Me And My Home: A study in peace and tranquillity

Most of Penny Vincenzi's daylight hours are spent in her memorabilia-filled office, dreaming up characters and plots for her novels
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The Independent Online

The best-selling author Penny Vincenzi lives with her husband in a six-bedroom Victorian house in south-west London

The best-selling author Penny Vincenzi lives with her husband in a six-bedroom Victorian house in south-west London

We've lived in this house for 10 years, having been in a similar, smaller house near Hampton Court. We'd always loved this area, and many of our best friends live nearby. When we found this house, we fell in love with it. Friends told us we were mad to be moving to a bigger house at our time of life, with the children moving away, but we really appreciate the space, especially as Paul and I both work at home.

We were right, of course. For the first five years, this great big house was permanently full. Sophie, my second daughter, and her partner came to stay for three weeks and left five months later. The girls would move back for a while if they found themselves short of money, and it does seem as if there are always people here. It's important for us, and fun, to be able to provide for our family in this way. Now that we have four grandchildren, there is a room especially for them. Space is our greatest luxury, and we indulge ourselves.

The house didn't need any structural work, just some cosmetic help, really. Paul is a perfectionist and has restored every possible part of the house, including drain pipes in places only a burglar would see.

The original kitchen was small, with a scullery attached, so we knocked the rooms into one to create a family room where we can sit together round the table. In here is my collection of "packaged objects" and coronation crockery. We used to have a dresser in the last house where all these things fitted beautifully. Friends would add to my collection for me, thinking of me every time they saw anything suitable. Now it's all housed in this corner cabinet, which is getting quite full.

Every surface in here is covered with photographs of the family - so much so that Paul is trying to impose a limit on my collecting. Another notable item in this room is the gingham sofa, used as a day-bed by the dog and the cat.

I love our sitting room - it has a lovely light. The two pairs of double doors on to the garden are slightly draughty, and some would say they should be double-glazed, but I think they're fabulous. One of the best things about the house is the fact that there isn't an ugly view to be had from any of the windows. We're lucky in that respect.

This room runs from the front to the back of the house, and has two huge fireplaces. We put the black one in when we arrived, but the other white one was already here. We've exposed the floorboards at one end and polished them up. The gaps between the boards have been filled with a mixture made from the dust that was produced when they were sanded down, which is a clever trick and gives a beautifully smooth look.

My husband has a small collection of Art Deco objects which he displays in here, but my "thing" is Victoriana, and on the bookcase is part of my collection of beautiful old books with gilded spines. Some came from my mother, some from Paul's father. I also love Staffordshire pottery, but I'm afraid that that's another collection that is getting slightly out of hand.

Most of my time is spent in the study. This is where I sit and dream up my plots and characters, inspired by photographs of my ancestors that hang on the wall opposite me. I love to be in here. To me, it is perfect: compact, brimming with bits and bobs and blissfully tranquil. We are fortunate to be surrounded by cul-de-sacs on either side so there is absolutely no traffic noise. Behind my chair, I have floor-to-ceiling bookcases, packed to the gunnels, including, naturally, copies of my books. When the book that I'm working on is going badly, they seem to taunt me from their place on the shelves.

One of my prized possessions is my original Apple Mac SE. This is the computer that I wrote my first five novels on. I adored it, especially for its tiny size; it was completely portable. Every morning when I began work, it would greet me with a smiley face on the screen, until one sad day when the smiley face was inexplicably replaced by a sad one, and I found that it had "crashed" irretrievably. My novels are still inside it, which is a tantalising thought. There is an identical model in the New York's Museum of Modern Art, so it's officially a design classic.

From the window of my study, I look out over the garden, down on the workshop where Paul spends his day. Having studied medicine for a while and worked in advertising for many years, he then took a degree in electronics in order to pursue his career as an inventor. He has been working on a design for an alternative helicopter which is going well and has now been patented. His workshop and studio are enclosed in a small "house" with its own bathroom, at the end of our garden.

I work a normal office day generally, beginning with a walk in the park with my spaniel, then Paul and I meet in the kitchen for lunch at about 2.30. Then I work until seven, when I sit down to listen to The Archers, with a lovely big glass of wine.

We are blissfully happy here. I still feel so excited to be living in our lovely house, and sometimes find the reality of it hard to believe; I often feel as though I've died and gone to heaven.

Penny Vincenzi's latest novel is 'Sheer Abandon' (Headline, £17.99)

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