looked for two years to find the house that was right for me.

The surveying was expensive and when it came to my house I couldn’t do another survey.

Literally the back of the house crumbled away when I started working on it. Surveys are super-important.

What was important when you were looking?

Kitchens are really important for hanging out.

I do have a beautiful kitchen and I saved up for it. I love it but it’s very, very simple.

I wanted that because I have a lot of fancy equipment at work.

People have to remember I am still in a kitchen 12 hours a day, six days a week and when I get home it’s nice to switch off.

If you are a bank teller do you want to count money at home? Probably not.

I eat simply and it’s been a long time since I cooked a lot at home.

You have this residency on Coco Bodu Hithi coming up – do you get to spend a lot of time away from home, and how does it feel to come back?

I do travel a lot for work and I try to go back to Australia at least once a year.

I still love my work now as much as when I started it.

I feel it’s so true that if you find something you love you never do another day’s work in your life.

Going away and doing this residency is so exciting because we cook so seasonally here it is great to go somewhere and use ingredients that I don’t normally use.

I hope I can relax a little bit, too. I’ve been to the Maldives before – it is so beautiful. I live in London and it is the perfect antidote.

To book, visit cococollection.com

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