Amanda Lamb is well known as the presenter of the popular series A Place In The Sun for Channel 4, and for 10 years she was the face of Scottish Widows. She is now back on the Home Channel for the third series of My Flat-Pack Home. She talks to Lynda Clark about her exciting career and her property experiences >>
It’s been a busy time for Amanda as she got married last year and is still very excited about her ‘big’ day. “It was wonderful,” she says. ”My daughter was a bridesmaid, which was very special, and even though she was recovering from chicken pox she looked like a little angel.” Amanda has also been busy filming the third series of My Flat-Pack Home for the Home Channel and will be in a new property show for Channel 4 this spring, so her life is somewhat hectic!
Amanda’s story starts in Portsmouth where she was born. She left school at 15 and got her first office job with an estate agent. She was able to go on viewings and had a natural ability to spot a good property. “I am a great believer that if you want to spot a good property, the best thing to do is de-clutter. Most potential buyers view a property and struggle to imagine what the space could look like. It’s so easy to go to Ikea and buy a shed load of boxes and stash it all away while you are trying to sell the property. Also, first impressions count a great deal, and I am a firm believer that as you walk up the path your first instinct will be right. So vendors should make sure the front of the property looks good and inviting. I remember a really funny story when I went to see a place we were trying to sell in Southsea, which was owned by a guy who lived in London during the week and only came back at weekends. When I went in, I was shocked as it was a complete tip. There were empty curry cartons, cigarette butts and general mess everywhere. I decided I’d sell it if it killed me. So I went out and bought some bin bags and cleared it all up. I hadn’t been told that it had already been sold, so when the owners turned up they must have wondered who the cleaning fairy was!”
When she and a girlfriend decided to go to the Clothes Show in London, they were approached by four different model agencies who were scouting for new faces. She was flattered but very sceptical. “I really didn’t know what to do, but I was young and it was obviously an amazing opportunity. I decided to give it a go as I thought that the estate agency would always be there, but this chance might not happen again. I told my mum that I would give it six months and, if it didn’t work out,
I would come home.”
Eventually Amanda’s big break came when she was offered a huge deal to appear on the Scottish Widows adverts. “They were really lovely ads, and the image of the woman in the cloak is very iconic,” she says. “It was the real turning point in my life. After that, I had decided that I would give it all up and become a teacher. But my agent persuaded me to make a showreel before I left. A Place In The Sun was looking for a presenter with property experience, and I was asked to go for a screen test. I got the job for a six-part series, but it continued and just ran and ran!”
At that time a lot of British people were buying properties abroad so the show was a massive success. Amanda travelled the world and had many wonderful experiences finding people their dream home abroad. She herself made her first venture into the property market with her then boyfriend when she was just 21. “We bought an apartment above Pizza Express in Wandsworth, south-west London, for £70,000. It had two bedrooms, but its big selling point was the roof garden. Unfortunately, I split up with the boyfriend, and I just wanted to leave and I walked away, so I didn’t do too well from my first step on the ladder. I then got married and we bought a house, again in Wandsworth. But we divorced, so I bought a lovely apartment in east Twickenham in a mansion block right by the river. It was beautiful, and I really enjoyed my time living there.”
She then met her now husband, Sean, and they decided to buy somewhere together. “Sean isn’t like me when it comes to making quick, spontaneous decisions. So I had to lure him to Hampton on the pretext that there was a great restaurant there and a farmers’ market, but I knew that the house I had fallen in love with was round the corner. It had been on the market for about seven months, but I knew it was my dream home. Luckily, Sean liked it as well, and we decided to buy it. It’s a three-storey Victorian semi, but it was in need of a lot of renovation. It was very scruffy inside, but I knew that the house had potential and luckily we looked at the house a few doors down which was also for sale and realised that we could make it into something very special. When we moved in, I was four months pregnant, and Sean, who is a cameraman for A Place In The Sun, and I were off filming A Place In The Sun Down Under in Australia for six weeks. While we were away we arranged to have the basement gutted so that all the dust and mess would be done by the time we got back. My goal was to get the bedroom and living room finished as soon as possible as I had lived in hotels for 10 years while filming, and my own bed is very important to me.”
They love their home, which is in a lovely area on the doorstep of Bushy Park, and their daughter, Willow, adores it too. Amanda has finished the third series of My Flat-Pack Home for the Home Channel. The show highlights that designing and constructing your own dream property has never been easier. From the basic house design right down to the fixtures and fittings, each build can take as little as a few weeks to be completed.
From start to finish Amanda is on site seeing how each contributor selects the design and model of their new property and finds out how the home is built and how it is erected on site. The interior design will be the focus of this series as Amanda explores how best to transform the shell of a property in a comfortable and welcoming family home.
“I really enjoyed meeting the Andersons, a family of five who were planning to move from landlocked Wolverhampton to a blissful log cabin in Devon that they bought off the shelf from an exhibition. The house even came with all the fixtures and fittings including the lampshades! Then there was the couple who after dedicating all their time and space to their two pigs, cows and numerous chickens decide it is about time they put themselves first and after 25 years they made an en suite and dressing room a reality. Some of the stories are quite amazing. I remember another couple who bought a site in Leicestershire that had previously been the location of a 1930s quarantine hospital. They spent their £500,000 budget demolishing the current property and went out and bought a timber-clad, triple-glazed two bedroom house off the shelf in Germany, and it only took five days to erect! I really admire the determination and tenacity of everyone featured on the show, and they just won’t be defeated. Most of them have very little experience, but they all have a dream and simply go for it.”
Amanda is very aware about first time buyers trying to get on the property ladder. “When I was young, you had to stay at home to save up for a deposit and then only buy what you could afford, which was very sensible. I do feel we have become rather greedy these days, and we look for a quick-fix solution. The only way to save is to go without all the little extras and luxuries of life. I have friends who have not been on holiday for three years and don’t own a car in order for them to save up for their own home. The best piece of advice is making sure you can afford to buy and don’t stretch yourself so are likely to collapse. Apart from raising a deposit, it’s important to budget for mortgage repayments and the bills as the interest rate will not always be this low. Things can change very quickly and become much more costly. You must also remember there will be legal fees to pay and possibly moving expenses as well. You must live within your means and do your sums, and it will probably mean making sacrifices along the way, but it will be worth it in the end. You may also have to compromise, and don’t forget a tin of paint works wonders, and search charity or junk shops as you are sure to pick up a bargain!”