WHAT MY HOME MEANS TO ME Annabel Croft

Once Britain’s top fe­male ten­nis player, Annabel, 51, won Ju­nior Wim­ble­don be­fore re­tir­ing from the sport at just 21. Now a TV pre­sen­ter, she lives near Kingston, Sur­rey, with hus­band Mel, 55, and their three chil­dren

House Beautiful (UK) - - CONTENTS -

WHERE I LIVE

When we first viewed our house 18 years ago, we couldn’t get through the front door be­cause it was swollen shut. The prop­erty had been let out to stu­dents who’d left a tap on and flooded it! It sat in an acre of land but was over­grown – the grass was waist high. We saw its po­ten­tial though, so de­cided to buy it.

Orig­i­nally it was a 1960s four-bed­room prop­erty and be­cause of the dam­age, we wanted to pull it down and re­build. The in­sur­ers, how­ever, in­sisted on mak­ing the house hab­it­able be­fore sell­ing to us, so for three years we lived there with­out chang­ing any­thing, even though it smelt of damp. We came back from hol­i­day once to find a mush­room grow­ing out of the car­pet. It was so cold we had to buy por­ta­ble ra­di­a­tors and put them in the kitchen when the kids were eat­ing, then carry them up to the bath­room when they had a bath!

Peo­ple al­ways laugh when they hear that we had a ten­nis court laid be­fore we tack­led the house, but there was method in the mad­ness. The kids could then play ten­nis af­ter school or ride their bikes around the court, which was par­tic­u­larly use­ful dur­ing the build­ing work.

It took 10 months to re­build the house into a Ge­or­gian-style six-bed­room prop­erty. We put our hearts and souls into the re­build and al­though there’s still work to do, I love it. It makes me proud that we took it slowly so we had time to think about it. Visi­tors al­ways say it feels tran­quil. The rooms flow well, but I still think of it as a work-in-progress and won’t be happy un­til I get to the end of the ‘to do’ list.

MY IN­SPI­RA­TION

We have good friends who are artis­tic and have a stun­ning home, and I’ve learned a lot about in­te­ri­ors from them. Also, when we first moved in, I spent a cou­ple of days with a lo­cal de­signer who helped us choose our colours. We’ve gone for soft, muted creams and lovely big state­ment pieces, such as mir­rors and chan­de­liers.

I’m al­ways on the look­out for over-sized lamps. I’ve bought Ti­mothy Oul­ton ones in the past as they’re quite quirky. The one I’ve got my eye on now is a feather lamp by A Mod­ern Grand Tour (above). It’s the­atri­cal and ex­pen­sive!

Ju­lian Chich­ester is an­other favourite de­signer.

Be­cause I travel widely I’ve picked up quite a few knick-knacks along the way. We brought a coco-de-mer fruit back from our hon­ey­moon in the Sey­chelles. It’s re­ally beau­ti­ful and sits in the mid­dle of our cof­fee ta­ble.

FAM­ILY LIFE

I like to have a full, open house. There are of­ten lots of pairs of shoes by the door and I don’t know who’s com­ing or go­ing. The chil­dren – Amber, 24, Char­lie, 21, and Lily, 20 – know they can bring friends back to stay. Then Mel and I get to lis­ten to all the young con­ver­sa­tions!

We’re an ac­tive fam­ily and of­ten go run­ning to­gether or go to yoga classes. The chil­dren started play­ing so­cial ten­nis from an early age and we all play to­gether. I know I’m lucky to have my own ten­nis court – it’s not used as much as it once was, but I like to go out there and prac­tise serves on my own. It takes me back to my child­hood when I used to go out with a bucket of balls. It’s ther­a­peu­tic too.

annabel­croft­ten­nishol­i­days.com

Ti­mothy Oul­ton light­ing, such as this Bark pen­dant, is a favourite, as are Ju­lian Chich­ester pieces, which in­clude these el­e­gant chairs

Annabel loves alfresco din­ing and Mel bought her wicker fur­ni­ture for her birth­day. A feather lamp is on her wish­list. Hav­ing a ten­nis court was a pri­or­ity

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