Known for her talent for upcycling, Sarah Moore, presenter of the BBC’s Money for Nothing, used her passion for rescuing discarded everyday items to create a beautiful family home…
Sarah’s house – in the South Downs, close to Midhurst – has been a labour of love. She’s had it for almost seven years and for the first five, she, her husband, Pete, and their children, Harry, 19, Ed, 17, and Libby, 15, all lived in the original small three-bedroom cottage which had what Sarah describes as a “horrendous 1980s makeover, with strip lighting and pink bathrooms”.
Over the past two years, the couple have doubled its size, converting a barn and an old dairy which added a couple of extra bedrooms. Sarah says it is now “so much better for family life”.
Family life also includes two sheep, seven chickens, two pigs and two dogs and the family have 30 acres of land, an orchard and a very productive veggie garden. Sarah looks after the garden and a local farmer looks after the rest of the land.
Sarah adopts a super-laid-back approach when it comes to taking on new things, whether it’s renovating a wreck of a house or starting a new career in TV. Her role in Money for Nothing, for example, came about purely by chance.
“I went to the tip and someone was throwing away some Christmas decorations next to me,” she says, “so I collected them and just had a moment when I thought ‘I wonder how I can get my hands on the stuff in the tip’. It was that idea I sent to my friend who has a TV production company. I stood in for the pilot and the rest is history.”
At the time, Sarah was an executive chef for a large catering company in London doing weddings and private events.
“I still have nightmares about it,” she laughs. “It is one of the most stressful things one can do. The ‘stressometer’ is on a new scale when it comes to weddings and, when you look back on it, wouldn’t it be so much fun to have a wedding again where you just relaxed?”
Renovating the house has been huge fun, but one gets the impression Sarah will always find something more to do in the house.
“It’s a bit like the Forth Bridge,” she says. “I think there are some things that have worked really well and others that I’d change. There’s furniture that is left over from our old life that we’ll probably sell. Most of the stuff here is vintage or second hand and has a good resale value. You have it, use it, sell it, buy the next bit. I already had to have the kitchen repainted after lockdown because it was filthy.”
That kitchen is simply gorgeous, filled with light and seemingly a great space to work in. I ask if it was created by a kitchen company or reclaimed. “It’s a bit of both,” she says. “There are Neptune Kitchen carcasses and some reclaimed Georgian skirting as the upstand. Neptune put in the units and I fitted all the rest of it. It’s also got some 1970s wall units that add a bit of character. I also used an old snooker table as the worktops. You can buy an old snooker table on eBay for £100. You take the baize off and turn it over, then get someone who doesn’t mind cutting up weird stuff to do it for you.”
It’s a fantastic space, with interesting architectural elements such as two gorgeous oak beams, an interesting triangular window, and an original barn door. It’s mainly white, so has a really fresh feel and is a great blank canvas for Sarah to show off the objects she’s collected over the years.
The kitchen is painted in Shirting by Little Greene. “I read some article on a plane that said Shirting is a really modern white, so I picked it without seeing it,” Sarah says. “The units are a painted in a Neptune colour.”
The kitchen is also a great space to work in, which is perfect because Sarah’s daughter, Libby, has a passion for cooking and Sarah likes to have a kitchen that works hard as well as looks good.
She chose a white AGA eR3 160i. She says: “I like it because of the flexibility and the hotplates being independent from the ovens. I love the fact it’s got a fan oven on the side and an induction hob too.”
Sarah keeps the ovens on all the time. “A couple of days a year, when it’s too hot for me to wear my jeans, the AGA goes off. The rest of the time I leave some ovens on. It takes the chill off the house, and when you walk into a house without an AGA – even in the summer – it can feel a bit damp or chilly.
“I love cooking the standards, so lots of family stuff. Bolognaise, roast chicken, loads of veggie stuff, lots of charring stuff on the top. I don’t cook fish as no one in the house likes it except me. This week Libby has been making tortillas and covering them in smoked paprika. Libby does the baking. It’s a real mixed bag, curries, everything.
“I really like the fact that the AGA concentrates flavours, so I cook lots of my food in there uncovered, other than steaming rice or vegetables in the simmering oven. I love that if you put something in the simmering oven for an extra half an hour it just tastes better. It’s such a gentle process. When you think it’s done, just take the lid off and let it have a moment.
“I chose a white AGA because I really wanted something that would go with every colour. I’m a bit of an interiors butterfly. I wanted a colour I could move on with and white goes with everything.”