In today's Street Where You Live, I'm thrilled to announce that you're meeting Sarah Spencer-Ashworth- Francoise Hardy's South London-dwelling twin, actress, puppy Maman and fresh and shiny new wifey to dashing husband Jack. Inspired by her English and French childhood, this interior design maven knows how to transform even the most daily and domestic of tasks into something sublime. Now scroll down and take a walk on the street where she lives, in Brockley, London. You're in for a treat.
On living in bucolic Brockley:
I moved into this beautiful enclave 5 years ago and just bloody love it. I am a London girl by birth and grew up between Chiswick, West London and very rural, central France and as a result, crave Liberty's and trees and quiet in equal measure. I live on a beautiful wide, leafy street (that my mother calls a 'boulevard') with my new husband Jack Spencer Ashworth (artist/architect/handsome person) and a very small dog/meerkat named Pantoufles. My house is in a conservation area that has protected a 150 year mishmash of architectural styles; Brockley was the country retreat for Georgian Londoners and as such, there are beautiful, grand houses with long gardens.
On Brockley's unique identity:
There's a strange misconception sometimes that Brockley is out of London. But it's Zone 2 and I get quite defensive about that! For me it offers the best of both worlds- village living in the world's best city. It is full of actors, digital brand consultants, artists and graphic designers alike. They managed to sneak in between 1890 and 2009, before anyone realised it was here and it was nice. There are lots of Conversed/organic tote carrying parents with beautiful children, called Arlo or Rafferty, who have their organic veg delivered and I wouldn't have it any other way.
On the sexy (and literary) way she met her future husband:
I met Jack on a weekend with friends; I lost/won a dare and had to lapdance him (!) Then we talked about William Boyd. I was hooked. The hound baby joined us two and a half years ago when I visited a Dachshund breeder on the South Coast, with the full confidence that I was 'just looking' having been told that we, categorically, were not getting a dog. The two of them are my world.
On being an actor:
I do lots of things and am rather greedy with my ambitions for domination in several industries, but above all else, I'm an actor- which is a silly game. It is full and empty and amazing and terrible but ultimately, I choose to stick at it. Theatre is my favourite acting and TV pays the bills, along with a host of part time jobs. I had a very classical actor training at RADA at 18 and probably was not mature or intellectual enough but muddled through and had just the best time. While friends were writing dissertations and developing their knowledge of narcotics, I was keeping a diary about my feelings on Stanislavksi techniques and learning to fake fight with a broad sword. It was probably as dramatic as you'd expect, but I really loved it and though the real world is slightly less fun, I cope. To furnish this career I have been a PA, a project manager, interior designer, hostess (not sexual), receptionist, waitress and sales assistant. I have also dressed up as an Innocent smoothie in Regent's Park, only to be kicked by a child, four times smaller than me. I love being self employed; a quiet and sunny afternoon, in the garden, with a book, totally justifies my terrifying credit card balance. I have many grand ideas about a vast future property portfolio to compliment my acting career; through which I can indulge my other great passion of interior design. Must start earning some money.
On her gorgeous flat:
My home is a ground/sort of lower ground floor flat with a magical rose garden that I bought five years ago and every day I think about how lucky I am to have this special thing. I knew, the moment I clapped eyes on her, that she was the one for me.
The previous owners were a wonderful gay couple in their 80's, one of whom had been a Major in the army and the other, a director at the London College of Fashion. They spent two hours explaining every nook of the place, plying me with Lapsang tea and making sure I wrote down the name of each garden rose. They had moved in the day I was born and they hadn't touched the place in 25 years. The day before we completed the sale, they rang to make me promise I would water the hydrangeas as soon as I arrived.
When I began the renovation process it was a jumble of maritime prints, mahogany furniture and wood chip walls (4 layers deep, I later found out) but it was a real and beautiful home. I have spent the last 5 years doing it up. It needed re-wiring, new floors, new plaster, new heating- the lot. Every time I get a little bit of money in, I replace the Ebay furniture I filled it with in the beginning.
On her beautiful garden and some great (and not so great) neighbours:
I adore my garden and generally, how much green there is in Brockley. The highlight of my week, aged 30, is 'Gardener's Question Time' on Radio 4. And the people; everyone remembers my dog and asks about him if they see me on my own. The three times I've left my key in the front door, someone has rung the bell to tell me, which is reassuring. Having said that, there is a block of flats opposite us where a Staffordshire Terrier dog is left permanently on a tiny, second floor balcony, all hours of day or night, come rain or shine and it makes me cry. Despite reporting it so many times, the RSPCA can't do anything as it is not considered a "priority case" and neither can the council, and I can't bear it.
Describe your street in five words.
Peaceful. Leafy. Handsome. Friendly. Eclectic.
When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?
Lucky, safe and relaxed. We have lovely church bells just up the road from us and when I hear them ring out, I really could be in any lovely village and totally forget it's London.
On her perfect day off in her neighbourhood
If it was a Saturday morning, we would head to Brockley Food Market, which is wonderful. There are so many great food stops and farmers' stalls and it's great for people watching the afore mentioned ironically trainer-ed creatives who populate these parts. At some point in the day, I will head to Browns of Brockley for very good iced coffee. They make a massive fuss of the dog and feed him leftover madeleines. He likes this and I pretend I think he is spoilt. We walk up to Hilly Fields, which is a friendly, small park with lovely views across South London, and Pantoufles propositions other dogs. We always walk home a different route so I can decide which other houses I'd like to buy (haha). There is no greater pleasure than pottering in my garden, with my boys, and that would always be my afternoon activity of choice. I re-pot things and prune things and dream about when it all looks perfectly overgrown. There are two favourite dinner options of Mezze Mangal, a cracking Lebanese grill and Masala Wala Cafe, which does wonderful Pakistani home food and then back to the garden for wine and nice friends.
Thank you, sweet Sarah, for letting us hang out in your beautiful home. Can I teleport into your beautiful home for tea right this minute?