Me and my home: Dreams take flight

Air stewardess Vivienne Hallack tells Chris Arnot how hotels inspired the renovation of her home
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The Independent Online

Vivienne Hallack lives in Salford, Manchester. She also has a homeopathy clinic

Vivienne Hallack lives in Salford, Manchester. She also has a homeopathy clinic

It was a taxi driver who first told me that I was living on the site of 10 Rillington Place, one of the most notorious addresses in London. I thought he was winding me up, but it was definitely our part of Ladbroke Grove, and it had changed utterly since John Christie's day. To me, some properties have positive energies and this was one. All the same, I sold it four years ago for £185,000. I'd split from my boyfriend and it was time to make a life-changing decision.

I wanted to open a homeopathy clinic but rents in London were too high. I'd been born and brought up in Manchester, but I'd left when I was 18 to move south and train as a nurse. That was more than 20 years ago and I was bored with the place. But when I got my dad to drive me around, I could see for myself all the regeneration that had been going on in my absence. Manchester wasn't so good four years ago as it is now, but it still felt like boom-time Chicago.

I bought a townhouse on Salford Quays, found a place to set up my clinic and looked around for an older residential property to renovate. I've always had very clear notions about decor; must be all the travelling I do. We stay in the best hotels when we're away on long-haul flights, so I have a good idea of what works and what doesn't.

Back in north-west England, we came across a place called The Cliff, a leafy conservation area of Salford with big Victorian and Edwardian houses, cobbled streets and period lamp-posts. It appealed because it felt quiet and peaceful, yet Manchester city centre's only a mile and a half away. Dad said The Cliff was considered very posh in the Sixties. He once saw Jimmy Savile cleaning his Rolls-Royce outside one of the bigger houses. The area obviously went down in the intervening years, but it seems to be on its way back up again.

Manchester United's former training ground is based here. When I enquired about the twee black-and-white terraces alongside it, I was told that David Beckham lived in one when he was an apprentice. Still, it was a bit too small for my purposes. But I found what I wanted just up the road - a large corner house with four bedrooms and a big, five-sided bay window.

It was very run-down. God knows how the former owner had been allowed to let it out to tenants. He was obviously a bit of a DIY-er with an endless capacity to botch jobs. All the plug sockets had been fitted upside down. A plumber informed me that the cold tap had been directly connected to the central heating tank. Luckily, I only drink bottled water.

The kitchen was small and disgusting, tagged on to the end of the ground floor. The builder turned that into a reception area and cloakroom, then he converted one of the reception rooms into a large kitchen. In the process, we unearthed a window that had simply been boarded over.

Every week I catch the shuttle down to Heathrow and join a long-haul flight. During the renovation, I would carry with me internal photos of the house so that I could pick up ideas while I was away. The bathroom, for instance, is tiled with the sort of marble that I first saw in a hotel in Dubai. For the windows downstairs I wanted curtains made of long swathes of silk. I bought some at a market stall in Hong Kong, stuffed it into an empty suitcase and had it made up into curtains by a tailor who comes to our crew room at the Sheraton in Mumbai.

I asked him if he could do it within 24 hours and he was as good as his word. In the meantime, I made a short but chaotic train journey to a shop in the northern suburbs to buy some unusual door handles. The return journey was even more nerve-shredding. I made the flight back to the UK with 15 minutes to spare, but I had my curtains. After we'd served the meals, I hung them from the galley door to show the rest of the crew. Much more fun than going to Homebase.

Vivienne's home in The Cliff is for sale at £165,000 ( www.netmovers.net, 0845 6500550)

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