Me and my home: A view from the gallery

Christopher Biggins, star of 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', talks to Mary Wilson about life in his art-filled house near Victoria Park in the East End
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The Independent Online

I have been living in this wonderful house, which was designed by Piers Gough, since 1986. Before that I was renting two rooms over the Phoenix Theatre in Soho and when I saw this, it seemed like a palace. I bought it because at the time it was all I could afford - I wasn't really fussy about the area I lived in.

I have been living in this wonderful house, which was designed by Piers Gough, since 1986. Before that I was renting two rooms over the Phoenix Theatre in Soho and when I saw this, it seemed like a palace. I bought it because at the time it was all I could afford - I wasn't really fussy about the area I lived in.

"The Archdeacon of London, who is a friend, was also interested in buying one, so I said I would put in an offer for the two remaining houses at £50,000 each. They were on the market for £57,000 each, and we never thought we would get them at that price, but we did, even though it seemed like a fortune in those days.

"I love this area, and the beautiful Victoria Park, and the fact that it's so convenient for me. At night, I can get back from the theatre in 20 minutes. What's so wonderful about it are the Eastenders - they're such a marvellous community.

"On the top floor, there were originally three bedrooms, but I had the wall knocked down between two of them to make one good size room. Although all the rest of the house is painted white, I had my bedroom painted in a soft duck egg blue because I thought it would be nice to do something different. I have just had a plasma TV put into one of fitted wardrobes so I can watch it from the bed, but it is hidden away at other times - I hate screens all over the place.

"I always have plain walls rather than wallpaper because I love putting my paintings on them; I think I have around 300. Every inch of wall space is covered with photographs, drawings or paintings. Many are photos of people I have met or starred with and the paintings are either by people I know or of places I have been too. I feel I am constantly surrounded by friends and the pictures remind me of happy memories and times gone past.

"One of the things I particularly loved about the house was the huge expanse of wall on the ground floor. The living room has a gallery and wonderful double height arched window with a door leading into the tiny garden. On this wall I have a huge framed piece of cloth painted with a vase and tulips. It measures about 10 feet by four feet and was made for me by a South African painter I met when I was travelling over there. He said, 'Do you have a garden and a table?' When I said yes, he said, 'Well, here's a tablecloth for it.' But I thought it would look better framed and hung on the wall. I call the top landing the Bad Taste Gallery. It's covered with photographs or paintings of me in all sorts of roles including pantomime. There are photos of me with Joan Collins and Margaret Thatcher, and letters from John Major and the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

"A lot of my furnishings and fabrics come from Tricia Guild, who is a friend of mine. I really like the colours she uses and the way she puts them together. Even on a dull day, they make you feel you are in the sun.

"But my pride and joy is my new bathroom, which I have just had completely re-done by Cheryl and Peter Gurner, who run Bathrooms International in Pont Street. Before it was very simple, but I had the boiler moved up into the loft, which created a lot of extra space, and now I have put in a luxurious Jacuzzi bath with a huge waterfall tap under the window, a flat screen TV, and a mosaic floor - it reminds me of when I played the Emperor Nero in I, Claudius.

"The kitchen, which is on the first floor and quite small, is as old as the house. They were going to put in an MFI kitchen, but it looked so naff that I decided against it, so I did a deal with Neff and Allmilmo and after all these years, the units still look modern. They have also lasted remarkably well. When we have dinner parties, we use the gallery over the living room and in the summer, we eat in the garden.

"I used to have a lot of antique furniture, but I got bored of that and then I went for a more contemporary look. I don't go anywhere in particular to buy furniture, but I do like armchairs and sofas to be really comfortable. The house is full of knick knacks which have been accumulated from my travels over the years, and the papier mâché orange sun with a face cut into it was a gift from my friend the Archdeacon of London.

"There are more paintings all around that, including one of a ballet dancer by Kenneth MacMillan's wife, Deborah. She also painted an amazing portrait of me that hangs in the hallway. In it she has used an actual shirt of mine that is varnished over except for the collar, which sticks out.

"I keep promising to myself that I'm not going to buy any more paintings, but then I go to an exhibition of a friend and buy another one. I find it very odd when I go into someone's home and there are no books or pictures."

Christopher Biggins is starring as Baron Bomburst in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', which is showing at the London Palladium in the West End

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