Stepping Stones: One Woman's Property Story

FASHION DESIGNER Giuseppina DeCamillo has bought just two properties - but her story could have been radically different had her third attempt in 1980 succeeded: "I was working and sleeping in a tiny studio in London Bridge with my snake, Sainsbury, an 11ft python, and wanted to buy what'd now be called a loft."

She loved the area: "In those days nobody lived there. It was bizarrely quiet at weekends, and in the week you'd be woken up by market people - very interesting and bohemian." Her building was often used as a film location: "When they were making The French Lieutenant's Woman, Meryl Streep used my toilet," she remembers.

Then she heard the whole floor of a Clink Street building was for sale: she recalls: "It was only pounds 18,000 and was huge. Today it would probably be made into four flats." Despite "trying so hard" to get a mortgage, no lender then would look at a shell with no bathroom or kitchen, so she was forced to give up her idea of loft living.

Instead she turned to Peckham, with relatively cheap property values, In 1981 she paid pounds 32,000 for a large, four-storey house: "Being a designer I needed somewhere I could live and work." She enjoyed Peckham life - but didn't fully "live there: We just partied."

Her partner Roger moved in and they "superficially renovated" the house that'd last been decorated in the Sixties. By 1987 they wanted to move, but it wasn't so simple: "Peckham had been blighted by British Rail's threat to run Channel Tunnel trains right through its conservation area. As the railway was at the end of our garden, we couldn't sell."

Giuseppina found the area went downhill: "The good shops, Marks and Spencer, BHS, went and in their place we had pounds 1 stores: the infrastructure disappeared." The couple decided to leave anyway and found a house with "major subsidence" in nearby Telegraph Hill: its owner was desperate to sell.

The five-bedroomed house with original stained glass and intricate coving was for sale at pounds 167,000, but they paid pounds 147,000 and quickly put right its structural problems: "We fell in love with it." Built for artisans on the Haberdasher Aske's estate next to a park, it suits Giuseppina and Roger, also a designer, and their two children. Although DIY came to "an abrupt end" when the children arrived, "perfectionist" Roger has spared no expense to do it up.

She sold her house in Peckham in 1997 for pounds 130,000 just before prices shot up, but has no regrets. If she'd bought the loft, she thinks it'd now be worth pounds 500,000 but her own house's pounds 350,000 value is reassuring: "It's just one of those things," she says.

Those moves in brief

1981: bought Peckham house for pounds 32,000, sold for pounds 130,000 in 1997.

1992: bought Telegraph Hill house for pounds 147,000, now worth pounds 350,000.

If you'd like your moves featured, e-mail ginetta@ or write to: John Willcock, Stepping Stones, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. The best story printed by 31 December will win pounds 100

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